Fishing for Catfish The Complete Guide

Catfish Habitat, Bait, Rigs, and more

Learn how to analyze catfish structure to increase your success

Deep Holes, Bottom Channels, Windswept Shores, River Bends, Tributary Mouths

Whether you primarily fish large lakes, small ponds, or rivers, these five catfish structures or habitats are prime fishing targets when you want to understand how to fish for catfish. Knowing how to find these types of structure is very useful when you are preparing to fish an unfamiliar area or trying to learn more about an area you already fish. Nowadays a lot of the maps for rivers and lakes give you some indication of structure. So make sure you utilize them along with your fish finders

Deep Holes: Ponds, Lakes, Rivers

During most seasons, channel cats and/or bullheads will be found lying in the deepest water, especially in ponds. This holds true for lakes and rivers because cats like to seek areas that are not exposed to a lot of light during the day. When fishing during the day, my first objective when it comes to catfish structure and habitat is depth.

Bottom Channels

Think of channels as “paths” for fish. These paths lead migrating catfish from one area to another. There are major channels, deep long running, and then there are secondary channels that branch off to shallow feeding areas and habitat.

Lakes and rivers have channels. The size of the body of water and under current will help you determine where there are main channels. On lakes, significant inlets are generally starting points of deep channels. In rivers, bottom channels are found in various spots depending on current and structure. Bends with strong currents can have a channel closer to shore. Long flowing rivers have channels more in the middle. Fish finders/sonar are great tools to use seeking for channels.

Catfish usually stay near deep water falling into the channel. Look for them near features on the ledge distinguishing it from surrounding areas — catfish structure such as brush piles, points, adjacent humps, cuts in the bank, etc. Big catfish also like outside turns of channel bends, channel junctions and deep channel edges near dams.

During the day, anchor in the shallowest water near the drop off and fish deeper water. At night, do the opposite to catch cats moving shallow to feed.

Windswept Shores

As much as it is a challenge to fish, heavy wind produces great opportunity on lakes. The wind blows food sources such as floating plankton against the shore. Baitfish such as minnows, shad and herring that feed on plankton follow their food to shorelines. Catfish that feed on baitfish follow, too. For this reason, fishing shorelines pounded by heavy winds often produces extraordinary catches of catfish. It’s a situation every catfish angler should utilize.

 River Bends

Rivers follow the path of least resistance. The river gouges a bank, forming undercuts, when the ground is too hard to erode. The undercut ledge or lip offers natural seclusion to catfish waiting for a meal.

Erosion can create a lot of natural habitat that catfish love to use. Toppled trees, hung up logs, and brush piles can be found on bends. These create hotspots where hungry catfish find plentiful food sources. Generally deep-water pools lay just downstream, so don’t forget to those as well. 

Tributary Mouths

Found, in both Lakes and Rivers, tributary mouths are staging areas for pre-spawn and post-spawn catfish. As mentioned in Bottom Channels, tributaries can join a primary creek or river channel on the bottom, creating an area that has great potential year ’round for catfish.

During the cooler months, tributaries with a warm in-flow can attract alot catfish. Cool creeks are best during summer. Fish these areas deeper during the day and closer to shore during the evening. Heavy rains that wash forage into the main water body also draw cats to mouths of feeder creeks and rivers. This should be one of your primary spots to fish after a good rain storm.

Friends, I like to keep things informative and simple so you can have a great fishing experience! If you would like to find out more information on catching catfish visit my other articles listed in the sidebar such as     How to Find Catfish – Baits Used to Catch Catfish



Overall and a general rule of thumb the best water temperature to catch catfish is 65-75 degree water. And at these temperatures your best time would be night time. But as you know, you can still catch catfish during the daytime for most of the year.

To better understand how to catch catfish, it is not enough to know what is the best water temperature. Water temperature is important, but you also have to pay attention to time of year, bait, and the type of cats you are fishing to have a successful fishing trip. So let’s take a quick look at all three of them.

Catfishing DreamTeam DVD: Techniques to catching Big Catfish!

Time of year and water temperature to catch Catfish

When it comes to time of year for catfish one of the first things you should try and pinpoint with your geographical location is The Catfish Spawn. Even with the spawn you need to know which catfish you are targeting. Here are some basic guidelines:

Flatheads will spawn in water temps that range from 66 to 75 degrees.

Channels and Blue catfish will spawn in water temps that range from 70 to 84 degrees

White catfish will spawn in water temps that range from 68 to 72 degrees.

Most spawns will happen in late Spring early Summer. Again it depends on geographical area to pinpoint exact months.Floridawill spawn sooner thanSouthern Canada. Get the picture?

Keep in mind, the males and females will protect their nests and generally will not leave them unless agitated. So if your usual fishing spots are not working out and the water temps have reached spawning, head to areas that are more likely to be bedding areas for the cats. Some like sandy, some like caverns in logs, and some like it murky. Don’t get me wrong you can catch them during the spawn with the right bait. Once they move off the beds and spawning is over, fishing is beyond great!


We know that water temperature effects fish activity. So choosing the right bait for the right situation to catch catfish is important. Variety is also important. Don’t go out with just one type of bait. I made that mistake once and will never do it again. I had a boat filled with friends  on the lake. I go to start setting up and realized I had left two other baits back home. We had some great conversation, but a lousy catch!

Early Spring, live bait such as crawfish and herring work well for me. During the spawn I always use a strong scented bait such as Secret 7, but I also bring the live bait backup. I use the strong scented during the spawn because my experience has shown time and time again that it is the scent that draws most cats off their nests. Late in the Summer and into the Fall I will use a combination. I will use rigs with cutbait to draw the fish and then will have a few poles with live bait and a few with stink bait. This is also a good time to drift fish with your bait in an area that has produced well for you.

 Type of catfish and water temperature

So to get back to our original question, what is the best water temperature for cat fishing? As you can see there are factors that play into answering such a question. If you are a beginner at fishing and would like to find the prime opportunity to catch catfish then you would want to fish after the spawn and in the evening. This will generally be a water temperature of around 70 degrees. And I suggest nighttime because that is when they are most active with feeding.

Catching catfish during the day also happens. This is when you have had time to understand the spots you fish and the feeding habits of your catfish. As mentioned in other articles I have written, years ago I was pleasantly shocked to see guys pull 10lb catfish out of a lake I was fishing during the day. I immediately started to learn!

You want to add more fish to your catch! I would highly recommend adding this to your TACKLE BOX!

Catfishing DreamTeam DVD: Techniques to catching Big Catfish!

Friends, I like to keep things informative and simple so you  have a great fishing experience! The sidebar offers more articles on How To Find Catfish as well as other materials that can make you a better fisherman.

Take a look at this article: Catfishing Rods – How to find a good catfish Rod


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