Best Time of Day to Fish for Catfish Explained (+ Seasons)

While you can catch larger catfish throughout the day, experienced fishermen have discovered that dusk and dawn are prime periods for enticing these whiskered creatures. During these twilight hours, catfish …

While you can catch larger catfish throughout the day, experienced fishermen have discovered that dusk and dawn are prime periods for enticing these whiskered creatures. During these twilight hours, catfish tend to be more active and are on the prowl for their next meal, making it considerably easier to catch catfish of all sizes. 

But hold your fishing rod steady, as we have even more insights to share! Read on to discover how the seasons and moon phases can affect catfish behavior and unlock additional knowledge for enhancing your next fishing adventure.

Best Time of Day for Catching Catfish

Best time of day to fish for catfish
The success of catching catfish greatly depends on the timing of fishing.

When it comes to catching catfish, being on the water at the right time of day can greatly impact your success of a catfish bite. While catfish can be caught at any time, there are certain periods when they are more active and likely to bite. 

One of the optimal times I have the most luck with is during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. During these transitional periods between day and night, catfish tend to become more active and feed actively in shallow water areas. The low light conditions make them feel more secure and confident in their hunting. 

Water temperatures during these times are often more favorable as well, which further contributes to the increased chance you can catch big catfish. But it’s important to note that catfish can still be caught all throughout the day, especially in areas with abundant shallow water cover or when certain weather conditions trigger their feeding instincts, such as different air pressure changes and storm fronts moving in or out of the area.

Morning vs Evening Bite

The morning bite typically occurs during the early hours of the day, just after sunrise, and is a great time to catch catfish. As the sun rises, it gradually warms up the water, which stimulates catfish to leave their nocturnal resting spots and search for food, making it arguably the best time to catch blue catfish, flathead catfish, channel catfish, and others. 

During this time, catfish are often found in shallower areas, particularly near structures such as fallen trees, rocks, or submerged vegetation. They are actively searching for food and taking advantage of the abundance of prey items available in the morning, with bullhead catfish and blue catfish being extremely aggressive with their strikes, in my experience.

The evening bite occurs during the twilight hours just before sunset and is another prime time for catching catfish. Similar to the morning bite, the cooling temperatures and decreasing light levels trigger increased catfish activity. Catfish of all types, including channel catfish, blue catfish, and others, will move closer to the shoreline or shallow areas preparing for a night of hunting. 

The cover of darkness provides a sense of security for catfish, making them more aggressive and willing to strike at bait or lures. I often find success during the evening bite by casting near submerged structures, drop-offs, or along the edges of channels.

Daytime vs Nighttime

During daytime fishing, when the sun is high in the sky, catfish tend to retreat to deeper waters or seek shelter in shaded areas such as submerged logs, rocks, or vegetation. They become less active and more sluggish during this time since the bright sunlight and warmer temperatures make them less inclined to actively feed. 

However, this doesn’t mean that catching catfish during the day is impossible. Patient catfish anglers can still find success by targeting areas with plenty of cover or sunken structures where blue catfish, channel catfish, and other species can hide and opportunistically feed on passing prey. 

Using heavier weights or sinking rigs can help reach these deeper areas where catfish are likely to be hiding. Additionally, certain weather conditions like overcast skies or light rain can increase daytime catfish activity and increase the chances of a solid catfish bite.

Night fishing is when these nocturnal predators become more active, aggressive, and eager to feed under cover of darkness. As the sun sets and the water cools down, catfish venture out from their daytime hiding spots to actively hunt for food. They move closer to the shorelines, shallower areas, or even into open water in search of prey. 

Night fishing for big cats often involves casting near structures, along drop-offs, or in areas with good underwater cover. Using scent-based baits like live or dead bait or specially formulated catfish baits for night fishing can be highly effective since hungry catfish rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate food in low-light conditions.

Best Time to Catch Catfish from the Shore

One of the prime periods to catch catfish from the shore is during the transitional periods of dusk and dawn. These twilight hours are known for increased catfish activity as catfish emerge from their daytime hiding spots and venture closer to the shallows in search of prey. During these times, the low light conditions provide a sense of security for catfish, making them more willing to venture near the shoreline where you can see catfish feed.

Another favorable time to catch catfish from the shore is during the night. Catfish are naturally nocturnal predators, and they tend to be more active and aggressive in low-light conditions. As the sun sets, catfish become more confident in their hunting and feeding activities. They move closer to the shoreline to take advantage of potential food sources and are more likely to strike at baits or lures. This is when I will use glow-in-the-dark or lighted floats to help attract their attention and improve visibility for bites during nighttime fishing.

