Best Time to Catch Catfish in Rivers – Full Guide

We all want to catch more catfish and we would prefer to catch more sooner than later.

Catching catfish on rivers can be challenging. Especially for the new angler.

Many questions can arise and many questions have popped up in my email from subscribers such as this one.

What’s the best time to catch catfish in rivers?

The best time to catch catfish in rivers is in the morning and at night time. Between August and October the catfish have been feeding heavily for the winter and the water temperature seems to make them bite more.

It naturally sparked my interest to just write a quick blog post about overall tactics you can use to catch more catfish on the rivers and yes, we will cover when the best time catch catfish on rivers really is as well.

A few simple tips and some good strategy will have you catching more catfish in no time. In addition, if you’re a beginner or even if you’re an experienced catfish angler just looking for some additional tips, you should start with my ultimate guide to catfishing.

It’s basically my all in one post that covers everything from A-Z about catfish fishing and includes my 20 top tips for successful catfishing. Your welcome.

Are Catfish in Rivers?

First, let’s answer the question with 100% clarity. Yes, catfish are in rivers.

Lot’s of them and very big catfish as well. In addition, yes it can be tricky to locate them at times and some strategy needs to be implemented to get this done effectively.

So again, I’ll say it loud and proud. Monster catfish can be found in the rivers and it’s where I’ve had the most success with catching the larger catfish.

How to Find Catfish in a River

Catfish in rivers can be stubborn and sometimes difficult to locate.

I recommend using sonar/depth and fish finder technology to find structure of the river, deeper holes, channels beneath the water and catfish in the river.

The sonar/depth and fish finder technology is so nice to have if you are fishing from a bot. It’s the ability to find structure, deeper holes and channels beneath the water makes it so much easier.

I recommend the Deeper Sonar Pro (my guide).

This is the answer to your question and where the catfish are hiding. This also makes it possible to fish for catfish all day long.

Effectively learning to locate catfish, is more important than the time of day and what time of day is best for catfishing. Make sure to have a look at my guide on where catfish dig holes.

More on The Catfish Hide And Seek Game

Catfish can’t get enough of these “holes” we keep referring to.

It’s not just the holes that matter, however.

Once you realize that any bottom structure is a hot-spot your luck just improved dramatically.

The current and the natural bends beneath the water make it the perfect storm for the catfish. They are there. Just give it some time. If you are desperate and still not believing me that the technology is worth it, just do it the easy way.

Look for…

  • Bridges
  • Dams
  • Docks
  • Parked Barges

In all honesty, it shouldn’t that difficult to find a good spot, if you just look around for a bit.

The opportunities are all over the place. Trust me there is enough catfish for all of us to fish happy for a long time. Now go and find them.

Find them first, then you can strategize what time of day is the best for effectively fishing for catfish. If you’re not going to use the technology, you just need to use some common sense.

Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish

Best time to catch catfish in rivers.

The best time of day to catch catfish in rivers is when the carp are in shallow cover for feeding at night and early morning.

Let me explain:

Daytime Catfishing on Rivers

If it’s mid-day or general daytime hours when you floating around on your boat, you going to want to target the deep waters and ideally, already know where the cover and channels are beneath the water surface.

This is the perfect location to stand a chance at snagging into a monster if you have the correct presentation and gear to get the job done.

Nighttime Catfishing on Rivers

If you fishing closer to dark or nighttime hours, you don’t necessarily have to stay so deep on the rivers. The catfish will begin moving toward more shallow cover for feeding.

Therefore, nighttime may be the absolute best time to catfish on rivers, but we do have a close runner-up.

Early Morning Catfishing on Rivers

This would be your runner up for the best time to catch catfish on rivers. You see, catfish don’t mind warm waters, but they avoid being blasted with the rays of the sun and prefer to stay in cover, calm, shaded areas with plenty of protection.

In the early mornings, they are still feeding from the night before or they haven’t quite headed back to their favorite log making it very possible to snag into large catfish on the river during the morning hours.

Morning and Nights

The simple answer you were looking for at the beginning of this post. Mornings and Nights. The morning and night time are the best time to catch catfish on the rivers.

I know it sucks staying late on the waters or dragging yourself out of bed in the morning but you’re clearly looking for more catfish.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be googling to find out the answer. Unfortunately, the truth hurts, and this is when you will have the most luck catfish fishing. It’s that simple. Easy as 1,2,3.

What about the other times?

