Can You Catch Catfish in The Winter?

Many anglers often wonder if they need to hang up the fishing gear when the weather starts taking a turn for the worst.

The temperatures are dropping, and the snow may be beginning to fall depending on where you are located.

The question that remains from many catfish anglers is straightforward:

Can you catch catfish in the winter?

Catfish still actively feed during the winter months which is why you are able to catch catfish in the winter. The feeding patterns don’t change. Only location and activity levels are impacted by the colder water temperatures.

I’m Fishing 12 Months Out the Year

Do I need to pack up all the gear or can I keep actively fishing and targeting channel, blue and flathead cats regardless of the temperature? I feel your frustration.

None of us want to pack it in and call it a year. It gets boring and the anxiety rises for the next season as we await patiently. The good news is that we don’t have to.

Keep the gear out, learn some winter catfishing tips and begin fishing 12 months out the year. I assure you, you will catch plenty of catfish in winter. Some may even argue that they strike better during the colder months.

Let’s dive in a little deeper and see why this may be and how catfish interact in the winter and colder water temperatures.

Catfish Behavior in The Winter

What changes with catfish behavior when winter comes strolling into place?


They still bite, they still eat when they are hungry. A slight difference is the more aggressive behavior toward finding safe shelter and covered structure under water.

Catfish are also going to move to deep drop offs, channels and other known deep holes beneath the water surface.

Catfish will also flock together during these colder months. They will be bunched in schools of other catfish. This can play a large advantage to your catch rates. If you can successfully locate the catfish, your most likely locating a large group of them.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Do Catfish Hibernate in The Winter?

No, catfish do not hibernate in the winter. They are not grizzly bears. The only action or behavior a catfish will display that can lead to this impression is the hot aggressive biting just before the colder months and just before daylight if you’re a night catfish angler.

Many believe this is due to the catfish realizing that it’s time to retreat to cover, safe spots and structure. This leads them to strike now or take the “wait till tomorrow approach.”

Again, this is a catch-22. Even if you don’t catch catfish during an active roam near shallow waters at night or before winter, doesn’t mean they won’t strike and strike hard with correct bait placement and effective locating techniques. Catfish are a 12 month a year fish. Plain and simple.

Do Catfish Bite When It’s Cold Out?

I know this is very similar to the question “can you catch catfish in the winter”? However, the big difference is your geographical location.

Some winters in some states are mild or even warm so it’s worth addressing if catfish bite when the actual temperature is very low or the water temperature approaches 50 degrees or less.

Catfish do bite when it’s cold out. Many anglers even ice fish for catfish. It’s all about location, location, location and learning the water structure.

You can also learn to read sonar and use tools such as the Deeper Sonar Pro+ if your bank fishing or ice fishing in the winter.

This will take the guessing game out of the equation for you and simplify the process dramatically.

What’s The Best Time of The Year to Catfish?

March, April early May is what in my opinion the best time of the year to catfish. If you can sharpen your skills and learn the ins and outs of catfishing, you should never have a problem catching catfish regardless of it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.

Find the fish, find the bait fish on sonar and your open for business.

Is it Good to Fish When It’s Cold?

This depends on you. Are you prepared to fish when it’s cold? Do you have the proper gear? Are you bothered by cold temperatures and being patient while waiting for a bite?

These are all questions only you can answer. If you are ready and prepared to do so and your targeting catfish, then I’d say absolutely. It’s good to fish when it’s cold.

It’s simple, how much do you love catfishing, and can you keep yourself warm? If you can answer these yes, and you have some way of locating the deeper structured waters, fishing when it’s cold can be excellent.

Want to know if catfish like cold water?

Do Cold Fronts Impact Catfishing and If Catfish Will Bite?

Yes, I would say that cold fronts or times of high/low pressure systems impact the bite a catfish has. Make your goal to target the catfish before the cold front. About 24-48 hours before. Catfish seem to recognize the pressure change and get active and aggressive.

