Night Fishing for Catfish Facts and Fiction (Plus 5 Night Fishing Myths)

Video catfishing at night from bank

Night Fishing Catfish Facts Fiction

Many people think you have to think that you have to fish at night to catch catfish or that catfish bite better at night. Let’s take an in-depth look at these common questions and get to the truth about catching catfish at night!

If your Uncle Joe handed down his list of catfishing tips and told you that you had to fish at night to catch catfish, you’re doing it all wrong.

Night fishing is a popular topic among all anglers and something that’s completely misunderstood.

When it comes to catfishing though, there’s even more interest in night fishing than there is with any other species of freshwater fish.

There’s also a lot of misunderstanding and bad information surrounding night fishing and catfishing.

Starting around March my phone starts ringing off the hook with people who want to fish with me or get information on booking guided catfishing trips.

After they get some of their basic inquiries out of the way regarding cost and other pertinent details the next thing that often gets asked is “what time do you start fishing”.

When I respond “usually around first light” then they immediately respond with a rather shocked tone, “you mean you aren’t night fishing, I thought you had to go night fishing to catch catfish?”

There was a point and time many years ago that I though that catching good numbers of catfish meant you had to fish at night.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even flathead catfish can be caught in the day with a little skill and modification of your techniques.

Night Fishing Catfish Fact and Fiction

There’s this image people have of catfishing.

Think of a guy sitting in a boat or on the shore fishing next to the light of coleman lantern waiting on a catfish to come along. The slight glow of the lantern dimly lights up the night and he’s lazily dangling a fishing rod waiting for old mister whiskers to come along.

The truth is night fishing has more to do with the angler than it does the actual ability to catch catfish.

Fishing during the day in the heat of the summer can be brutally hot, especially if you live in the south. Here in Texas, it’s like fishing on the sun when you hit the lake or river during the day in the summer.

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Fishing during the day (even in the heat) can also be incredibly productive and is preferred by many catfish anglers.

There’s a large group of anglers also that never fish outside of the cover of darkness, and know nothing but night fishing (and they are really missing out).

If you think you need to fish at night to catch catfish (or any species of fish for that matter) and never venture out during the day, you’re missing out on some of the best fishing there is.

Night Fishing Disadvantages:

  • It’s more cumbersome to fish at night due to lack of light (but there’s some ways to help with this). If you’re not an experienced angler or have others with you that aren’t experienced, it’s much more cumbersome to fish in the dark. Even the simple task of making up a new catfish rig takes longer.
  • More difficult to navigate a boat in the dark, regardless of how well you know the body of water, even with GPS it can be a challenge.
  • There are simple catfishing techniques that are incredibly productive that night fishing eliminates.
  • BUGS. I’ll never forget the first time I ever fished at Lake Fairfield here in Texas, skeeter’s the size of hummingbirds.

Night Fishing Advantages:

  • The obvious advantage is being much cooler at night than during the day in the summer months, allowing you to beat the heat.
  • On busy lakes or rivers there are fewer boats on the water, and rarely any jet skis (jet fleas).
  • The wind usually blows less at night so the water is generally much calmer. This can be a huge advantage if you’re trying to beat high winds but can also be a disadvantage as well.

For years summer catfishing for me meant heading out a few hours before dark and driving home at sunrise.

As I’ve evolved as a fisherman I spend less and less time fishing at night. In fact, if given the choice I’ll choose fishing for cats in the day every time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a good night fishing trip now and then but fishing during the day is consistently more productive and generally much easier as well. Much of this is due to the fact that there’s a number of patterns and techniques that work really well during the day that are impossible at night.

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I have some theories about night fishing and some of these myths listed below but they’re pretty long winded. I’ll cover them in a future episode of the Catfish Edge podcast.

5 Night Fishing Myths

Myth: You have to fish at night to catch catfish.

Fact: Catfish feed during all hours, even in the day. The thought that you have to fish at night is nothing more than years of people passing along bad information. Catfishing during the day is incredibly productive and in many instances is even be more productive than fishing at night.

Myth: Catfish are more active at night.

Fact: Catfish are active at all hours of the day and night, this includes all three species of catfish. Catfish can easily be caught throughout the day regardless of the season. Catfish eat when they are hungry, not when it gets dark.

Flathead Catfish IllustrationMyth: If you want to catch flathead catfish, you have to fish at night.

Fact: Flathead catfish can be caught during the day or at night. For years it was believed that flathead catfish could only be caught at night. While there is no debating that fishing at night for flathead can be great, they can be caught during the day also. It’s not uncommon for flatheads to be caught during all hours, day or night. There’s a growing group of anglers that target monster flatheads that fish exclusively during the day also and they do very well.

Myth: Catfish are attracted to light

Fact: There are a variety of products being sold online that target catfish anglers that are various types of lights. Most of these secretive lights are nothing more than a ploy to catch fishermen and have little to do with actually attracting catfish. Night fishing with lights in or shining on the water is a pretty common practice for many species of fish. The lights draw in bugs and bait fish which in turns can draw in fish. My experience has been that catfish prefer to be away from lights at night. There’s a wealth if information to support this and some easy tricks you can do to learn on your own. If you’re fishing around lights your best bet is to stay back away or well below them and you’ll catch more cats.

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Myth: Catfish move shallow at night in a “nighttime feeding frenzy”

Fact: While some catfish will feed in shallow water at night they’ll be there during the day also. Catfish don’t all flock to the shallow water at night. There’s a common misunderstanding that when people say that the fish are in shallow water, or the fish are in deep water, all the fish will be there. While it’s true that during certain times, seasons or weather patterns many fish move into a certain depth, not all the fish will. Just because fish are in a certain pattern or depth never means all the fish will be in that pattern or depth. If you’ve got the sense that when the sun goes down all of the catfish suddenly flock to shallow water, you’re wrong. Some shad often moves there and in turn, some catfish will also, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as most think.

Night Fishing Is Great, But…

If you want to “beat the heat” and avoid the boats and jet skis on the water then night fishing can be a great way to do so and it’s a great way to get out and catch catfish.

Don’t dismiss fishing during the day though.

If you ignore the daylight hours and brave the heat you might be surprised at what you find, and what you catch.

Even in the brutal Texas summer, I prefer fishing for catfish during the day. Catching cats during the day with my Summer Channel Catfish Techniques and the Secret Catfish Rig the day is one of my many preferred ways to fish in the heat of the summer.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to fish at night to catch catfish, they feed and are active at all hours of the day!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>