In this article, I’m going to tell you my top 11 tips to catch catfish in the winter. Wintertime is the best time to catch trophy blue catfish. All of my biggest blue catfish were caught in January. But you can catch flatheads and channel catfish all year long too.
In the northern states, many people ice fish for catfish and some of the biggest catfish are caught through the ice. So here are my top 11 tips to help you catch more catfish in the wintertime.
11 Simple tips to catch catfish in the winter
1. The 15-minute rule
If you don’t get a bite in 15 minutes move your bait. Whether you recast or change spots don’t sit still for more than 15 minutes.
Unlike summer catfish tend not to travel much in winter. They find a spot and they sit there. So you have to go to find the catfish, they won’t come to find you.
If they haven’t bit your hook after 15 minutes you haven’t found them yet, get up, move, and change.
2. look for warm water to catch catfish in the winter
When it’s cold you’ll find the fish where you find warm water. Warm is a relative term. Sometimes only a few degrees is all it takes.
If you don’t have a fish finder get a thermometer. If there is ice, look for that one place where it hardly ever freezes over. Whether it’s a warm spring or river dumping into the lake or the effluence from a sewer treatment plant or whatever it is, find the warm water number.
3. Adhesive hand warmers
If you want to go fishing in the winter time you’ve got to stay warm. For about five to ten dollars for a pack of 10, you can get these adhesive hand warmers that stick to your body and last up to 12 hours.
You can stick them on your back, your front, your legs wherever you want. Put them on your base later, don’t stick them directly to your skin.
This is a great way to keep super warm even in the coldest conditions and it’s a great thing when you’re taking kids fishing.
4. Use shad
My favorite winter bait is cut shad. If you can’t use shad find whatever bait fish the catfish are eating and use that. During the coldest parts of the winter, many of the bait fish die.
The catfish spend the winter cruising around looking for dead bait fish. Give them what they are looking for.
5. Bait size matters to catch catfish in the winter
Use smaller baits for channel catfish and flat heads. Use big cut baits for blue catfish. I tend to find the blue catfish handle the wintertime better than channel catfish and flat heads.
The flat heads and channel catfish tend to be a little bit more sluggish. So you want to use a smaller bait. They just have a harder time getting it in their mouth properly.
So I go with about a forty to fifty percent smaller bait in the wintertime. Blues don’t have that problem, go big.
6. Leave yourself extra time to catch catfish in the winter
Everything takes more time so plan for it. In cold weather or getting dressed takes more time, tying your rigs takes more time, finding bait takes more time, launching your boat takes more time, everything takes more time so plan for it.
7. Shallow flats on sunny days
On warm days fish in shallow flats near deep water.
When the Sun comes out the air temperature goes up, and shallow water heats up faster than deep water. So the fish will tend to go out onto the shallow flats next to deep water and they’ll go hunting for baitfish.
This is a great place to find catfish on those nice warm, sunny, winter days.
8. Fish melting ice
Fish the edges of melting ice. As bait fish died off during the coldest part of the winter some of them get frozen in the ice. As the ice melts dead shad fall out and get gobbled up by catfish.
Catfish crews along the edges of this melting ice waiting for the manna from heaven. So fish there.
9. 30’+ of roper on your cast net
Get a cast net with at least a 30-foot lead. You want at least thirty feet of rope because, in the wintertime, shad and the better bait fish tend to go really deep. Often between 20 and 30 feet, it’s not uncommon.
So being able to identify a school of shad on your fish finder and hit him with the cast net is really important.
10. Daytime is best to catch catfish in the winter
Daytime is better than nighttime. While in the summertime night fishing is the best, in the wintertime daytime fishing is the best.
It’s not just warmer for you it’s warmer for the fish and the fish are more active, day times better.
11. Get a bite alarm & hanger
Bites can be very subtle so using a bite alarm with a hanger is really helpful in detecting super subtle bites when you’re bank fishing. When catfish are really cold it’s not uncommon for them to bite very subtly to not really grab the bait and run for it.
You can often miss a lot of hits unless you have an electric bite alarm and a hanger. The hanger helps you detect what’s called dropback bites.
I hope these tips were helpful, I hope that you’ll help you get out there and catch some catfish this winter. Thanks for reading. Happy fishing!
FAQs on how to catch catfish in winter
What do catfish bite on in the winter?
A great catfish bait for chilly weather is live or cut shad. Typically, your neighborhood bait shop sells live bait. However, if live bait is not available, choose freshly cut bait.
How deep are catfish in winter?
Catfish will typically be hidden in holes that are 15-20 feet deep on chilly days.
Do catfish feed in the winter?
When the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, the fish slow down and become less aggressive in their search for food.
Do catfish survive winter?
Catfish will consume enough during the summer and fall to gain fat that will aid in their survival during the winter.
Do catfish like cold water?
The catfish enjoys warm water, so going from cold to warm water increases the catfish’s dietary needs and, as a result, their need to eat in order to survive.
Do catfish bite in freezing weather?
In deep water during the late fall and winter, catfish will gather in large schools and generally eat the same baits that they did during the summer.