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Do Catfish Bite in Cold Weather?

Catfish, like most fish, are most active in warmer months. However, they become lethargic during the winter or when the water temperatures drop.

Many anglers believe these fish only bite in warm weather, which unfortunately isn’t true. What normally varies is the method you use in catching fish.

But how do catfish behave during cold weather?

The following piece answers your questions on whether catfish bite in cold weather. Also, it covers the intricate details of winter catfishing.

do catfish bite in cold weather
Catfish by Alexandre Lavrov

Do Catfish Bite in Cold Weather?

Yes, catfish do bite in cold weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big catfish, a small catfish, or blue catfish. However, their location and feeding frequency slow down with temperatures drop, making it harder to target them.  

One known catfish behavior is biting live or cut shad and devouring different baits.

When the temperatures drop to 50 degrees or below, the fish seek refuge in the river or creek channels, drop off around humps, or any points that drop off deep inside the waters.

Often, they seek the warmest waters in the lakes and hide in wintering holes. They love it there as the water temperature remains consistent.

 A standard lake has around 2 to 30 wintering holes. During winter, the fish will likely spend their time in one of these holes. Most rivers and large reservoirs in southeastern and Midwest states have proven this true.

How Do You Catch Catfish in Cold Weather?

Unlike summertime catfish, winter catfish spread throughout the waters. The cold gets them into hiding on wintering grounds.

Most catfish anglers believe it’s harder to catch fish during winter because the cold air surrounding the atmosphere affects the water temperature. Others think the fish go into hiding, bury themselves in mud and wait for spring to come out. 

Catching catfish shouldn’t be a hustle. Since they slow down and are less aggressive, you need to change your hunting strategies to catch them. Successful anglers know how to operate these waters regardless of the period.

Also, fishing could be more productive this season; catfish bunch in larger concentrations than small groups.

Here are some tips if you are planning to catch catfish during cold winter:

Find the Deep Wintering Holes Existing in the Target Water Body

Catching catfish in the cold needs special skills. Use a fishfinder and lives cope system to locate wintering holes.  Also, study the map topography to learn their whereabouts. 

The deep holes in the surrounding water and the depths can be more than 6.09 meters.

Understand Catfish Behavior

You can’t go winter catfishing unprepared. When targetting catfish, you need to understand how catfish operate in different weather conditions, whether you enjoy ice fishing or are a catfish angler who enjoys fishing in warm waters.

Catfish stack up in deep wintering holes when water temperatures are warmer than the air temperature.

Use a Mixture of Live and Cut Baits

Catfish get from their hideouts and start swimming in shallow flats when the air temperatures are lower than the water temperature.

There exist several winter catfish bait options. A mixture of different baits gives you diversity during the winter months.

Catfish bite almost the same baits they do during warm months. They feed on gizzard shard and lethargic threadfin that live in the deep water. They also enjoy shrimp, cut bait, breach, and shad baits.

Wintering holes also attract other baitfish, resulting in a large school of shad that can be extremely big.

Reduce the Fishing Speed

Patience is vital in catching small and large catfish. Strive to fish slowly. During winter catfishing, catfish bites are slower than in warmer waters.

Anchor or slow drift the baits areas around the deep water hotspots to channel catfish. With winter catfish bait, expect great results.

Lastly, the method you settle for depends on the available tools and your skill levels. The correct techniques give you more fish.

Team Up with Friends

If you have a group of friends who enjoy winter fishing, this is a good time to explore together. Team up on ledges with a group of 8 to 10 people for impressive results. Spread out on the rods along ledges where the fish are likely to pass while cruising for food.

Places to Locate Wintering Holes in Cold Weather

Here are some places you can find catfish in the winter:

  • Natural water springs.
  • A deep bend that occurs deep in the bigger river, or an oxbow bend.
  • Power plants dump water, and water treatment plants.
  • Natural warm water spring.
  • Rivers pouring into the lake and mouth of the creek.
  • Steep shoreline section on bluffs and bridges.
  • Main water body near the fingers of reservoirs.

 Is It Hard to Catch Catfish in Cold weather?

Catching cold weather cats shouldn’t be that hard with catfish bait. Tools like drift socks, catfish bait, and a small circle hook take you closer to capturing your target.

The period can be rewarding to anyone brave to the cold. You only need the right tactics and understanding of catfish behavior for winter catfish angling.

Winter catfishing isn’t hard as some anglers perceive. The blue cats love gathering in deep wintering holes. Anglers should rely on deeper areas they marked and recorded during hunting escapades in the warmer months.

Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself against the cold, especially hypothermia.

Also, always look for pockets of warmer water. A temperature difference of one or two degrees can make a difference when catfish fishing. On warmer days, look for catfish in shallow flats surrounding the river wintering hole.

What Is the Best Bait for Catfishing During Winter?

Although catfish metabolism is slow during winter, they will still eat. You have to prepare winter catfish bait to entice them. Before engaging in catching catfish, research the waters you will fish. You need to know where the fish are hiding, for instance, creeks dumping. 

Live shad is an awesome cold weather catfish bait. Fortunately, catfish are not picky. They can eat minnows, chicken liver, skipjack, and worms.

You also have a higher chance of catching more catfish during this period. Catfish feed on gizzard shad as they enjoy a leisurely meal. You can use baits of bream, shad, and shrimp; it works well with cold water catfish.

Catfish return to the same spot every year. Once you locate deeper water where winter catfish hide, you can start fishing—armed with different winter catfish bait options. You can use fishing rods too.

Don’t overharvest. Limit the number of fish you can get during a particular period. 

Winter Catfishing Tips

Anglers need to understand different species and how to target them in winter fishing.

Channel Catfish

These fish hunt actively in winter, and it’s one of its known catfish behaviors. They usually hang on the upper slopes of wintering holes.

Blue Catfish

When targeting catfish, these are the easiest to catch since they’re most active in winter. They get suspended high in the water as they feed on catfish bait. Also, they move to shallow flats when the air temperature increases.

Use a herring or a large cut shad with a circle hook. Drop the bait deep inside the water.

Flathead Catfish

Flathead is the least active and one of the most difficult winter catfish to catch. They usually enter a semi-hibernated state. When the air temperature drops below 60 degrees, flathead catfish bite completely shuts down.

A slight rise in temperature makes them wake up to search for food. This makes it easy to see them.

Bullheads

Bullheads are similar to channel cats in cold weather. However, they are more active than flatheads. They are also found in the upper winter holes during warmer days.

White Catfish

These are the smallest catfish species and stay in deep lakes, slow-moving reservoirs, ponds, and reservoirs. They feed aggressively and move into deep and thicker waters during winter.

To catch the fish, use chicken gizzard or liver as the bet. The smellier the bet, the easier it is to catch.

Final Thoughts

Catching catfish, no matter the season, is a joy for many anglers. You need winter catfish bait for this and patience.

If you haven’t tried it yet, winter catfishing is one of the things you need to get into. Don’t let the season prevent you from catching multiple fish.

You only need to change tactics and prepare catfish baits to get yourself the best baits. Take long, warmer days during summer to survey wintering holes. Mark the spots on your fish finder or GPS.

Lastly, locating wintering holes is easy with the right tactics and strategies. Catching winter catfish is a problem you wouldn’t have to worry about.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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Articles » Freshwater Fishing » Do Catfish Bite in Cold Weather?