The Best Time To Catch Catfish: Seasonal Guide

Best Time To Catch CatfishWhat’s the best time of the year to catch catfish?

Is one time of the year better as far as catching cats?

This is a question we’re asked frequently by catfish anglers of all experience levels. It’s normal to question if there’s something you can do to increase your success by taking advantage of seasonal patterns.

As far as what time of the year is best to catch catfish, I’ll give you a general summary of the different seasons and how it impacts the catfish action.

This is based on my experience of over fifteen years as a professional catfish guide in Texas but the same information applies. The same general rules will apply everywhere across the United States but seasonal changes could happen earlier or later depending on climate.

Catfish behavior and patterns are all relative to water temperature because catfish don’t have a calendar, water temperature controls everything.

I could write for hours and hours and fill multiple books with different patterns and catfishing techniques to use different times of the year so I’m going to cover the basics.

The short answer about the best time to catch catfish is that catfishing is good all year long in much of the country but you may be better off focusing your efforts on a specific species of catfish at times to increase your success.

Different Species, Different Times, It Makes a Difference

Answering what time of the year is best for catching catfish has many variables like the catfish species you’ll be targeting, whether you want to catch blue, channel or flathead catfish, if your goal is to catch numbers or size and more.

The best time of the year to catch catfish can vary greatly depending on what your target species is and whether you are targeting bigger or smaller fish.

Winter

Catfishing in the Winter is one of my absolute favorite times of the year.

Winter affords a lot of options like cormorant catfishing for numbers of fish and excellent action for blue cats in deep or shallow water.

My favorite Winter catfishing is for trophy blue catfish.

Winter is the absolute best time here in Texas for catching big monster blue catfish consistently and is also easy to produce excellent numbers of blue catfish and channel catfish that are “box” fish.

Winter offers excellent fishing for blue and channel catfish but the flathead bite can be difficult. Many flathead cats are often caught in the Winter but very few savvy catfish anglers will target them during this time.

Whether your goal is big monster trophy class cats or catching numbers of small fish winter is an excellent time for both!

Spring

Spring brings on rising water temperatures and a transitional period for fish, catfish included. This is especially true of early season fishing where catching transition catfish can be frustrating especially for inexperienced anglers. Putting some time on the water in and learning to locate and pattern seasonal transition cats will teach you that the early spring transition offers some amazing fishing.

Anytime there’s a drastic change in water temperature the fish scatter and become more difficult to pattern and when water temperatures stabilize then fishing patterns and catfish locations will become more consistent. They’re always biting somewhere but during certain times it can be difficult to find that “somewhere”.

As the weather warms and water temperatures stabilize the catfishing action goes crazy. The warm water makes the cats much more active. They’re hungry coming out of a long winter where cold water makes them lethargic and they’re not feeding heavily. This means them losing body weight during the winter and they’re going to put that back on by feeding heavily.

Late March, April and early May is some of the best blue catfish fishing of the year for numbers of fish and also offers excellent opportunities for trophy class catfish as well.

Channel catfish action is typically excellent and very consistent also.

Flathead catfish are virtually inactive during the winter and the warm spring waters puts them in a feeding frenzy not only adding back the lost Winter weight but also getting ready for spawn.

For more in depth information on catching blue catfish in the Spring check out the Spring Blue Catfish Techniques ebook.

Summer

Catfishing in the summer is typically very good. Catfish are among some of the last species of fish to spawn and early to mid Summer you’ll find all three species of catfish spawning.

Catching spawning catfish can be very difficult especially if you’re targeting blues or flatheads. Channel catfish however can be caught in excellent numbers during spawning periods and offer some fast paced action as well.

Flathead catfishing is also typically excellent leading into the spawning period and you’ll find some of the biggest flathead cats caught during this time.

As nights get short and days get hot you’ll see many anglers start fishing at night. Night fishing for catfish is often because of the anglers comfort but many anglers fish at night because of the myth that catfish bite best at night.

The blue catfish bite can be tough during the late summer when the water gets really warm, especially in bodies of water with a thermocline.

