What Is The Best Time to Catch Catfish in Rivers? Explained Simply

So many beginner anglers are interested in catching a Catfish. Catching them is fun, and it could lead to a great dinner, but it is not going to be easy. That’s why it’s smart to be prepared and know when the best time to catch Catfish when fishing in rivers.

So, what is the best time to catch Catfish in rivers? The best time to catch Catfish in rivers is from the early morning till late evening. During those times, the water temperature will be ideal for the Catfish to be more active and ready to feed, which means they will be more likely to bite on your baits.

Continue reading to learn all about catching Catfish in rivers, including the best time, the best spots, and the best baits to use.

Can You Find Catfish in Rivers? 

a photo of an angler fishing in the river to show what is the best time to catch catfish in rivers

Catfish can be found in rivers and lakes, as they prefer to reside in the muddy depths to hide. They will go to shallow areas with rocks, mud, clay, and gravel places to find their food. 

When fishing in rivers, you will find Catfish digging holes in the muddy ground. You can look for big holes dug under dams, bridges, docks, and parked barges. The natural bends under the water make the best atmosphere for the Catfish to live in. 

How to Find Catfish in Rivers?

To find Catfish in rivers, you just need to come up with a good strategy which includes learning about all the spots they can be found in rivers and the best time to target them in those spots.

If you’re a beginner, it might be a good idea to consult with an expert or use fish locating technology to make finding Catfish easier. I have tested most of the fishing finders out there and compiled all of my experience in this guide to the best Fishing finders here, so make sure to check it out to save yourself a lot of time (and money).

You can also learn how to pick a fish finder yourself here.

What Is the Best time to Catch Catfish in Rivers?

The best time to catch a catfish in Rivers is early morning, so rise and shine and pick up your fishing gear. During daytime hours, it’s best to target deeper areas of the water.

Another ideal time to catch Catfish in rivers is late evening. Some anglers think it’s easier to catch them at that time as they move to shallower areas in the water to feed.

If you’re planning to fish for Catfish in the evening, it is recommended to go on nights when the moonlight is minimal instead of nights with a full moon because it’s believed by many that the water conditions at that time will make the Catfish bite more.

You can learn more about night fishing in this guide.

What Are the Best Baits for Catfish in Rivers?

Regardless of when and where you target Catfish, the key to catching them is using the right baits. You can catch Catfish with both live bait or artificial bit.

So, let’s take a look at some of the best baits you can use for Catfish in rivers:

Chicken Liver

Chicken liver is known to be the best bait if you are fishing in deep water, as the liver stays fresh for up to 20 mins before it loses its scent. 

However, keep in mind that despite how affordable and effective those liver baits are, they slip easily off the hook because of their texture. 


Crawfish can be rigged either alive or dead. It’s better to catch them on your own than to buy them from a store; you can easily find them under rocks or by setting a chicken bait trap.


Nightcrawlers are popular among anglers not just because you can find them anywhere outside your garden but also because most species love nightcrawlers, including Catfish. 


This is a convenient shellfish for anglers as they are easy to get on your hook.

 If you have some shrimps, use them as Catfish baits. Catfish love the scent of shrimp in the water, and they also like stink baits, so they will even like the spoiled shrimp. 

Blood Bait

Catfish track their prey by scent, so blood baits with skipjack herrings can attract large Catfish. However, keep in mind that blood baits are most effective in shallower waters.

Stink bait

Some anglers make their own special stink bait. It’s a combination of stinky materials (usually found in stores).

Catfish have an extraordinary sense of smell, they love this type of bait, and they can even sense it more with their evolved olfactory senses. 

Skipjack herring

If you are aiming for bigger Catfish, skipjack herring is one of the best baits for it. However, if you are aiming for smaller Catfish, you can chop them up to smaller bites. 

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is one of the many creative baits you can use for Catfish, and it does work. You can learn how to use Peanut butter for Catfish in this guide. Who said that anglers can’t be creative?

When and How to target Lake Catfish?

Lake Catfish are basically all species of Catfish that are found in lakes, such as Flathead Catfish, Blue Catfish, and Channel Catfish.

So, let’s break down when and how you can target all of these Catfish species in more detail:

When and How to Target Flathead Catfish?

Flathead Catfish are found mostly during night time, especially in spring and fall.

However, that doesn’t mean you can find them during the day. The best time to catch them during the day is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., that’s when the sun is high, and the fish will be most active.

They take cover, but they tend to stay just outside the fast current. You can find the biggest flathead in holes and snags in the river.

They feed on minnows, shad, herring, bluegills, sunfish, bullheads, carp, creek chubs, shiners, and suckers, so those are the preferred baits to catch them. You can learn more about fishing in the afternoon here.

When and How to target Blue Catfish?

The Blue Catfish is the largest North American species of Catfish. They are usually found throughout the year, but March-May is the best time to target them, especially at night or in low-light conditions. 

They will strike at both live bait and artificial, but fresh cut baits and stink baits are usually the most effective. 

When and How to Target Channel Catfish?

You can find Channel Catfish in the deepest holes of a river, especially in late fall and winter. The best time to catch Channel Catfish is 2 hours after sunrise or an hour before sunset, as they’re most active at that time.

The best baits to use for Channel Catfish are nightcrawlers, hot dogs, cheese baits, and chicken liver. To learn how to use Hotdogs (and other creative baits), check out this guide to fishing with hotdogs.

You can also stink baits such as squid and shrimps (dead or alive) as proved that the stinkier, the better. Powerbait also works, and you can learn how to use Power Bait for amazing results here.

How to Catch Catfish from the Riverbank?

