When Do Catfish Spawn?

A angler catches a spawn catfish during the catfish spawning season.

One of the most popular fish in the United States is the catfish, and you can find it anywhere in almost every state. Catfish are so widespread that you can find 49 catfish species in North America alone, and they live exclusively in freshwater. Catfish also have delectable meat, which you can use for various dishes. However, as a game fish, the catfish is not that difficult to catch. 

But if you’re new to fishing and would like to catch catfish—it will be best to know how they behave. Understanding the behavior of the catfish, including their spawning behavior, can be of great help in figuring out how and when to catch catfish best. It will also help you plan your fishing adventure for catching catfish to increase your chance of catching this fish.

The Spawning Season of Catfish

As a beginner, it is imperative to learn about the spawning period of catfish to know the best time to fish for them. The channel catfish, one of the most popular catfish species, is known to spawn in early summer or late spring. The trigger point for the spawning of the channel catfish is when the temperatures of the waters reach around 75°F. 

The male catfish choose the nest site. They would select an area that is dark and secluded. Such an area might be a cavity along the drift, undercut banks, logs, cans, or rocks. The female then lays a mass of gelatinous eggs at the nest’s bottom. The males then watch over the nest and might even eat some eggs. 

Within a week, these eggs would hatch. The small fish linger a bit in the nest for a week under the watchful eyes of the male. The survival rates, of course, of fry, are low during the first year of their existence.

The young channel catfish is barely four inches in length. Besides, they only eat small insects. Adults, however, become less picky in their food and devour almost anything that looks palatable, including mollusks, insects, crustaceans, smaller fish, and vegetation. The channel catfish then reach sexual maturity after three years, reaching a foot long when matured.

Catching Catfish During their Spawning Season

The best time for catching most game fish is during their spawning period. Yet, with catfish, the story is quite different. The reason is that catfish’s spawning habits deviate a bit from the other game fish. Thus, you might get frustrated if you would catch catfish during their spawning period. 

Most major catfish species spawn simultaneously in late spring or early summer. Their spawning period corresponds with the warming of water temperature. Blue and Channel catfish usually spawn when temperatures hit the range of 70 to 84-degree F. 

The ideal spawning water temperature, however, is 80°F to 81°F. Flathead catfish, on the other hand, spawn anywhere from 66°Fto 75°F. 

Considering these preferred spawning temperatures, it is reasonable to conclude that the spawning periods of catfish around the world would differ depending on their habitats in the latitudes. 

Another thing is that they may also spawn differently depending on the area they inhabit in the waters. If they dwell, for example, in the vast lake’s headwaters, they would spawn earlier than those who dwell in the small streams or creeks. For this reason, you can catch catfish early in the spawning season in the headwaters. 

You can also catch these fish in the faster current seams, outside bends where you will find current swinging outside the snag’s edge or into holes. You will also find the catfish that have not yet built their nest voraciously feeding. 

After the female spawns her eggs, she goes off to recoup her strength. More often, she would refrain from eating for a couple of weeks. So, you can’t really catch the females during this period. Yet, the smaller catfish and the males are easy targets and ready to lurch toward your baits during this period.  

Do Catfish Feed When Spawning?

As mentioned above, female catfish aren’t actively chasing after their food during their spawning period. Yet even the males aren’t actively foraging for food during this time. They are so engrossed in looking after the nests that they would let a couple of weeks pass sans eating. 

But, as mentioned above, catfish don’t spawn simultaneously. So, you can chance upon an actively feeding catfish during, before, and after their spawning period. The catfish you will happen to catch during these periods might be so aggressive and in beast mode when feeding. 

The reason is that they want to replenish their systems with enough energy. Hence, they would devour food voraciously. So, you might get the most aggressive bites from catfish during these times.

Ways to Find and Catch Catfish During the Spawning Period

If you don’t want to get frustrated while fishing for catfish, it will be best to refrain from fishing during the spawning period of catfish. The reason is that you will find it hard to locate them during this period. The females indulge in laying eggs while the males look after the nests. So, both male and female catfish are so taken up with their tasks. Yet, if you’re the hard-headed type of angler—who longs to catch catfish during this period—you might as well learn about some of the spots where you might catch a catfish during the spawning period:

Check Out the Shallow Waters

The shallow flats with snags are the first spots you check when fishing for catfish. These spots are near the bank and situated near back eddies where there is less current. There, you may find a catfish. 

Catfish would rather pick your bait and drags it around in these locations than devour it voraciously. You must be able to feel the slightest nudge or pickup and reel down quickly on the fish. 

Look for Holes

Another good spots to look for catfish are the holes along the periphery of rivers or cut banks. Catfish might tend to back themselves onto these gorges or holes. Use your side imaging to survey the dips, snags, or holes. These holes might hold fish. 

Cast your line right along the bank and watch your lines. The male guarding the nest might pick up your bait and drag it out. When this happens, the line moves side to side, while the rod won’t bend. In such a case, you must reel down. 

Focus on the Rocks

You can check the rocks. Catfish will indeed spawn near rocks. If you fail to catch anything, just float your baits with a bobber along rock ledges. Besides, ensure that your bait moves slowly for the catfish to get hold of it.


The staging areas for spawning catfish are the tributary mouths. So, you should consider them as the top spots for finding spawning catfish. The ideal tributary mouths are those that offer warm in-flow like swollen creeks. 

Catfish are known to ambush their prey, darting from current breaks, holes, humps, or trees. You will chance upon them likewise at the tributary confluence. You can cast your rig here and let it drift beyond these hotspots. 


You will also find catfish congregating downstream from huge river dams after, before, and during the spawning period. There might be more of them in the tailwaters once their spawning migration upstream gets blocked. 

They would often linger in these areas for a couple of weeks while feasting on crayfish and baitfish. You will also find fishing along grooves of slow moving water of the open-gate dams. 

Tarry Longer in Your Spot and Engage in Spot Rotation

When catfish are spawning, they won’t be aggressive in foraging for food. In fact, they might not be interested in consuming food. You might as well tarry longer in a spot to wait for the fish to decide to take a bite on your bait. So, it will be best to sit for an hour on a certain site to get a catch. 

Aside from tarrying longer in a specific spot, it will also help if you rotate sites, giving certain spots a respite for four or five days before you fish again on that spot. Otherwise, you might catch the same male fish that have been tending its nest within that area. 


It is indeed not a good idea to catch spawning fish as a conservatory measure to keep the population of a fish species safe. Thus, many anglers don’t hunt for spawning fish. Besides, some catch spawning big fish only to release them afterward. Remember that once you take the males home while they are tending after the nest, the nest will indeed get lost. So, it will be best to release the males back onto the waters to allow them to go back to the nest.

As a summary, it will help you understand how fish spawn, for the spawning period will impact the fishing strategies and tactics you will employ to catch fish. It will also be best to know how fish behave before heading out to the lakes to catch fish.  

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