Do Catfish Bite in the Cold? A Guide to Catching Catfish in Cold Weather

As the temperature gets colder, most fish species start to hibernate which makes catching them, and fishing generally quite difficult. However, catfish are different as they tend to stay active all year-round.

So, do catfish bite in the cold? Catfish do bite in the cold. When the temperature drops during late fall and winter, catfish will seek refuge in deeper water. Even though they tend to become slightly more lethargic in colder waters, they will still eat and readily bite the same baits as they did in the warmer months.

Continue reading to learn more about how the water temperature can affect the behavior of catfish and how to successfully catch them in cold weather.

How Does Cold Temperature Affect Catfish Behavior?

catfish to answer do catfish bite in the cold

Like the majority of fish species, catfish can be very sensitive to water temperature. When the water temperature is warmer, they tend to be more active throughout the day.

A lot of catfish anglers believe that catfish will only bite when the weather is warm. While winter is the slowest season for catching catfish, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to catch them then.

Catfish can still be quite active during winter when compared to other fish species and they will bite the same baits as they did in the warmer weather.

During late fall and winter, when the water temperature drops to the middle 50s or below, catfish will bunch up in large schools and seek refuge in deeper water. They will feed on threadfin and gizzard shad that are found in those deepwater areas as they will be looking for an easy meal.

What Temperature Is Too Cold for Catfish?

There’s no temperature that is too cold for catfish. Usually, the ideal water temperature for the best catfishing chances is between 50 and 80 degrees. Learning how to catch catfish in different seasons and climates is not difficult. You just need to be well prepared with the proper attitude and fishing gear.

Is Catfishing Good When It’s Cold?

Catfishing can be good when it’s cold if you’re well prepared and patient. It mainly depends on your personal fishing preferences. You need to make sure you can locate the catfish in deep water.  You also need to make sure you’re dressed properly to be able to withstand the cold temperature and that you have all the necessary fishing equipment for catfishing.

How to Catch Catfish in Cold Weather?

In order to successfully catch catfish in cold weather, you need to learn where to find the fish, the best time of the day to fish, and what kind of gear and bait you should use.

Where Can You Find Catfish in Cold Weather?

Catfish are a lot easier to locate during winter than during summertime. That is because when the temperature gets colder, catfish will huddle in the mud to get as far away from the cold air as possible.

They tend to prefer locations where the water temperature remains consistent throughout the winter, so they will usually congregate together in the bottom of the warmest areas of water in lakes or rivers.

These warm areas are called wintering holes and they’re significantly deeper than any other bottoms nearby. Generally, your success in catching catfish in the winter will depend entirely on how well you can locate those deep wintering holes.

In large lakes, you can find wintering holes near the mouths of creeks dumping into the lake and at the base of “fingers” at a reservoir. Wintering holes are usually deeper than the surrounding water and can be over 20 feet deep.

In rivers, you can typically find wintering holes downstream where a small river or creek dumps into the main river. That is because this area will be wider and have less current which means it will be less affected by changes in air temperature.

What’s The Best Time of the Day for Catfish in Cold Weather?

The best time of the day to catch catfish in cold weather would be the middle of the day or late in the day. That is because as the water gets warmer the catfish will become more and more active.

What Kind of Gear You Should Use to Catfish in Cold Weather?

You’ll generally need fairly heavy gear to catch them. Even though they’re lethargic in winter, catfish can still be large in size and might put up a tough fight. So it’s very important not to be under-equipped or you’ll risk losing your catch.

For fishing rods, it’s recommended to use a surf fishing rod or a heavy baitcasting rod.

That is because these rods will give you more flexibility when casting and will allow you to cast your catfish bait further out into the lake or river where bigger catfish tend to hide.

The extra size of the rod will also help you when reeling in a large catfish up from deep waters. You can check my recommended Catfish Rods here. These are the ones that brought me my biggest catches, so they are definitely worth your time to check them out.

When it comes to fishing reels, it’s recommended to use either a surfcasting reel or a heavier bottom fishing reel.

Both of these reel options will perform more efficiently with a thick monofilament or a braided fishing line. It’s also recommended to use fishing lines with a 20-40lb test to be able to withstand the weight of larger catfish.

I have a guide for the best catfish reels here that will help you choose correctly as I’ve tested dozens of reels over the years and found the ones that get the best results without hurting my wallet so much, or yours.

The most recommended baits to use for catfishing in cold waters are cut baits of shad, bream, and shrimp.

There are also other types of catfish baits that you can easily make from home such as dough baits, dip baits, and punch baits.

Dough baits are the most popular type of homemade catfish. They are the easiest to make and they don’t need to sit for a long time before you can use them. They can also stay on many types of hooks and aren’t as gnarly as the other types of baits. Dough baits are usually made using flour and water with additional ingredients added for scent.

Punch baits are named this way because you ‘punch’ a bare treble hook into them to load the bait. These baits need to be prepared ahead of time as they need to sit for some time to get them to the right consistency. They’re usually made using cheese, meat, and a thickening agent. They also have a very strong smell.

Dip baits are named this way because you dip the hook or rubber bait into the bait to coat them. They’re similar to punch baits except they have a thinner inconsistency.

Outdoorskilled’s Recommended Gear for Superb Catfishing

I’ve tested dozens 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 lightweight, durable, and affordable. Furthermore, you’d have a wide selection of models to choose from, whether you’re looking for a spinning or casting rod. Lastly, it comes in twin-tips models, which means you’ll be getting two rods rather than one.

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

Cold Weather Catfishing Pro Tips 

Here are some pro tips you can utilize to increase your chance of catching more catfish in cold weather:

Always Find Warmer Waters

Locating warmer areas of water will always lead you to the catfish because they are desperately seeking out the warmest possible areas of water they can find.

In most cases, these warmer areas of water will be at the very bottom of deep wintering holes.

Follow the 15-Minute Rule

If you don’t get any bites within the first 15 minutes, it’s better to move to another spot until you find the fish. Try not to waste your time fishing in areas of water that don’t hold any catfish.

Dress appropriately for Cold Conditions

Since you’ll be spending long periods of time fishing in cold weather cats, proper winter clothing is essential to increase your comfort and enhance your performance.

It’s recommended to wear a sweat-wicking base layer to manage moisture, then an insulating layer made of wool or fleece. You can top them with a protective outer layer that is wind-proof and water-resistant.

Avoid wearing cotton materials as they tend to absorb more water and consider investing in a hat, thick gloves, wool socks as well as comfortable boots.

Practice Patience

Catfishing in the Winter will require you to have more patience. That is because the fish will be more so, try to give your bait some time underneath the water surface and stay patient.

Related Questions

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

The best time of the year to catch catfish would be during the months of March, April, and early May. However, catfish are active all year round so you will have no problem catching them regardless of the time if you have the right gear.

Do Catfish Hibernate in Winter?

No, catfish do not hibernate in the winter. They tend to be more lethargic in winter, but they will still feed and bite. They would also move in large schools to warmer areas of water known as wintering holes where they can find easy meals.

Helpful Resources 

Fishing for Catfish: The Complete Guide for Catching Big Channells, Blues and Flatheads

Resources for Catching Catfish Faster and More Easily

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