Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish: A Seasonal Guide To Catfishing

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As an angler, you might want to know the best time to catch catfish. While catfish bite throughout the day, certain times of the day can lead to more success in catching this fish. There are also other variables such as season, type of fish, and weather conditions that affect the best time to catch catfish

The best time to catch any catfish begins one hour before sunset and lasts up to 2 hours after sunrise. In colder weather, you can catch catfish from 4 hours after sunrise up to the time of sunset. 

Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish

However, these rules are not set in stone. If you want to dive into the details of each time slot and how you can catch larger catfish, we have all the information for you.

Keep reading to find out more about the best times to catch catfish.

Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish

For all seasons of fishing, you can catch most catfish during the night. If you start fishing before sunset, you can catch many catfish throughout the night up to an hour after sunrise. 

Catching catfish is easier during the night because they swim to the shore near sunset. During the night, catfish will follow the lead of bluegill and shad, staying in shallow areas of water. 

One of the best ways to catch catfish is to use live or dead bait instead of artificial ones. If you can find which natural fish are present in the water, you can use them as bait. Catfish are attracted to the fish that they naturally eat. 

When you go fishing during the night, let your baits soak longer in the water. As the catfish start hunting in shallow waters, they will bite on your bait eventually. A good rule of thumb is to leave your bait in the water for at least 45 minutes before changing the location.

What Variables Should I Consider When Catching Catfish?

There are three variables that you should consider when catching catfish. These are: 

  1. What species are you targeting?
  2. Do you want to catch a large number of catfish?
  3. Are you trying to catch big catfish?

The best time of the day and year can vary depending on these variables. While you can go catfishing all year long, you can use these variables to increase your odds of getting a bite.

Morning vs. Evening Time

Catfish are more likely to bite when there is a cooler water temperature. This means that catfish are more actively searching for prey in shallow water. 

Since the fish are hungry, they are more likely to bite on your bait in the hours of early morning and late afternoon. You can consistently find catfish an hour before sunset as they start getting closer to the shore. 

For beginner anglers, finding catfish is easier during the afternoon.

Daytime vs. Nighttime

Catfish will behave in different ways depending on the time of day. 

During the daytime in the summer, catfish are actively looking for areas with cooler water. They tend to hide out in deeper holes in the water, especially if there are boulders or trees underwater. 

Big catfish prefer hiding inside the deep structures as they can find their favorite prey down there while keeping themselves away from uncomfortable, warm water. While the catfish will be tightly packed in these holes, they are unlikely to be moving around in the water. 

If you have access to a small lake, then you can catch catfish in the middle of the day by locating the deep underwater holes. Since there is an abundance of catfish present there, you are highly likely to get a bite. 

In contrast, catfish tend to move away from these deep structures during the night. They actively move to shallow flats before sunset and stay there throughout the night. 

Since shad and bluegill are also found in shallow water during the night, catfish go after them for hunting. Catfish are actively feeding during nighttime, which means you can catch them easily as they come and find your bait themselves. 

While there is less effort involved in locating catfish at night, you may have to cast your line for up to 45 minutes before getting a bite. Even then, catching a significant number of catfish during the night is relatively difficult as compared to the daytime.

Unfavorable Time of Day for Catfish

Before you head out for catfishing, you should also know what time of the day to avoid. The slowest time of the day for catfishing depends on the season and time of day. 

In the spring, summer, and fall, you should avoid catfishing in the middle of the day. While catfish are feeding all day and night in these warm months, they hide away in deeper water when the sun is blaring. Catfish will only be found in deep pools with sunken laydowns where the water is at a cooler temperature. 

In the winter, the slowest time of day for catching catfish is at the night. As the water gets too cold, catfish will find their way to the deepest holes and structures once again.

Which Season Is the Best for Catching Catfish?

The likelihood of catching catfish depends upon how warm or cold the water is. In different seasons throughout the year, catfish become more active at certain times and lay low during others. 