The channel catfish bite usually stays good most of the summer and flathead action is especially good also. Post spawn blue catfishing also offer some excellent angling opportunities as well.

One of my favorite summer fishing activities is catching channel catfish in big numbers by using a variety of Summer Channel Catfish Techniques.

Fall

Just like the early spring transition rapidly falling water temperatures can mean some tough days locating catfish. Fish will often move quickly and often until water temperatures stabilize. Lakes with a thermocline will be faced with a fall turnover which can mean especially challenging fishing during that time.

Generally in mid to late October lakes have turned over, water temperatures have stabilized and fishing picks up quickly with not only excellent numbers of catfish being caught but big trophy class catfish as well.

Outside of a lake turnover fishing for blue and channel catfish is generally excellent during the fall.

The falling water temperatures will put flathead cats into feeding frenzy as they prepare to bulk up and add extra weight to help carry them through the long cold winter when they’ll not feed as heavily.

There’s a variety of catfishing techniques to use during this time and different ways to catch catfish. Drift fishing or “drifting” is a very popular way for anglers to catch blue catfish and channel catfish during the Fall (and other times of the year also).

In many parts of the country cormorants or “water turkeys” will show up in big numbers in mid to late Fall and splat fishing can not only produce some excellent action but some trophy class catfish as well.

Many anglers that have problems locating and catching shad or other bait for blue catfish during the winter will take this time to load up on bait and freeze it for the winter.

Fresh bait is always best for catching catfish and if you’ll spend the time to learn how to pattern and catch shad you’ll be a better catfish angler as well.

The Seasonal Advantage

I target catfish of all species and sizes all year long as a professional catfish guide and tailor my target sizes and species based on the best action at the time.

Catfishing is good all year long but there are certainly “peak” times or times when the fishing is better and you can increase your odds by targeting specific species of catfish at different times (assuming you have all three species of catfish in your home waters).

The Best Time To Catch Channel Catfish

Channel catfish can be caught all year long. My favorite time to catch channel catfish is during the summer from pre-spawn until the water temps begin to drop in the early fall.

Fall and Spring would be a close second for catching channels but it’s hard to beat the red hot action in the summer when it comes to catching numbers of channel cats.

The Best Time To Catch Blue Catfish

Blue catfish can be caught all year long (though fishing for blue catfish during the spawn can be tough).

For numbers of blues I like the Spring starting in early to mid March and running through mid April for red hot action, big numbers of blue catfish and some trophy class blue cats mixed in. Fall also offers some excellent blue cat action as well.

For trophy blues, the big monster trophy class catfish December, January, February and March are what I’d consider the best time and hottest action for catching monster blues.

The Best Time To Catch Flathead Catfish

If I could pick just one time of the year for flatheads it would be September and October. The fish are feeding heavily getting ready for winter and fishing during this time has always produced the most flatheads and the biggest ones as well.

March through May is a close second as pre-spawn flathead action can be excellent as well.

The “True” Best Time Is….

At the end of the day, the best time to go fishing is anytime you can!

I’ve found over the years that no matter how many hours I spend on the water and how much I learn there’s always more to learn and always something that surprises me.

Some of the the biggest cats or best days of fishing have come at times when I never expected it.

You can’t catch them from the couch!

If you’d like to get on the fast track to catching more and bigger catfish check out the Catfish Edge products to learn the top catfishing techniques and seasonal techniques for catching catfish.

Summary
Article Name
The Best Time To Catch Catfish: Seasonal Guide
Author
Description
When to catch catfish by species and season. An in depth look at the best times to catch catfish and how to increase your success catching cats!
Summer Channel Catfish Techniques

Comments

  1. Todd says

    I live in Nashville and I fish Old Hickory Lake quite frequently. I would like to fish for catfish more often, I usually fish for bass most of the spring and do very well. However, I love the fight that a catfish gives me. I fish for catfish in the summer. It is 4/24 and the water temperature has been hovering over the 62 degree mark. What depth should I be fishing? Keep in mind, I am a bank fisherman.

