The Best Time To Catch Catfish

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Although you can catch catfish 24/7 there is always a good better and best time to catch them. In My experience, the best time to catch catfish is from an hour before sunset to an hour after. But that’s speaking as a bank fisherman targeting channel catfish. In this article, I want to go in depth so you can be sure you are targeting the right fish at the right time and in the right place.

Evening is The Best Time to Catch Catfish

I have found that the most catfish catching action happens from around an hour before sunset, to an hour after sunset.

But Why?

Catfish will feed pretty much around the clock, however, they do their most aggressive hunting in the dark.

For the most part, the catfish have been resting during the daytime. And when the sun starts to go down, that is their time to begin the hunt.

Where To Cast?

Answer: Shallow

Most of what a catfish eats can be found abundantly in shallow waters. Catfish like to prey mostly on smaller fish like bluegill, shad, baby carp and suckers.

Catfish feel safer swimming around in shallow water when it’s dark out and they don’t have to worry about being seen by land and air predators. So once that sun goes down they will race to be the first to the shallow feeding grounds.

They may be looking for worms that got washed in, or injured fish that escaped from birds. These are the easy meals that they want to be the first to find.

So you can see that during this prime time, you want to cast your bait into the shallows. By shallow I mean 2 to 6 feet deep. And it’s best if you can check out the spot during the day to see if there are schools of bluegill and other bait fish there.

I have caught catfish as close as 5 feet from the bank. If there is adequate cover, and depth, then catfish can be caught right up near your feet.

If all you see is a muddy bottom and no sign of baitfish during the day, then it may not be a hot catfish spot.

What Bait To Use?

Answer: Whatever baitfish is in the area.

Be sure to check your regulations concerning both live and cut bait. It may be illegal in your area.

Almost all the pros agree that live baitfish is the best bait for catfish. It’s what the fish eat naturally, so they don’t have to think twice when they see an injured bluegill fluttering around.

However, live bait can be a hassle sometimes. First you have to spend time catching them, then you have to keep them alive. Fortunately, cut-bait comes in as a close second. You still have to catch it, but you can spend a day one week catching bluegill, then put them in the freezer until you are ready to go catfishing.

Check out this article to learn more about catching catfish on live bait.

If you can’t use live or cut baitfish, then worms can also be a good option.

If you are targeting channel catfish then you can use all kinds of baits like chicken liver, and my favorite jello hotdogs!

best time to catch catfish is evening
Jello hotdogs work great on channel catfish!

Check out this page on catfish baits for recipes and how to rig these baits.

Night is The Second Best Time to Catch Catfish

Most people know that night time is a great time to be out catfishing. As I mentioned above, that is the time when catfish are out on the hunt.

Why Do Catfish Feed At Night?

Catfish, like most predators, like to hunt under the cover of darkness. They have an amazing sense of smell which they rely on more heavily than their sight. If you are interested in how fish smell, check out this article from

Where To Cast?

during the night, you can cast to the same spots that you would in the evening. As I mentioned above, catfish move into the shallows and flats to find food during the night. Look for places where baitfish gather and you can expect to find catfish there as well.

What Bait To Use?

Again, use live or cut-bait. These are especially important baits for blue and flathead catfish.

If you are fishing for small and medium size channel catfish, then you can use stink baits. Channel catfish are more willing to follow their nose to anything that smells edible.

Daytime Catfish

Don’t think that just because most people catch catfish at night means you can’t catch them during the day. There’s really no bad time to catch catfish. And even during the middle of the day you can have great success if you know there the fish are.

Where To Find Catfish During The Daytime?

Since catfish are out hunting all night long, they are usually resting during the day.

They like to find some sort of cover where they feel protected. It’s hard to rest when you’re always worried about predators.

Here are the main types of cover…

  • Deep Water – A lot of times catfish will move into deeper water during the day. Big catfish don’t really have any underwater predators. Their predators (if any) would be from land and air. This means that they can feel safe in deep water.
  • Sunken Logs – Not all catfish will go into deep water during the day. Some will stick around the hunting grounds, but hide out under or around sunken logs, fallen trees, and thick bushes. These are usually the places that bank anglers should target. But many boat anglers will do the same. This works especially well in smaller rivers, where logs and boulders break the current and make a good resting place.
  • Holes – This can include small caves, undercut banks, holes in rocks, holes in the mud, as well as places in a river where the current has dug out a deep pool. These are especially important when river fishing. The current of the river can carve out undercut banks, and also form deep pools.

Where To Cast?


When fishing in a river, remember that fish like to sit behind objects like rocks and logs that block the current.

If you are fishing with a sliding sinker rig, cast your bait just a couple feet upstream of the object. The current will carry the scent down right to the nose of the catfish. It’ll then move upstream to get it.

Sliding sinker rig for catfish
Sliding Sinker Rig

You can use a float rig to drift your bait around logs and rocks as well as down undercut banks and channels in the riverbed. More on the float rig below…

Lakes and Ponds

If you are fishing a lake or pond and stuck on the bank, try casting as close to cover as you can.

You can also use a float rig with live bait. This rig allows your bait to swim around and cover more area. Your chances of getting your bait in front of a catfish goes up.

live bait fishing for catfish
Float Rig for Live Bait


  • One important thing about fishing for catfish during the day is that if you aren’t getting bites within 10 to 15 minutes, then you should move spots or recast. Remember that catfish generally aren’t moving around looking for food during the day. Instead you’ll need to put that food within 10 to 20 feet of where they are resting.

What Bait To Use?

This is the same answer as above. Catfish always seem to prefer live or cut-bait. But if you are just targeting channel catfish under 8 pounds, then you’ll do well with a variety of stink baits.

Check out these articles on catfish bait, catfish rigs, and live bait fishing for catfish.

By John

Hi I'm John. I'm the author of I have been obsessed with fishing since my dad took me to catch bluegill in the creek as a little kid, over 20 years ago. I love learning and perfecting all kinds of fishing techniques. I have spent time living in different countries learning their unique traditional fishing methods, and then combining the best of all worlds to catch as many fish as possible. My hope is that this website can help you, or someone you are teaching, to have a better fishing experience early on so that you too can be hooked into this wonderful sport.