Here is a detailed breakdown of seasonal considerations for catching catfish:


Since the water gets too cold in the water, catfish will try their best to find a warm place to rest. This means that they look for deep structures and holes in the water, typically near reservoirs and streams. 

If you catch catfish during the winter, you might notice that they have a muddy appearance. This happens because they spend most of the night close to the mud at the bottom of the lake

To catch a large number of catfish in the winter, you should go fishing between late morning to the time of sunset. Big catfish species such as flatheads are most active in snowy or rainy weather during the winter.


Catfish feed on shad. When the shad begin schooling up in the fall, catfish tend to go after them for hunting. 

In early fall, you can catch catfish throughout the night from sunset to sunrise. As the catfish are actively looking for shad, they are likely to find your bait as well. 

In later fall when the temperature starts looking more like winter, you should fish catfish during the daytime. Start from midday or early afternoon and continue fishing until an hour after sunset. 

To catch the most catfish during fall, consider using live bait. You can catch large flatheads by using tiny bluegills as bait. If you are trying to catch blue or channel catfish, then consider using cut shad as bait.


In the summer, the daytime water temperature is too hot for the catfish to survive. To protect themselves, they hide away in the deepest nooks and corners of the sea. 

The best time of day to catch catfish in the summer is during the night. The most successful time window is between an hour before sunset up to 2 hours after sunrise. 

During this time, the catfish emerge from the deep holes and structures of the water and start swimming in the shallow flats. As they try to hunt on perch, bluegill, and shad, they are likely to find your bait as well. 

Remember that you will have to soak your bait longer during the night in the summer. Catfish will be moving around for hunting, and it may take them some time to locate your hook.


Like the fall, there is a difference in how catfish behave in early and late spring. 

When the ice is melting in early spring, catfish are likely to emerge from the deeper holes during midday. Try going fishing near the banks during the afternoon until the time of sunset.

In contrast, when the temperature starts getting warmer, it will be easier to catch catfish during the night. This is when catfish start behaving like their summer customs. 

While you can still find catfish during the day in late spring, they are likely to be in deeper water. You might need a boat to access locations where catfish are close together to catch many of them simultaneously.

Catching Different Types of Catfish

Different species of catfish are active during varying times of the year. Here is the best time to catch three different types of catfish.

  1. Channel Catfish

The channel catfish is the easiest species to catch. While they can be found all year round, the best time to catch channel catfish is in the warmer months.

Consider fishing for channel catfish during the summer, early fall, and late spring. When the water temperature is rising, channel catfish become more active.

  1. Flathead Catfish

Flatheads are most active during late summer and early fall. Between September and October, flathead catfish start preparing themselves for winter by feeding heavily. This means that more flatheads are close to the shore which makes them easier to catch. 

You can also catch flathead catfish between March and May before the water temperature gets too hot.

  1. Blue Catfish

The best time to catch blue catfish is in the Spring season. Between mid-March and mid-April, blue catfish are active in large numbers. You can also find a few trophy-class blue catfish during this time of the year. 

For more trophy-class blue catfish, consider fishing between December to March. During this time, the biggest trophy blues are active and easy to catch.

Related Questions

Do catfish bite better at night? 

Nighttime catfish are easier to catch because they are closer to the shore. However, catfish do not bite better at night during colder months when the water temperature is too high for them.

What is the best time to catch flathead catfish?

You can fish for flathead catfish between the early afternoon and an hour before sunset. During this time, the flathead catfish tend to be the most active and near the shore. 
If you can access deeper locations in the water, then you can also catch flathead catfish during the night. Remember to keep your cast in the water for a longer period for the flathead catfish to locate your bait.

What is the best time to catch bullheads?

The bullhead catfish typically bite better during the night. The two best times to catch bullheads are right after sunset and just before sunrise. Although bullheads feed all night long, they become more active both at the start and at the end of the night. 
At night, you can catch bullhead catfish from the bank or the boat. They seem to be active both near the shore as well as hidden deep in water structures. 

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