Fishing directly after the cold front or any storm front has never proven fruitful for me. If you insist on it, however, find feeder creeks and other areas where the rain or other impacts from the storm/weather front may be washing natural baits into the water. If you can find strong feeding areas, you can counter the bad luck with effective location.

Bank Fishing vs Boat Fishing in The Winter

This can make a big difference when fishing in the winter. We are obviously aware that in the coldest states, some water can’t be fished from a boat due to freezing lakes and ponds but most river catfish anglers and larger bodies of water, you will have the option of doing both.

The principals remain the same for the most part. If your bank fishing for catfish in the winter, use the Deeper Sonar Pro+ we discussed previously to help locate the deeper water spots and structure, so you can place your bait effectively.

The catfish will be a bit more lethargic and it’s imperative to your success that you get close and make it appealing. Also, keep some patience in the winter. It’s going to take a bit to get them stirred and ready to move around and chase your bait. It doesn’t happen nearly as fast as catfishing during the warmer months.

Boat Fishing for Catfish in the Winter

If your fishing from a boat in the winter for catfish, you can take several approaches. You can look for the feeder creeks or natural bait run off spots.

You can also use your fish/sonar finder to locate the deepest possible waters and bottom fish for catfish. Both will be effective. What if you really want to kick it up a notch?

Try Drift Fishing for Catfishing in The Winter for Catfish

Drift fishing for catfish in the winter can be very effective. Refer to my guide about drift fishing for catfish and apply all the same principals in the winter. Keep the speed of the boat, or drift very controlled and very slow.

Use live bait, cut bait or shad and locate the deepest areas possible.

This is probably my favorite method for catfishing in the winter. It can keep the catfish interested all 12 months of the year if you can get the bait placed and bouncing right in front of them. A must try if you haven’t done so already.

Let’s cover my top tips for catching catfish in the winter.

My 7 Top Winter Catfishing Tips 2024

  • Location, Location, Location: This will most likely be your top tip catfishing anytime of the year. Learn to locate catfish effectively and the rest will come easy.
  • Deep, Deeper and Deepest: This plays back into tip #1. If you’re having trouble locating catfish, your looking in the wrong spots. They are about as deep as the water allows this time of the year or during cold weather.
  • Structure, Cover, Branches: Another location tip. Catfish won’t only be deep this time of the year, but they will be hiding out. Any cover or structure you can find in these deep waters this time of the year is going to dramatically improve your chances of catching catfish.
  • Patience: Catfishing in the Winter requires more patience. They will be a bit more lethargic and not jumping for joy at everything you throw into the water. Give your bait some time beneath the water surface and stay patient. If you can find them, you will catch them. Give it time.
  • Dress for the Outing: You can’t have patience waiting for the bite if you can’t wait for the bite before you develop frostbite. Dress warm, dress in layers and stay comfortable. If you can wait them out and stay warm, you will have a great chance at catching catfish in the winter.
  • Don’t Ignore the Drift: Don’t ignore drift fishing for catfish this time of the year. With the lethargic behavior we discussed previously, a better way to hook into them is to run right into them. If your drifting, keep it slow, keep it controlled and have a great piece of cut bait or live bait ready. They will strike if you find them effectively.
  • Don’t ignore Technology: This is something I try to mention in nearly every post related to catfishing. If you’re a real catfish angler and have the funds available, you need to utilize fish finding and sonar technology. The amount of help this will provide your catfishing game is not even something I can pinpoint a value on. It’s critical to improving your angling skills and location skills.

Will You Be Catching Catfish this Winter?

So, what do you think? Are you going to be actively trying to target catfish this winter? Do you believe you will have success and have a plan put in place?

If you have different tips and tricks you would like to share. Please be sure to leave a comment below. We love to hear from you and so does the rest of the community.

As always, stay warm out there and thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter, I’ll be sure to release all my recent top tricks and tips for catfishing in addition to keeping you posted on the most recent and hottest fishing gear items.

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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