Catfishing at Night: Tips, Techniques, and Safety for Successful Night Fishing

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Imagine a calm, quiet night.

Stars fill the sky, and water gently laps at the shoreline. This is the perfect setting for catfishing at night.

Nighttime is magical for fishing enthusiasts. Catfish are more active during the dark hours, making it an exciting challenge for catfish anglers. In this article, we’ll share tips, techniques, and safety advice.

You’ll learn how to catch catfish successfully during nighttime hours. So grab your catfish fishing gear, and let’s embark on a thrilling night fishing adventure together!

catfishing at night
Catfishing at night. Source: Canva Pro

Why Fish for Catfish at Night?

There’s something special about night fishing. It’s one of the best times to catch catfish.

Most catfish are nocturnal creatures, which means they’re most active when the sun goes down. At night, these whiskered fish come out to hunt, making it an excellent time to cast your line. But make no mistake, catfish feed all the time throughout the day but catfishing is more productive at night.

Fishing in the dark has its perks. You’ll have the chance to catch big catfish, as they tend to be more confident and less cautious during nighttime hours. Plus, with fewer anglers competing for prime fishing spots, you’ll have a greater chance of reeling in an impressive catch.

So, why not try night fishing for catfish? Experience the thrill of catching these active fish under a starry sky, and you might just find your new favorite fishing activity.

Essential Gear for Night Catfishing

Rods, Reels, and Line

Equipping yourself with the right gear is key.

For nighttime catfishing, a medium-heavy or heavy-action rod, around 7 to 9 feet long, will give you the strength needed to handle large catfish. Pair your rod with a sturdy baitcasting or spinning reel designed for big game fish, ensuring a smooth drag system to manage those hard-fighting catfish.

Line choice is crucial, too. Braided or monofilament lines with a strength of 20 to 40 pounds are a good choice for catching catfish at night. These lines are strong enough to handle the weight and power of a big catfish, while still providing sensitivity to detect subtle catfish bite in the dark.

With the right rod, reel, and line setup, you’ll be well-prepared to conquer the nighttime catfishing scene.

Hooks, Sinkers, and Rigs

Choosing which hooks to use is important for catfish anglers.

Circle hooks are the most commonly used when you want to catch catfish. However, there are a lot of other bait-specific hooks. Experiment on which ones work best.

Sinkers and rigs play a crucial role in your success. Choose sinkers like bank or egg sinkers, weighing 1 to 4 ounces, depending on the current and depth you’re fishing. A popular rig to catch catfish at night is the slip-sinker rig, which allows catfish to take the bait without detecting the weight.

Lighting and Visibility

Stay safe and visible in the dark.

A headlamp is a must-have to catch catfish at night. It frees up your hands for casting, reeling, and baiting hooks. LED lanterns can also provide ambient light for your fishing area, making it easier to see your gear and surroundings.

Reflective gear, like vests or armbands, can help other anglers and boaters spot you in low-light conditions. Additionally, consider using glow sticks or lighted bobbers on your line to track your bait and detect bites more easily.

With the right hooks, sinkers, rigs, and lighting, you’ll be set for a successful and safe night of catfish fishing.

Bait and Scent Attraction

Choosing the right catfish bait can make all the difference.

At night, catfish rely on their keen sense of smell and taste to find food. Cut bait, such as pieces of shad or herring, is a popular choice for night fishing. The scent of these oily fish helps draw in hungry catfish from a distance.

Live bait, like small bluegills or minnows, can also be effective. The movement and natural scent of these baits will entice curious catfish to bite. Stink baits, made from a mix of strong-smelling ingredients like cheese, blood, and fish parts, are another option for attracting catfish.

Enhance your bait’s appeal with scent attractants. Soak your bait in fish oil or commercial catfish attractants to create a scent trail that leads catfish straight to your hook. Some anglers even use garlic or anise oil to boost their bait’s aroma.

Armed with the right bait and scent tactics, you’ll be well-equipped to lure in those elusive nighttime catfish.

Techniques for Night Fishing for Catfish

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Location and Structure

Find the perfect spot for night fishing success.

Nighttime is when catfish go to hunt for food. So bring your baits and look for places they are likely to hunt.

Use a  fish finder to find them. Pay attention and you’ll find hotspots for catfish activity.

When you want to catch catfish in these areas, cast your bait close to the structure or depth change, allowing it to settle near the bottom. Keep your line tight and be patient, as catfish can be cautious when approaching unfamiliar food sources.

By honing in on the right locations and structures, you’ll increase your chances of catching catfish during the night.

Presentation and Retrieval

Master the art of bait presentation and retrieval in the dark.

In low-light conditions, catfish rely on their senses of smell, taste, and touch to find food. To maximize your success, adapt your bait presentation and retrieval style to accommodate their nighttime behavior.

When presenting baits and lures, make sure they are close to the bottom, as catfish often forage on or near the riverbed. In murky water, use lures with rattles or vibration to help catfish locate your offering. You can also use glow-in-the-dark baits or lures to make them more visible in the darkness.

As for retrieval, slow and steady is the way to go when night fishing. Catfish are less likely to chase fast-moving prey in the dark, so give them time to find and investigate your bait. If using a lure, retrieve it with a slow, bouncing motion along the bottom to imitate the movement of a distressed fish or a crawling creature.

By adjusting your presentation and retrieval techniques for nighttime conditions, you’ll be better equipped to entice catfish into biting.

As for bait, hot dogs and chicken livers are also some of the best bait for catfish.

Safety Precautions for Night Fishing

Stay safe while enjoying your night fishing adventure.

Fishing at night can be an exciting experience, but it also comes with unique risks. Keep these safety precautions in mind to ensure a secure and enjoyable trip.

Always inform someone

First, communication is key. Always inform someone of your fishing plans, including your intended location and expected return time. Share your contact information and have a plan in place for emergencies.

Have proper lighting

Navigational and boating safety is crucial when fishing at night. Make sure your boat has the proper lighting, and always carry a reliable GPS device or map and compass. Stay alert and be extra cautious when navigating unfamiliar waters, as it’s easier to miss hazards in the dark.

Wear a lifevest

General safety advice for nighttime anglers includes wearing a life jacket at all times, even if you’re an experienced swimmer. Accidents can happen, and a life jacket can be a lifesaver in an emergency. 

Bring a first aid kit

Bring a well-stocked first aid kit, as well as any necessary medications or personal items you may need.

Stay alert

Lastly, stay alert and focused while fishing at night. Pay attention to your surroundings and be prepared for any unexpected situations. 

By following these safety precautions, you can enjoy a successful and secure night fishing experience.


Night fishing for catfish can be a thrilling adventure.

In this article, we’ve explored the many benefits of night fishing, including the nocturnal nature of catfish, increased activity, and the potential for larger catches. We’ve also covered essential gear, such as rods, reels, lines, hooks, sinkers, rigs, and lighting options.

We discussed effective bait options and scent attractants to draw in catfish, as well as techniques for locating prime nighttime catfish spots and presenting baits effectively in low-light conditions. Lastly, we emphasized the importance of safety precautions for night fishing, including communication, navigational safety, and general safety advice.

We encourage you to try to catch catfish at night and experience the excitement for yourself. Don’t forget to share your experiences and any tips you’ve picked up along the way in the comments section. Happy fishing!

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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