The Best Time of Day and Year to Catch Catfish (Complete Guide)


What’s the best time to catch Catfish? Well, that all depends. Are you talking time of day, or year, or both?

Trust me, it will make a massive difference to your catch rate, and it isn’t always the same.

Today I want to share some secrets with you and show you how your fishing will differ based on the time and season. There’s a lot to think about. Water conditions, brightness levels, the weather…

Let’s check our watches and get out there.

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Complete Guide to the Best Time to Catfish – Things to Consider

fisherman caught large catfish

What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish?

Let’s start with a general rule. There are exceptions, but generally, the best time to catch Catfish is just before the sun rises into the early morning or in the late evening just before sunset.

Unlike other species, Catfish don’t need particularly good light or visibility to locate their food. Instead, they rely on their acute senses. If you’ve seen my article on the best catfish baits, you’ll have noticed that many are loaded with strong scents for this very reason.

As a result, low light conditions are perfect for feeding Catfish. They aren’t fazed by poor conditions that prevent other species from moving around.

In truth, you can catch Catfish any time of the day or night. Still, if you want to fish optimally, you should aim for specific times depending on the species and season.

Let’s get into it in a little more detail

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

The season in which you are catfishing will have a direct bearing on your rate of success. It will also dictate the best time of day to go.

There are a few things that you need to be aware of.

First, the weather also plays a crucial factor. There is a higher chance of the weather being good for catfishing during the warmer seasons, not to mention the effects of barometric pressure on your fishing.

Second, large water bodies tend to lag a little behind the seasons. Although temperatures drop in, say, fall, the water will still be warm. So, don’t think that fishing conditions won’t be optimal just because summer has ended.

With both of these considerations in mind, let’s take a look at the best season to Catfish and the best times of day:

catfish caught while fishing spinning rod

Spring

  • General Weather – Fair and warming up.
  • Water Temperature – Cold.
  • Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish – Midday onwards into the early evening.

Spring is a good time to start catfishing.

You’ll find that there are more daylight hours, the water is heating up, and there are signs of life starting to appear out on the water. Catfish who have overwintered will have been on sparse rations and, as a result, will be actively out and looking for food.

But.

Remember what I said above? The water temperatures lag behind the season a little, so although the outside air temperature will be more favorable, those cold-blooded fish still need some time to get going.

Meaning?

You will need to fish at a time when the water is at its warmest. As a good rule of thumb, this is around midday and beyond, when the sun’s rays have had a good chance to warm the water sufficiently to stimulate some signs of life.

As the season progresses, you can adapt these times slightly.

More daylight and earlier sunrises mean that the water will warm sooner, so feeding time starts earlier. Once you get to the ‘shoulder’ months, you can perhaps arrive a little before midday to take advantage of the extra fishing time.

Summer

  • General Weather – Warm.
  • Water Temperature – Warm.
  • Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish – Early evening, through the night to sunrise.

When it comes to prime catfishing season, summer is certainly the best time to catch Catfish at night!

By mid-summer, the water has warmed to a level that catfish are active pretty much all the time. However, as we said above, the low light hours represent a golden window where you can easily catch some pretty decent fish, and in good numbers too!

Catfish eat various different things, which are bound to be present in abundance during the summer.

Oh, and we need to talk about this.

Spawning.

Catfish has a one-track mind towards the end of the spring and at the start of the summer. While they will feed aggressively in spring to prepare for the upcoming spawning season, the start of the summer can lead them to quieten down a bit and being honest, it can be pretty hard going for even the most dedicated angler.

The good news?

Once that period is over, they jump back into a feeding frenzy. And what’s more, catfish are incredibly cannibalistic. You could even try and catch some smaller catfish to use as live bait!

As to the best time of day to catch catfish in summer?

I’d recommend heading down around 2-3 hours before sunset and fishing through the night until an hour or so after sunrise. Catfish become much less wary during these times. If you don’t like the idea of night fishing, get up early and catch the dawn.

amateur angler holds the catfish

Fall

  • General Weather – Mild with occasional colder times.
  • Water Temperature – Still warm.
  • Best time to catch Catfish in the fall – Sunrise onward, through the day, or 4 hours before sunset.

The summer is over, so the best time for Catfish has gone, right?

Wrong!

Fall can be one of the best times of year to catch Catfish.

Remember, the water is still warm. The catfish will be feeding themselves up, ready to tide themselves over during the winter.

Remember how I said that low light conditions are perfect for catching Catfish?

Guess what you’ll get plenty of in the fall?

Long shadows, a less intense light through the day, and relatively mild conditions make fall perfect catfishing weather.

The best time of day to catch Catfish in the fall?

You might need to alter your timings slightly. Try and head a little towards daylight hours a little more, so sunrise onwards and around 4 hours before sunset.

Shallow water is particularly good, as this stays at the optimum temperature for a longer period.