I wanted to put in this special side note and make it clear that you can still absolutely crush it fishing mid-day and other times of the day for catfish on rivers.

I was simply just telling you when I’ve had the best luck and when I believe to be the best time for catching catfish on rivers to be.

What’s The Best Bait For Catfish in a River?

We already know that catfish are abundant in all forms and present in all bodies of water. Especially rivers.

The nice thing is that it doesn’t really matter what river you are fishing.

For the most part, the catfish doesn’t change its behavior much from one region to another.

What’s this mean? Well, it means no matter where you are the advice in this article should apply to you and help you effectively catch more catfish.

Catfish will bite when it’s warm and they will bite when it’s cold. We just need the correct bait. So, what is it?

My View of the Best Catfish Bait for River Fishing

Having the correct bait is how you catch big catfish in rivers.

That’s the first key after locating where you believe they may be. You must learn how to find catfish holes in a river first which we already touched on methods you can use to get that done with ease.

Now that we have them located and are trying to select a bait, you have a few questions to ask yourself first.

  • What are you fishing for?
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Blue Catifsh
  • Channel Catfish
  • Any catfish that will bite?

I’ve noticed that they all have a little different preference for the best baits.

Best Bait For Channel Catfish in A River?

This is still hands down going to stink bait. I know I mention it all the time in my post but channel catfish, for whatever reason I can’t seem to keep off my hook when using a nice stink bait.

You can easily catch channel catfish on the river with these other following baits as well.

  • Nightcrawlers
  • Chicken Liver
  • Cheese Bait
  • Dough Bait
  • Shad
  • Hot dogs

The Story Changes However when I Target Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish seem to go after the live bait so the minnows or really any form of live bait will work. I’d ultimately say that live bait for flatheads on any river is the best catfish bait you can use.

You can also try using:

Be sure to check with local DNR laws to make sure using the live and cut bait options aren’t breaking or violating any of your local fishing rules. Some areas don’t allow this.

That Brings us to the Blue Catfish

The blue catfish I have a tie for the best bait for river fishing. Live bait and really any slimy and dead bait seem to get the job done for me on rivers.

It needs to be presented in a clean fashion and be large enough to get a blue catfish excited about but overall something such as fresh cut bait has proven to be the best I’ve used to date.

Reading The River For Catfishing

Is it important? Remember how we mentioned that catfish on rivers don’t really change behavior based on location?

That’s what so awesome about learning to read the river. You learn this skill and add it to the skill of using the best catfish baits and finding the best time of the day to catch catfish on the rivers and its game on.

You can become unstoppable if you learn to read the rivers for catfish and here’s how to do it. You have three major components to reading the river for catfish

  • Riffle
  • Hole
  • Runs

Easy right? Well, not so fast. Let’s break these down just a bit. Runs are river flats that begin at the tail end of a hole. This is where the water begins to slow before being pushed downriver.

A ton of debris sinks to this area and causing it to “shallow up. These areas or runs are usually sandy bottoms with plenty of rock and gravel present.

Once you have located a run, it’s always followed by a riffle. The riffle is a shallow landform in the natural flow of the channel of the river.

It’s usually a much coarser part of the river with various sediments such as rocks and other debris. Lastly, you have the pool which is the beginning stage of the entire process and the spot where you can find a large amount of catfish.

Take a look at really any image on google to have a better idea of how these work and how you can use it to your advantage the next time out fishing.

Once you learn this, it gets incredibly easy to begin angling for more catfish and bigger catfish on rivers.

Why do we think we know the best time to catch catfish on rivers and how to do it?

Obviously, I hope the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Sometimes I do, however, get on a tangent and ramble a bit.

If that’s the case here, be sure to leave a comment below. I’d be more than happy to help get answer more questions on river catfishing.

In addition, if I left anything major out or that you believe needs added to the post, please be sure to leave a comment below. I strive to bring the BonfireBob Blog Community the best possible post I can to ultimately help us all catch more fish each time we hit the waters.

If you haven’t done so already make sure to subscribe to my email list over on the right. It’s greatly appreciated, and it also lands you some free tips and tricks and all my latest gear recommendations on a weekly basis.

Not something to pass on if I were you but ultimately that’s your call. Anyways, as always finding and effectively catching catfish on the river can be easy once you have all the tools and knowledge in place and I hope that’s what I brought to you here today.

Thanks for reading and I appreciate you. See you next time.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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