Catfish: The Best Time to Fish

When's the best time of day to catch catfish? Finding the correct answer to this question can be a little tricky. You'll need to consider various factors, like the type of catfish you want to catch. There are more than 3000 species of catfish in 40 different families. Your main task is figuring out which fish you mean exactly.


However, for this article, we'll cover three main types of catfish, i.e., the blue catfish, the channel catfish, and the flathead catfish. These three types of catfish are abundant in the USA, and narrowing down the best time to fish them is relatively easy.


Taking advantage of seasonal patterns and the time of day you decide to go fishing could help you reel in more fish. While some swear by fishing in the day, some believe that they can catch more fish by night.


Catfish bite all night and all day; however, there are some prime hours that anglers are more likely to catch more fish. These excellent times can also be influenced by season and weather; however, the best times to fish are one hour before sunset and two hours after sunrise.


Catfish are voracious eaters. The main difference between fishing during the day and at night depends on how catfish react to light, the water's temperatures, and the forage. They often migrate to shallower waters at night, searching for forage; however, you can also find them in deeper, darker waters during the day.

Major types of catfish

Flathead catfish


Flathead catfish are harder to catch since they are solitary creatures. They are harder to find than other types of catfish and can put up an intense fight if you hook them. However, catching one can be a nice feeling as fight to reel it in.


Catfish live throughout the Mississippi River, but they can also be found in North Dakota and the Florida Panhandle. Full-grown flatheads average a hundred pounds, but some have been known to reach 1,220 pounds in the past. You can tell them apart from other species by their square, flattened head, and long bodies.

Blue catfish


Blue catfish are huge, and they are some of the most prized catfish. They can grow to an incredible 143 pounds, and the plus is that they aren't as solitary as the other catfish.


You can find the blue catfish in huge numbers, making it easier for you to hook more fish. Blue catfish tend to live deeper in the waters with stronger currents and can be found in similar geographic locations as the flathead catfish.

Channel catfish


This species is a lot smaller, with an average weight of 20 pounds, and most people often look to hook in more fish than bigger fish. However, you can occasionally get a 50 pounder. The best thing about channel catfish is that you can find them in Mexico, Canada, and east of the Rocky Mountains.

The best time to catch catfish during the day


As we've noted earlier, the best time to fish during the day is one hour before sunset and two hours after sunset. They get out of deeper waters during this time period, where they hide during the day's warmer hours and hunt for forage.


Catfish rest in deeper parts of rivers or lakes since the warmer waters are more suitable. They also do this to avoid their natural predators like birds and bigger fish. As the sun sets, the water in the shallower ends of the rivers and lakes cools down, creating an optimum environment for the fish to swim around.


If you are out fishing, you could take advantage of this situation and fish from the shallower areas, especially if you are fishing from the river or lake's shore. You could begin by casting your bait an hour before sunset and wait for at least half an hour in a single spot.


If you don’t get any catfish to bite, you can then move on to some other location. You'll need to search for areas with deeper waters, sites with weeds, and underwater structures with baitfish. Following these instructions will provide you with a better opportunity of catching bigger plus more catfish.

Do catfish feed more during the day or at night?


Catfish feed both night and day; however, their feeding behavior is seasonal. For instance, in the warmer summer months, catfish tend to feed more during dusk or night. During these periods, the water's temperature is too warm for them to hunt in shallower waters, especially at daytime, and thus rest in deeper lake areas until nighttime.


During the winter, catfish reverse their feeding habits. They feed more during the day compared to nighttime since the waters are warmer on the surface during the day. The fish retreat to deeper waters at night to stay warm.

The best temperature to catch catfish


Knowing how water temperature can affect your catch helps you understand the best time to go catfishing. Catfish are more active in warmer waters with temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This doesn't mean that you won't catch fish in colder waters; however, your chances will improve if you cast your hook when the temperatures are warmer.

Best time of day to catch catfish in various seasons


The best seasons for fishing catfish depend on whether you're willing to pull an all-nighter or whether you have a boat. You may also need to adjust your fishing style. Let's dive in a little deeper and look at the best time of day to fish during various seasons.

Best time to fish during summer days


Fishing catfish in the summer can be a little tricky because of the warmer temperatures. If you don't have a boat, you could try fishing for them from the shore at dusk or dawn. However, if you have a boat, you could try your luck in the middle of the day.