Slowest Time of Day for Catfish

The slowest time of day to catch catfish is typically during the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky, and water temperatures are at their highest. Big catfish appear to become less active and less inclined to feed during this time. The combination of bright sunlight, increased water temperatures, and reduced oxygen levels in shallow areas can make catching blue catfish, channel cats, and other species considerably more difficult.

Some strategies to improve your chances during this time of day can include:

  • Targeting deep waters
  • Utilizing scent-based baits
  • Changing presentation
  • Focus on shaded areas

Best Catfish Season and Times

catfish underwater
Catfish feeding habits and optimal fishing times can vary throughout the seasons.

Spring

As water temperatures rise during the spring, catfish become more willing to feed and are in search of food to replenish their energy. The best time of day during spring is often early morning and late evening.

Summer

As water temperatures increase in the summer, catfish will seek out deeper and cooler areas during the day. The best time of day to fish during the summer is typically in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.

Fall

Fall is widely considered one of the best seasons for fishing for catfish. As water temperatures begin to cool down, catfish become more active and feed voraciously in preparation for the upcoming winter.

Winter

Winter can be a challenging time for catfish fishing due to the colder water temperatures, which can slow down their metabolism and reduce their feeding habits. The best time of day to catch catfish in winter is usually late morning to early afternoon.

Best Times by Species

catfish underwater (1)
Different species of catfish have their preferred feeding times.

The Best Time to Fish For Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish are primarily nocturnal predators, so the best time to fish for flathead catfish is generally during the late evening and throughout the night. I like to set up my fishing spot before dusk and stay until early morning to get the best results. 

Flathead catfish are more likely to be found near structure-rich areas such as submerged logs, rock piles, or deep holes, so targeting these areas during the preferred time can increase your chances of success.

The Best Time to Fish for Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are known to be opportunistic feeders and can be caught during both day and night. However, they are often more active during low-light conditions, and evening fishing is normally my preferred time to try catching them. 

Channel catfish tend to be more active when water temperatures are moderate, so spring and fall are generally favorable seasons. Targeting areas with cover, such as fallen trees, brush piles, or weed beds, can attract channel catfish during their preferred feeding times.

The Best Time to Fish for Blue Catfish

Blue catfish are known to enjoy deeper waters and have a tendency to feed during different times of the day, depending on the season. During the warmer months of spring and summer, they can be caught throughout the day, but during the cooler months of fall and winter, you’ll see them being more active during the warmer parts of the day.

Best Time for River, Lake and Pond Fishing for Catfish

The best time to fish for big cats in rivers, lakes, and ponds follows similar patterns to the specific species mentioned above. Early in the morning and late in the evening are generally productive times across all types of water bodies since catfish are more active during these low-light or transition periods. 

But it’s important to keep in mind the specific characteristics of the water body you’re fishing in too. Rivers with strong currents may see more catfish activity during periods of rising or falling water levels. In lakes and ponds, focusing on areas with structure, submerged vegetation, or drop-offs can attract catfish and increase your chances of success.

What Is the Worst Time of Day to Fish for Catfish?

The worst time of day to fish for big cats is typically during the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky, and the water temperature is at its hottest. Catfish will usually become less active and less interested in feeding during this time. The combination of bright sunlight, increased water temperature, and reduced oxygen levels in shallow areas can make catfish of all sizes seek out more comfortable water temperatures in deeper waters or shaded locations such as under submerged structures, bridges, or in deeper holes.

Keep in mind that while the middle of the day may be the least productive time, catfish can still be caught at any time of the day if you have enough patience. They may be less active and less aggressive during unfavorable conditions, but they can still be enticed to bite with the right presentation and bait.

Does the Moon Affect Fishing for Catfish?

There is an ongoing debate among anglers on whether or not the moon has any effect on catfishing. Some believe that the moon’s phase and position can heavily influence the behavior of various species of fish, including catfish. The theory is that the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth affects the water levels and currents, which in turn affects the movement and feeding patterns of fish.

Over the years, I have heard from various examples of popular folklore that catfish are believed to be more active and have increased feeding activity during certain moon phases, such as the full moon or new moon. These periods are usually also associated with higher tides and increased water movement in the ocean, lakes, rivers, and even reservoirs. However, scientific studies have not provided conclusive evidence to support these beliefs, and the impact of the moon on catfish fishing remains uncertain.

In practice, I would highly recommend that you prioritize factors like water temperature, weather conditions, and the availability of food sources instead of the moon phases when planning your catfish fishing trips. By focusing on these key factors and adapting to the specific conditions of the fishing location, you can improve your chances of success regardless of the moon’s phase.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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