What you need to know about spawning catfish

The catfish is a popular gamefish for many reasons. This fish will put up one heck of a struggle when you get one hooked. Some of the larger ones can be very difficult to reel in but that’s what makes fishing for them so much fun. You can go catfish fishing most anytime but they seem to be the most active in the late evening until early morning.
The best time of year to go fishing for this species is during the spawning season. This is when they’re the most active and it’s when they feed the most aggressively. They’re also easier to find and this is why anglers enjoy fishing for them this time of year.
The spawning season may be the best time to seek out this species but there are a few things you’ll need to know about the spawning catfish that will make your fishing trip more productive. For example, the catfish will respond differently during each stage of the spawning season.
The Pre-Spawn Season
When the water temperature reaches between 68 and 75 degrees, the pre-spawning will begin. This is when the male catfish will move in close to shore looking for a good place to make a nest. They’ll also be feeding aggressively during this time. They have to prepare for the spawn because they will also be the one that stays behind to protect the eggs until they hatch.
They will fight with each other over the best spots and when the water warms up a little more between 75 and 78 degrees, the females will begin to show up. The females will also be feeding very aggressively and take just about anything you offer them. The males will start trying to attract the females and the spawning will begin. The pre-spawn season will last longer for the catfish than for any other species and it’s an excellent time to fish.
Peak-Spawn Season
Different breeds of catfish begin spawning at different times based on the water temperature. Therefore, the catfish in the south will begin to spawn in the late spring before the ones in the north that usually start spawning in mid to late summer. The peak of the spawning season is not a good time to go catfish fishing because they’re preoccupied with the eggs and newly hatched babies.
They don’t feed very heavily during this time. However, this peak only lasts about a week and after that, the catfish will be hungry and aggressively feeding again. Since it’s based on water temperature, it’s possible for the catfish to be spawning in part of the lake while they’re still in pre-spawn in other parts of the same lake.
Post-Spawn Season
After the eggs have been deposited in the nest, the females will make an appearance first because the males tend to push them away from the nest. The male continue to watch over the nest for up to ten days until the eggs hatch. When the males emerge, they’ll be very hungry and begin feeding aggressively again since they ate very little while watching over the eggs.
Expect both the female and the male catfish to be skinnier than what they were during the pre-spawn and they’ll often be cut and scraped up from the fighting that took place. The males will normally look worse than the females.
During this time, it’s a good idea to fish near areas where the catfish could have made a nest because they’ll stay close by for a little while. Using fresh bait will work to your advantage now because it will get their attention but you can still get results when using lures if you prefer. When using fresh bait, try shrimp, minnows, peeler crabs, worms and even squid for the best results.
Basic Tips for Catching Spawning Catfish
The first thing that you need to do is learn how to identify a mature catfish. An immature, recently hatched catfish will have black spots along their sides or belly whereas, a mature catfish will have a solid white belly and no spots. It’s a good idea to toss back immature catfish when you catch them and save your catches for the larger ones. This is especially true when your area has restrictions on the number of fish you’re allowed to keep.
Catfish are not wanderers, meaning they will likely be in or near the same areas as the year before. Therefore, if you fish the same lakes and rivers each year, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where to find them. Many catfish will migrate to the tributaries during the spawning because the water will warm up faster and you can also find them downstream from a Dam.
Catfish fishing during and after the spawn can be very exciting. Use this information to help turn your next catfish fishing trip into a productive one. You can catch more catfish during the spawning season but you still need patience when seeking them out. They can be pretty stubborn at times even when they’re spawning.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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