  2. nate says

    I use bluegill starting at roughly midnight. I pull 30-40 channel all night it seems. I’ve lived on the same river(Elk River in WV) for 29 years and its tried and true. And usually about 10 feet out from the bank. Good luck everyone you’ll never forget your first 45+ pounder.

  3. Jennifer Macfarlane-Johnson says

    I had to share my “catfish tale” I am from North Alabama and regularly fish on Guntersville Lake. I, unlike my hubby to be, usually don’t have great luck but I enjoy the down time. I was enjoying it so much as a matter of fact on one fishing outing I fell asleep while sitting back in my chair and holding my pole. I was shocked awake by Bob trying to get the fishing rod from me (I put up almost as much fight as my monster cat did). While I was snoozing a VERY large catfish had taken off with my hook and liver. Bob looked over to see my rod bent completely over the deck rail (at least I had a death grip on it). Once awake I handed him my rod and then started the battle. I was afraid my 14lb test wasn’t going to hold out. By this time I had the net at the ready not yet aware that this one just wasn’t going to quite fit in the net. He fought it I fought it and by now the 3 other people that were out fishing at 2AM had come downthe pier to see what was happing. Finally after about 15/20 minutes of battle we got her. And she was a beauty. Not sure how much she weighed but she was 23 inches long. I would love to post a picture (hopefully my profile pic shows it). This was the largest freshwater fish I have ever caught. I do have to give credit where its due, I am not sure I would have gotten her in without Bob’s help. Heck I may have lost my new rod and reel while sleeping LOL. But napping on a cool summer night may just be one of the oddest fishing technique yet. We enjoy fishing most all year round here. Bob got some nice Crappie early this spring and has had amazing luck with Bass and Catfish all summer. He got one of the biggest Bass I’ve seen outside of one of the big tournaments just a few weeks ago (again can’t send the pics) I will say it was great broiled with fresh lemon, real butter and fresh ground pepper and that one Bass fed my daughter and myself with leftovers (Bob loves to catch them but won’t eat fish) if you would like to see pictures so this isn’t just a “fish tale” I will be more then happy to share. Really where we live we can fish year round with success. And that’s a blessing. We run trot lines (got one all prepped in the fridge right now for tonight) do some bottle fishing. We got 3 nice cats night before last with them. Just take a 2ltr tie a line, weight and hook put dome good chicken liver on it and make sure you toss it far enough from the Jet Ski. One thing we have tried Rooster liver. It is so NOT worth the money. I’ve had better luck with rotten hotdogs. Plus it takes a lot of lemon juice to get that smell off you hands. They are tougher and do stay on the hook better but our fish font seen to like them. I will admit fried chicken liver used to be a KFC almost every Tuesday thing. I couldn’t eat one now if someone paid me. Anyway….. I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs this morning. As fishing is a favorite pass time in my home and a great way to relax and just enjoy a beautiful sunset or sunrise LOL some times both in the same trip I wanted to share a couple of our memories. Guntersville Lake is an amazingly beautiful place. There is so much to do on, in and around the water. I am blessed to be able to wake up every day walk out onmy porch and see the water sparkling. We host Bass Masters and several others. I love to hop on the Jet Ski and go play. Well Hubbys up and its ttime for breakfasti look forward to reading more of you insights and tips. Happy fishing and have a blessed day.

  4. Carl Austin says

    Some more great advice from Chad. I live in Eastern Montana (Miles City) and fish in the Tongue and the Yellowstone. Usually catching 2- 9 pounders. I fish from the bank however thinking about a boat purchase, but the bank is good. I would truly enjoy catching a 20 plus pounder,wow I would probably have a heart attack if I ever caught a trophy cat, but hey thats the way I would wanna go, ( a trophy cat on the end of my pole). Well gonna get back to some good reading by Chad,so from Eastern Montana hope ya all enjoy your selves out on the waters and stay safe.

  5. Kay Benson says

    Went cat fishing in Mississippi river in July not much luck. What’s going on? Used dip bait. Anything else you have in mind would help. Thanks!!

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