When Do Catfish Start Biting?

Catfish bite on the hook.

Catfish is a popular target in surf fishing because of its savory taste. The fish falls into your trap any time of the day, but there are the best times to catch them. Catfish start biting when it touches the bait. 

Catching giant catfish also depends on the weather, season of the year, and time of the day. If no one can stop you from fishing catfish, read our blog post to learn the tips from professional anglers.

What Time of the Day?

Fishing a catfish can take place throughout the year. But anglers who have been in this hobby for years can attest that catfish is best to catch at night. The ideal time to fish is during the summer and an hour before sunset. 

There are many species of catfish that possess different behavior. It pays to know which of these species easily cling to your bait. 

Catfish love to swim in slow-moving deep water during winter. They stay in shallow and fast-moving water during the summer months. These two things are essential to carrying out your fishing activity. 

Look at the movement of the water before throwing your rod. At twilight, catfish arise from the bottom of the sea and swim with other fish species towards the bay.

Feeding the Catfish

Catfish are adaptable to different environments, and they can survive with anything they see, like smaller catfish, weeds, and forage. The technique for catching catfish is giving them bait as they are not picky eaters. You can feed them with live, artificial or dead bait. 

Catfish get attracted to pungent-smelling baits because of the sensitive olfactory sensors in their body. If you are new to catfish fishing, ask your friends which bait is the best for catfish fishing.

Favorable Season to Catch Catfish


Catfish are active when the temperature of water starts to rise in springtime. At this time, catfish swim from the bottom to the shallow parts of the water to spawn. 

Throw your rod before the catfish begin spawning. They have a large appetite during this time. They eat a lot as they need to build more fat reserves as an energy source for spawning. 

Dead fish baits and other prey are widespread after the winter season. Catfish become aggressive when they see the dead baits in spring. Anglers get more catfish during this season. 

Use a fishing rod with a length of 7to 7 ½ feet long if you aim for longer casts. The tackle and gear should match the weight of the catfish you aim to target. Try fishing at the downwind side of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and shallow flats.


Catfish start feeding again after spring to recharge their energy. Anglers may find catfish hard to catch during the hot season as the fish dive towards the deeper waters. 

The hungry catfish emerge from the bottom when the sun settles down on the horizon. Catfish begin hunting food in the shallow waters. 

Night time is the right time to fish in rivers, ponds, and lakes as the temperature fall after sunset. Catfish and flatheads constantly move in shallow flats at night, but they hide to avoid the sun in the daytime. 

The perfect time to catch catfish in the ocean is an hour before the sun kisses the horizon until two hours later. Soak your bait for a longer time at night to give the catfish time to find the hook. 

If using a boat, add light to monitor the movement of flatheads and channels. You may also attach a chemical glow stick to the tips of your rod to observe the fish movement. 


Fall offers a lot of fishing opportunities to anglers. Hunting catfish in fall is almost similar to summer as their behavior depends on the water temperature. The best time to catch the fish is in the early part of fall. Start catfishing at noon until late afternoon if the water temperature drops in the latter part of the fall. 

If you are hunting big flatheads, feed them with small live bluegills. Small live shad is the perfect bait for channel and blue catfish. Plankton grows slowly when the water in the reservoirs, lakes, and rivers cools down. Small baitfish and shad look for plankton as their primary food.  

Baitfish hide in shallow flats, creeks, and coves as the water temperature heats up during sunny days in fall. Catfish swim to these areas, where you can catch them in broad daylight. 

Catfishing is ideal in shallow waters that meet deeper parts near the lake. Place your lines from the external to the deepest cuts to see the movements. Place the remaining lines to find if the fish is in the shallow water or not. 


Winter affects the behavior of catfish. They become lethargic and inactive because of the cold water. Feeding is slower, which means catching them can be minimal. They lurk into the deepest part of the sea throughout the season. 

Anglers use this occasion to their advantage. Catfish start biting when they smell your bait. They slowly rise from the hole to feed their hungry stomach. Winter is the best time to catch blue catfish as they are more active than summer. 

Winter catfish is active from late morning until the dark, almost settling in the afternoon. Catfish is hard to catch at night during winter because the weather is too cold. Catch them during heavy rain or snow as the air temperature rises. Flatheads and other catfish species also become active during a rainstorm. 

When do Catfishes Become Active?

Many factors may affect the time to catch catfish. Different fish species react differently to weather conditions and water temperature. If you want to see many flatheads and blue and channel catfish, you must learn their behavior and characteristics before heading to the beach.

Blue Catfish

Like other catfish species, blue catfish is available for catch throughout the year. Catch them in the early spring until mid-March up to mid-April. They are also easy to catch in the fall. The best time to see trophy blues is from December to February. Sometimes, blue catfish have higher catches from March to May at night. 

Channel Catfish

You can catch channel catfish throughout the year. This catfish species love to lurk in areas with structures, rocks, trees, bridge, or pier. Channel swim to the deeper waters in the daytime and shallow waters at night. 

Catch them in summer before the spawning period until the water temperature starts falling in the early part of the fall season. Fish them in the bottom using a sturdy split shot sinker and hook. 

The best time to catch channels is summer, when they thrive in fast-moving shallow water. Catch them at night, two hours after sunset.

Flathead Catfish

September to October is the best time to hunt for flatheads. They feed heavily during this period as preparation for winter.

Catch them about three days before the full moon or two to three days later. Catch a line during high tide from 7 to 9 in the morning.

What is the Most Active Time for Catfish to Bite?

Catfish do bite throughout the day, but they bite more at night. They are productive any time of the day and bite when the need arises during day time. Their body is full of olfactory senses that make them easy to smell the pungent odor of live or artificial baits. 

Do Catfish Stop Biting when Spawning?

Although catfish do not like to feed when spawning, male catfish still bite when they feel hungry. Bites are fewer during spawning as the catfish guard the nest. 

How Do Catfish React to Different Water Temperatures?

Catfish seek a hiding place under the waters when the water temperature is below 40 degrees F. They usually cover their body in mud layers to protect them from cold. 

A temperature below 50 degrees makes the catfish slow to bite. Cut baits attract the fish even in cold temperatures. You can fish in the deeper waters and feed them with chicken liver, shad, or bluegill. 

Catfish slowly become active when the water temperature is 51 to 60 degrees, even if they remain underneath the deep waters. They start looking for food at this time and go back to their hideout. 

The ideal water temperature to catch fish is when it falls below 70 degrees F. catfish consume much food to store energy for spawning. They swim in mid-level, shallow, and deep waters. 

A temperature above 70 degrees is not as good as below 70 degrees. Fewer catches are noticeable because the male catfish feed little food while spawning. Spawning is shorter if the water temperature is in mid-70 degrees. 

The development of eggs is slower if the water is calm. Anglers have the most significant catch when the temperature reaches 74 degrees F and above. At this time, catfish are hungry because of their metabolism is at its highest degree. 

Overall, anglers consider the best temperature for catfish fishing when it hits above 55 degrees F.

Is there an Ideal Weather for Catching Catfish?

The weather and water temperature are two things you must consider when fishing catfish. The catfish metabolism is affected by the changes in water temperature. 

Catfish hunt for food when the water temperature is more than 50 degrees. When the temperature goes down, the catfish seek to hide in the mud to avoid the cold weather during winter. 

They resurface from the bottom on the days when the air temperature is higher compared to the water temperature. Catfish also resurface before, during, and after a heavy downpour. 

Catfish are intelligent, and they can sense the abundance of food during a flash flood, rain, or strong winds. Fish baits, plankton, and insects are blown away into the water’s surface. Predatory fish like catfishes are active when the sky is dim. 

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