Catfish Fishing in Winter

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Most fishermen believe catfish do not bite during cold weather. In December, January and February, this belief stops many anglers. However, winter is one of the best times of the year to catfish, as anglers have entire lakes, rivers and ponds to themselves. When fishing for catfish during winter, anglers can do well by focusing on tackle, bait selection, and the catfish species they are after.


When fishing for catfish anywhere within the United States, a person must have an official state license. Each state has their own rules and regulations when it comes to catfishing. Anglers should check Fish and Wildlife agency websites for information pertaining to where to fish and the types of catfish species allowed within a particular state.


In the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States, water surfaces can become frozen. Within streams, rivers, and reservoirs, catfish dwell in deep holes away from strong current. In lakes, ponds and reservoirs, catfish reside in the deepest holes with substantial structures, such as logs and rocks. More often than not, warmer water is in the deep holes, as well as a substantial supply of small fish to sustain catfish all through winter.

Tackle Selection

Cat anglers should utilize a long pole or bait casting rod and reel when fishing for large catfish in winter. Long and thick fishing rods offer several advantages over the shorter ones. For example, purchasing a rod extending 7 to 8 feet in length gives an angler the opportunity to get the bait close to catfish without disturbing them. By and large, it is easier to manage bait and set a hook fast with a longer rod. In addition, when it comes to reeling in large catfish, a large rod provides anglers more leverage.

Winter Bait Tips

Selecting the right bait for winter catfish fishing is not as difficult as you might think. Anglers will have good luck with bait that imitates natural food found in the water in which catfish live. Stink bait, chicken liver and dead fish are a variety of different options available to attract catfish.

Utilize chum as a method to attract catfish. According to, employ this strategy by throwing handfuls of smelly baits such as chicken liver, dead cut-up fish and even foul cheese.

3 Species of Winter Catfish

According to, channel catfishing can be very difficult during winter, as water temperatures and conditions are not consistent. The best time to fish is in early December. Channel catfish move to deep water and become very lethargic. Anglers have to get bait within a few feet of channel cats, to induce them to bite.

Winter blue catfish are more active than channels and flatheads during winter. They generally move to deep water, but are not as sluggish as channels or flatheads when it comes to traveling in cold temperatures for food.

Flatheads are similar to channel catfish in their behavior during winter. They tend to sit at the bottom of deep water, and hibernate, until spring. Anglers can catch flatheads by chumming within a small area.