You'll have to relocate to the center of the lake and cast your hook deep down, dangling it right where they rest. If you are lucky enough, you can manage to catch more than a few since they tend to congregate in schools during warm periods.

Best time of day to fish during the fall


Many fishermen insist that you are more likely to catch more fish during fall. The reason is that Shad, the catfish's main prey, spawns during fall, bringing catfish out in huge numbers. Water temperatures are also cooler during this period making it easier for fish to come out almost throughout the day.


You'll also get an even better opportunity to catch more fish as fall begins transitioning into winter because the catfish start preparing for the winter by increasing their fat reserves. The fish will be hungrier and thus more likely to come out and hunt for prey, giving you a better opportunity to hook in more fish.

Best time of day during the winter


While many fishermen agree that fall is probably the best season to hunt fish, they also seem to agree that winter is perhaps the worst season. During this season, the catfish tend to feed less frequently, mainly if they fed well enough during fall.


It would be advisable to wait until fall; however, if you are willing to give it a try, it would be good if you tried your luck from the afternoon to an hour after dusk. Temperatures are warmer during this period causing the fish to come up to the surface to hunt for prey.

The best time to hunt for catfish during spring days


Spring is a decent period to catch catfish, especially if you are patient and wait for the last half of the season. In the earlier part of spring, the fish will behave as they do during winter, which means that they'll feed less.


However, during late spring, the fish will look to feed and replenish their fat reserves. The fish will also get more active as the water temperature rises. The best time for the catfish to feed during this period is late in the afternoon to one hour after dusk.

Best time to fish for catfish on the banks


If you are fishing from the banks, then the best time to fish is around dusk till midnight; however, this depends on whether the lake has fairly gradual slopes. You'll need to observe the bank around the lake and look for steep banks or mountains on one side of the lake.


These signs indicate the presence of deep holes that are close to the shore. If you observe these features, then the chances are that you may find catfish near the holes' walls that are close to the shore. Plus, the fish will be stacked together, giving you a better opportunity to make a catch if you find the right place. If the land around your lake isn't sloppy, then you can go throughout the night. The fish will move to shallower waters to feed.

What's the slowest time to fish during the day?


The most challenging time to fish during summer, spring, and fall is in the middle of the day, plus at night in the winter. You can manage to hook some fish during these periods; however, you'll need to be extremely patient.


You'll also have to move around more often and try to look for them in various locations giving yourself about thirty minutes in-between the sites. Looking for deeper pools could help improve your chances.

The best time to catch different fish species

The best period to catch channel fish


You can catch channel fish all year long; however, the optimum time is between pre-spawn and up to the point where water temperatures begin dropping. Spring and fall come in at a close second; however, summer is the ultimate catfishing period.

The best period to catch blue catfish


The best time to catch blue catfish can be all year long. However, fishing for catfish during the spawning period can be tricky. You could begin from early March to mid-march and go through to mid-April. You could also try to fish during the fall season. If you want more enormous monsters, you are better off you could try the period between December and March.

The best period to fish for flathead catfish


If I'd have to select the best time to fish for catfish, it would be in September and October. During this period, the catfish are heavily preparing to feed for the winter, making it easier for them to bite your hook. This period produces giant fish; however, you could also try between March and May during the pre-spawn period.

Advantages and disadvantages of fishing at night



  • Fishing at night is excellent, especially during the summer, since it helps you avoid excessive heat.
  • You'll also find fewer boats or jet skis at night in busy lakes. This improves your chances of hooking more fish.
  • The weather is usually calmer at night, which could be a good advantage.



  • It can be harder to fish at night, especially if you aren't experienced since there's no light. The simplest of tasks, like setting up the catfish rig, will take you longer than usual, which can be frustrating.
  • You may have a hard time navigating the waters, even with the help of a GPS tracker. It can also get challenging, especially if you are not careful since you risk capsizing your boat.
  • Catfishing techniques are more limited at night than when you are fishing during the day, which could affect the amount of fish you catch.


  • You may also experience problems with bugs. You could try and find some protection against bugs if you are determined to go catfishing at night.



Catfish never get the respect they deserve since most people often group them as 'rough fish'; however, for experienced anglers, catfish are some of the best fish you can catch. The best time to fish for catfish depends on the temperature. It would be best if you observed the temperatures before deciding on the best time to go catfishing.

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