Winter

  • General Weather – Cold.
  • Water Temperature – Cold in shallow spots, relatively warm in deeper areas.
  • Best time – 2 hours after midday.

Winter is a little bit special, but you can still definitely catch a catfish or two.

Why?

When the water cools down, food becomes scarce. Bad for the Catfish, good for you. As a result, the fish rarely pass up the chance to eat a juicy offering. If that happens to be your bait, then you are in a good place.

But…

You’ll need to adapt your approach, both in timings and where you fish.

Just as shallower water heats quickly in the fall, it tends to fluctuate the most between warm and cold in the depths of winter.

And here’s the thing.

Catfish love stability.

For that reason, they will retreat to areas where the water stays consistent and relatively warm, namely deeper pockets and holes.

You’ll need to give the water chance to reach its zenith if you want to catch a feeding fish. The time of day that this happens is generally a few hours after the sun has been at its highest, so try and coincide your visit with these times.

catfish just caught on a hook

Catfishing Times – Quick Reference Table

Season Optimum Time of Day Catfish Species
Spring Midday to early evening Channel, Blue
Summer Early evening through the night until sunrise Flathead, Channel, Blue
Fall 2 hours after sunrise, early evening Flathead, Channel, Blue
Winter Any time after midday until dusk Channel, Blue

Is it Better to go Catfishing in the Morning or Evening?

Strictly speaking, this depends on the seasons. If I had to choose from morning or evening, I’d almost certainly say that evening is a better time to catch Catfish.

Why?

It’s all to do with water temperature.

If you fish in the morning, the water will be cooler, meaning less catfish feeding activity. If it has been a particularly cold night, or there has been a lot of water gone in due to storms, you might be in for a quiet day.

Conversely…

By fishing in the evening, you are practically guaranteed that the water will be the warmest on any given day, regardless of the conditions. Warmer water generally means more feeding, and more feeding means more chance of catching a fish!

Day or Night, Which is Better for Catfishing?

The above also applies when discussing the best time of day to catch Catfish.

And…

If you arrive just before sunset, you are ticking the ‘evening’ box and stand to gain a lot of the benefits that night fishing brings too!

Such as?

Well, for a start, Catfish, due to their sensory advantages, love feeding at night, so that will work to your benefit.

Anything else?

Hell yes! While catfish don’t have the best eyesight, they are can still be spooked if they happen to spot your line or rig. You gain a key advantage by fishing at night as this helps to disguise your tackle in the water.

I generally wouldn’t recommend catfishing during the day, with one exception. The fish tend to hunker down and sit quietly in deeper areas, lest they become food for eagle-eyed predators. Sometimes, in the height of summer, the water can also become too warm and deoxygenated, which will kill any chance of feeding.

The exception?

Winter.

In winter, you will want to fish during the day when the water is at its warmest. At night everything cools down too much (and it isn’t very pleasant for us anglers either).

angler holds catfish being in the fishing boat on the river

Catfish Species, The Optimum Times to Catch

Yes, there is still more to think about. As you are undoubtedly aware, there are many different species of Catfish, and they all behave slightly differently as to when they consider it ‘feeding time’.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Best Time of Day to Fish for Flathead Catfish?

When you think about Flathead Catfish, I want you to have two words in your mind. These two words will tell you all you need to know about the best times to head out.

Those words?

Low. Light.

Flathead catfish are wary at the best of times. They love to hang out under structures, jetties, and overhanging bushes if you ever observe their natural behavior. Anywhere shaded is good to catch them if you are fishing in the day.

But.

The best times to fish for Flatheads is in the evening or very early in the morning when the low light conditions give them a sense of safety, and they’ll move from deeply shaded areas.

I’ve got a great article telling you all you need to know about timings and flatheads right here.

What is the Best Time of Day to Fish for Channel Catfish?

Channel catfish are a little more flexible than flatheads, so you’ll find that they can be caught all year round, based on my above guidance and times.

If you want a bumper channel cat session, I’d suggest going for them in the early evening in the late summer. This is when they will be feeding most prolifically and won’t be distracted by spawning either.

Nighttime during the summer is another optimum window to catch a bag full!

What is the Best Time of Day to Fish for Blue Catfish?

Blue Catfish can also be caught all year round, and they are quite typical in their behavior.

You could give it a try at any time of day. Still, for maximum success, I’d suggest sticking to the above general guidance and fishing during low light conditions, like early morning and late evening. The exception is during the winter, when you can try at any time during daylight conditions.

Summary

When it comes to the best time to catch Catfish, there is a lot to think about. You have to consider species behavior, spawning times, the season, and the time of day.

However, with my guide above, you’ll be in an optimum place to catch Catfish if they are there.

The game changes again when you start discussing rivers. Why don’t you head over to my catfishing on rivers guide to finding the best times? Don’t forget to get kitted out appropriately either. Check out the best catfish rods and reels here!

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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