Catfishing has exploded in popularity in recent years, and it has many anglers wondering what is the best time of day to catch catfish?
Most people answer “Whenever you can go!” and, although they aren’t wrong, there are certain times you can go to increase your chances of success.
What Is The Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish?
The best time of day to catch catfish is from sunrise until 10 am. This time window is before the sun gets directly overhead and water temperatures are still cool from the evening prior. Catfish will be more active as they seek to feed before the overhead sun warms the water and prey fish seek cover.
The next best time of day to catch catfish will be the last two hours before sunset. The angle of the sun is often covered by trees and this allows for water temperatures to begin to cool off.
The important thing to understand is the time of day and amount of sun have an influence on the entire food chain of a lake.
During the middle and hottest parts of the day, baitfish and forage that catfish eat will seek cover. This means less feeding and less activity in the entire food chain system of a lake and can slow down the bite.
Is Catfishing Good During the Middle of the Day?
During the hottest parts of the day, which usually occur between 1-4 pm in the Northern Hemisphere, catfish, and many other predatory fish seek cover. They can do this by going deep, where light does not penetrate the water column. Or they can seek cover in logs, stumps, vegetation or under docks and bridges.
Do you ever wonder why the old-timers used to say ‘Get out to the lake early‘, its because that is when predatory activity is usually very high!
Of course, there are other times when this is not the case. For example, on very cloudy or overcast days fish activity may not peak at sunrise and sunset, but instead, it may be sporadic throughout the day.
Some catfish anglers love to fish during rain because this usually cools off water temperatures and gets catfish on the move. Steady rain washes in forage food (insects, larvae, etc.) and stimulates catfish to ‘hunt’ with their whiskers in the muddy or turbulent water.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time of day to catch catfish in rivers?
The warmer months are always going to be the best time of year to target catfish when fishing in a river. However, the best time to catch catfish is going to be from sunrise until 10 am, or the last two hours of the day before sunset.
Increase your chances by fishing after a period of heavy rain when water flow and current are high. Seek out eddys, tidal jams, creek mouths and sandbars. These are likely hunting areas of big Channel and Flathead catfish!
What is best time of day to catch catfish in a lake?
The best time to catch catfish in a lake is before the sun gets directly overhead when catfish will be difficult to locate and inactive. Instead, fish the early morning hours until 10am, or the last few hours of the day once the sun has begin to set.
In smaller lakes, try staging your baits in various depths to find out where fish are located. It is not uncommon for big catfish to feed in very shallow water right along the bank (1 foot or less) during periods of low light. As the water temperature warms and it gets later in the day fish will often move to deeper water and cover.
Fishing for catfish requires some patience and trial and error. However, once you locate where the catfish are feeding (especially during the winter) the action can be non-stop!
Do catfish feed more at night or during the day?
Catfish do not feed anymore at night than they do during the day. Rather, catfish are opportunistic predators that feed when conditions make forage fish easy to locate. This is closely related to the time of year, weather conditions and the varies for each individual body of water.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that catfish only feed during the night; that is simply not the case. They do feed during the day, but may also be inactive during the day. The same goes for the night. They feed and rest in cycles like any other fish.
How deep should you fish for catfish?
Fishing for Catfish should be done with your bait on the bottom, not suspended. This is because catfish swim along the bottom of lakes sensing for food with their whiskers. They are not often found in the middle of the water column.
The depth you should be fishing varies dependnong on how deep your lake is. As a rule of thumb, start deep and gradually work your baits to more shallow water until you ‘locate the bite’. This method is very effective but it takes time and patience.
Say for example your lake is 20 feet deep. Cast one of your baits out to the bottom in 20 feet, cast one out to 10 feet, and another in shallow water around 5 feet. This will allow you to cover 3 different depth ranges and increase your chances of finding hungry catfish.
What is the best month to catch catfish?
May is the best month to catch catfish in the northern hemisphere. This is usually late enough in the year there is no hard ice, but early enough in the year that catfish have begun their aggressive summer feeding patterns.
The months of May, June & July are all excellent months to catch catfish. The long days and warm water temperatures are ideal for catfish and is a bountiful time for forage fish and prey that catfish eat, such as minnows, worms, insects and larvae.
What about using Bluegills as Catfish Bait?
Live Bluegills are one of the best baits to use if your goal is to catch big Flathead catfish or big Blue catfish. Check out my article with all the details HERE.
In some fishing circles, catfish have a poor reputation of being slow, boring bottom feeders. But the reality is that catfish are a very successful predator fish capable of exciting angling opportunities and great table-fair.
Targeting big catfish is just as challenging as targeting big bass, muskie or trout. It takes practice, persistence and understanding the biology of the fish AND the body of water it calls home.
The next time your in for a change of pace, use the tips I mentioned in this article and go after some big catfish. They are one of the most widespread gamefish in the world, and chances are you have some biggun’s in your area! Good luck and thanks for reading.