Riverbank fishing is different from catching Catfish from the rive. It requires a certain set of skills and equipment. 

While there is no specific strategy or technique, there are some things you should consider.

The Right Spot 

There are lots of spots to consider in fishing catfish; remember that the right spot differs in the timing of the year.

Search for undercovered areas such as (bridges, docks, etc.), deep holes, areas beside levees, or a pump house (near cement structures). 

As fishing is all about patience, you need to have patience while you are fishing for Catfish. However, if you didn’t get a bite within 15 mins, you should move on to another spot.

The Right Equipment 

The right equipment matters just as much as the right spot; every fisherman or angler will agree to that. 

According to experts, the best fishing pole should be at least 7 feet long with at least six stainless steel or ceramic guides. The pole length will control the power of casting.

When it comes to fishing reels, it’s recommended to use a heavy bottom fishing reel spooled with a thick monofilament or a braided fishing line. 

It’s recommended to use fishing lines with a 20-40 pound test so they can handle the weight of larger Catfish.

Outdoorskilled’s Recommended Gear for Superb Catfishing

I’ve testeI’vezens of reels, rods, and lines for Catfishing, and after years of testing, here are my quick picks that will definitely improve your current setup and results!

My recommended reel is the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Reel C3-7000 which is ideally suited for catfish.

The rod I always recommend is the KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rod. It’s lightIt’sht, durable, and affordable. Furthermore, you’d haveyou’dde selection of models to choose from, whether you’re looyou’reor a spinning or casting rod. Lastly, it comes in twin-tips models, which means you’ll be you’llg two rods rather than one.

What I use is the Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Fishing Line as it’s the sit’sgest, toughest mono I’ve ever I’veed and because it has exceptional shock strength, great knot integrity, tremendous abrasion resistance, and a high-visibility color option, you really can’t findcan’ter options

Learn more about the best catfish rod and reel here.

The Right Bait 

Catfish have an extraordinary sense of smell, that’s because they inhibit muddy water from the river, and they hide at the bottom of the river where they can be invisible. 

You can get them active with different baits, live or artificial, as long as they have an extreme smell, such as nightcrawlers, chicken livers, blood baits, crawfish, spam, shrimps, or shads.

There are other uncommon baits to catch Catfish from the river banks, such as

Spoiled Shrimps 

 If the shrimps in your fridge go bad, don’t throw them away. Instead, use them as bait for Catfish as they will be extremely attracted to the stinky smell, and the stinkier the smell is, the more it attracts bigger Catfish. 

Canned food 

As canned food such as dog food has a strong odor, it will attract Catfish. Catfish will follow the odor because of its strong smell, and because Catfish have an extraordinary sense of smell, it will lead to a huge urge to bite. 


It’s unclear why soap might attract Catfish, but it has proven to be effective, especially in catching large Catfish. However, be careful, as it might be illegal to use soap in many areas due to the pollution of the water, so make sure to check before using soap. 

Useful Tips to Catch More Catfish

Here are some useful tips you can follow to improve your technique and increase your chances of catching more Catfish:

Use A Fish Finder

Using a fish finder will make targeting Catfish in rivers easy.

The device will tell you the water depth and temperature in the area you’re fishing in, which will help you locate the fish when they’re moving from deep to shallow water.

You can check out my recommendations for the best fish finder GPS combos here.

Set Up Multiple Fishing Rods 

If possible, it’s recommended to set up multiple fishing rods when targeting Catfish in rivers. This way, you can guarantee that you will cover various areas where the fish are spread out. You can find the best fishing rods for Catfish here.

Use Colorful Lures 

Using colorful lures will help make them visible to Catfish and attract them to bite more. Fish lures come in various colors and patterns; it’s recommended to choose the color based on the water conditions you’re fishing in.

If you’re fishing in low light conditions, try to avoid blue lures and go for white, yellow, green, red, and orange lures instead, as they will be more visible against the water.

Use Scent Attractants

Using scent attractant will get Catfish to bite more as they typically rely more on their sense of smell to locate their food. 

Most attractants are made to mimic the scents of natural bait that Catfish love to feed on. You can add a small amount of the scent attractant to your lures and baits to help increase your chances of catching more Catfish.

Related Questions 

What Time of the Day Do Catfish Usually Bite At?

The time of the day Catfish bite at is in the evening, starting right after sunset until sunrise. During that time, Catfish will be the most active and looking for food. However, you can fish for them at any time of the day if you find the right spot and use the right bait.

Do Catfish Bite When the Temperature Is Cold?

Catfish do bite when the temperature is cold. Even though they won’t be very active, they will still bite if you’re using the right bait. During winter and fall, they will move to deeper areas of the water as the temperature drops, so make sure to target them there.

What Kind of Water Do Catfish Prefer in Hot Temperatures?

The kind of water Catfish prefer in hot temperatures is muddy water because it will have more food for them to eat. Catfish have no problem feeding in muddy waters with low visibility because they rely on their sense of smell to find food. You can target them where river inlets pump muddy water into reservoirs.

What Do Catfish Feed On?

Catfish feed on various bait fish such as shad, minnows, herring, yellow perch, bluegills, carps, and shiners. They will also eat chicken liver, shrimps, canned food, and dead baits if there are no other food options available for them to feed on.

Are Catfish Aggressive By Nature? 

Catfish are not aggressive by nature. They tend to swim peacefully in the water while minding their own business. However, if they were attacked by other fish or caught by humans, they will release the poison from their spines as a way to defend themselves. The venom is not lethal to humans, but it causes a lot of pain.

Helpful Resources

Types of Catfish

Resources for Catching Catfish Faster and More Easily

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