Not Catching Catfish? 9 Reasons Why Catfish Aren’t Biting

Let me know if you have been in this situation before – you are out on a local lake or pond and have been catfishing for a few hours, but the catfish aren’t biting and are nowhere to be found. After fishing for a while without any success, you start to ask yourself the question: ‘why am I not catching any catfish?’.

Don’t worry, we have all been there. This happens to every angler at some point regardless of their experience and skill level. With that being said there are certain things you can do to improve your chances at catching more fish.

In this post I’ll share with you the main reasons why you aren’t catching any catfish and some tips and strategies you can utilize that will improve your overall fishing success.

Let’s get started.

9 Reasons Why You’re Not Catching Catfish

Fishing at the Wrong Places

Now this first reason why you aren’t catching any catfish may seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people make this mistake.

Not all fisheries are created equal and there are some ponds and lakes that simply don’t have a healthy population of catfish. If you aren’t able to catch fish at a particular place and you have tried a few different spots, don’t be afraid to fish somewhere else.

Every state has a website with fishing information and locations. Do some research and don’t be afraid to explore and try new waters. You may just find your next favorite fishing spot.

You’re Fishing Unproductive Areas

There are times when you might be fishing at the right lake or pond but just aren’t at the right spot. Spending too much time fishing unproductive waters is a common mistake most anglers make. There is a saying in fishing that goes something like: 90% of the bass are in 10% of the water. Don’t waste time fishing bad water.

If you aren’t having any success, then most likely you are fishing in the wrong area or at the wrong depth. If possible, move around and cover as much water as you can until you can find where the catfish are at. From there you can slow down, build a pattern, and have a lot more success.

Not Using the Right Baits

If you are fishing at places and spots that are known to be great for catfishing the most likely reason why you aren’t catching any is that you are using the wrong baits.

There are a lot of popular baits to use target catfish including: nightcrawlers, shrimp, crawfish, chicken livers and many others. However, if you are using a particular bait and are not having any luck the odds are that they are not interested in what you have to offer.

Don’t be afraid to mix things up and switch the baits that you are using. If you have gone 30 minutes and haven’t gotten a bite, try using a different bait until you can find one, they are responding to. By doing this you’ll have a lot more luck.

One thing that many experienced cat fishermen and fisherwomen do is that they will focus their first part of their day by catching small baitfish in the body of water they are fishing at. They will then use this as their primary bait and will have a lot of success using what they know the catfish are looking to eat.

Using the Wrong Size of Bait

Another common reason why many anglers often can’t catch catfish is that they are using the wrong size of bait. They are either fishing with bait that is too small or with baits that are too large for the body of water and the size of fish they are fishing for.

There is a saying in fishing that goes: big baits catch big fish. Which I have found to be %100 true. However, if you are fishing with too big of bait, you’ll have a hard time catching fish, especially if you are fishing at a place that is known for having smaller fish.

On the other hand, if you are catching small catfish and would like to upgrade the size of your catches, using larger baits is a great way to accomplish this. By doing this you’ll most likely not catch a lot of fish, but the ones you do will be much bigger.

Fishing at the Wrong Time

If you aren’t catching any catfish, you may just be fishing at the wrong time of day. I’m a big believer that with a little patience and persistence you can have success catfishing regardless of what time it is.

However, there is no denying that there are certain windows where the bite turns on, and it becomes much easier to catch fish. The best time to go catfishing is typically early in the mornings, at night and during overcast conditions.

If possible, try planning your catfishing trips around these times and conditions. You’ll give yourself a much better chance of catching more fish. In addition to better fishing, you’ll also beat the crowds, which is always a bonus.

Wrong Time of Year

Another possible reason as to why you might not be having any luck catfishing is that you are fishing at the wrong time of the year. Don’t get me wrong catfishing can be good all year round depending on where you live, but there are certain times when they are much more active. This is especially true if you live in colder climates.

In general, the best time of year to catch catfish is during the spring and summer months. This can vary depending upon the catfish species, but overall spring and summertime is the right time to be fishing for catfish, especially when you are night fishing.

Check out this seasonal guide for more information on when is the best time to catch catfish in each season: The Best Time to Catch Catfish: Seasonal Guide

Water Temperature

Water temperatures can play a huge role in determining how active the catfish will be on a given day. All species of freshwater fish are cold blooded, meaning they take on the temperature of their surroundings.  This means their activity level, when they eat, and how much they eat will change depending on the water temperatures.

Since catfish are cold-blooded animals, their body temperature and metabolism will slow down as the water cools down. If the water temperature gets too hot, they will become stressed and uncomfortable and may be less willing to bite.

If the fish aren’t biting it may just be too cold or too hot for the fish that you are trying to catch. Or you may just need to slow your presentation and cast directly on them so that it doesn’t take a lot of energy for them to grab your bait.

Here is a quick guide that will walk you through what depth you should target when catfishing: How Deep Should You Fish for Catfish?

Not Fishing the Right Depth

Another reason why you are not catching any catfish is because you are not fishing for them at the right depth. Catfish tend to prefer different depths throughout the year, and you may not be fishing the right ones at the right time.

In general, the best depth to fish for catfish is between 15 and 20 feet deep. Keep in mind the right depth may vary depending on the body of water you are fishing but you can use this as a good starting point.

Cold Fronts

Weather is always a wild card when it comes to fishing and cold fronts can be a big challenge. Fishing can get really tough during and after a cold front rolls in.

A cold front is basically a transition zone where cold air is replacing warmer air resulting in significant temperature changes. This temperature drop usually has a large negative impact on catfishing.

Most fish tend to shut down during these periods and become tough to catch. The fishing definitely gets harder, but it’s not impossible to catch fish by any means.

In these situations, try using smaller baits, fish deeper and tight to cover and slow down your overall retrieval. These will help you catch more fish even when faced with tough conditions like these.

Additional Fishing Resources

Final Thoughts

Let’s be honest, nobody likes spending the day catfishing only to come home empty handed and with little to no success. This can happen to any angler regardless of their skill-level or experience.

The truth is fishing can be tricky at times, but with these catfishing tips and strategies you’ll understand why the catfish may not be biting and what you can do to turn your fishing trip around and have success.

I hope that this article has provided some value to you and that you apply what we have discussed on your next fishing trip.

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

Recent Posts