Wintertime is usually the time of year where most anglers hang up their gear and perform routine maintenance on their boats. However, for catfishers, wintertime is still a wonderful time of year to catch some giant catfish. Although getting a bite in the winter months does prove to have its own set of challenges. So here at Hook and Bullet, we wanted to share these 13 winter catfishing tips to help you land some fish this year.

Do Catfish Bite in the Winter?

Many new catfish anglers wonder if catfish bite in the winter — the answer is yes. You can fish for these whiskered fellows year-round. However, overall fish activity decreases during the colder months because they become more lethargic when water temperatures cool. Thus, here are some tips and tricks you can do to be more successful during this time of year.

13 Winter Catfishing Tips

1. Be Prepared for Harsh Weather

    Hunter Safety System Hand Warmer

A hand warmer pouch against a white background.
    This hand warmer pouch is an essential item for keeping your hands toasty during the winter months. This item is great for both catfishing in the wintertime or for hunting in the fall. You can store hand warmers, big or small, in this pouch.

First, you want to make sure you’re ready to bear cold weather conditions! This tip should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many anglers go home early because they didn’t bring the right gear. So pack enough layers of warm clothing with you. I recommend storing your cold-weather items in a dry waterproof bag.

Also, another item that I’ve found to help keep my hands warm after handling fish is a hand warmer pouch. I also use this pouch for deer hunting in the fall, and it works wonders.

2. Bring Multiple Baits

    Team Catfish Sudden Impact

Team Catfish's Sudden Impact fiber-enriched catfish bait against a white background.
    Team Catfish's sudden impact fiber-enriched bait is like candy for channel catfish. Plus, you can apply this bait to a bare treble hook instead of using a soft bait holder. This fibrous catfish bait works well year-round.

Sometimes to be successful, you have to try different things. So I recommend bringing multiple catfish baits to use. During the winter, here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Live bait
  • Cut bait
  • Chicken gizzards
  • Manufactured baits

In the wintertime, I’m not particularly eager to rely on live bait alone. Specifically, baitfish activity drastically slows down when water temperatures cool, making acquiring live bait more challenging. Thus, I always bring backup bait in my tackle box in case I don’t catch anything.

3. Try Different Catfishing Techniques

Someone holding a catfish jug with another angler on the boat netting the catfish.

Image Credit: Kiara Hovatter on Hook and Bullet

 

Also, trying different catfishing techniques can increase your probability of getting a bite immensely. In the wintertime, I mainly have success drift fishing and jugging. Here is a list of different catfishing methods you can try:

  • Bank fishing
  • Drifting
  • Anchor fishing
  • Jugging
  • Limb lines
  • Trotlines
  • Bank poles

Furthermore, whichever technique you decide to try, please ensure it’s legal in the body of water you’re fishing in.

4. Best Winter Catfishing Rigs

Many anglers wonder what the best catfish rigs to use during the winter are. In my experience, my go-to catfishing rigs for the cold months are:

  • Santee cooper rig
  • Carolina rig
  • 3-way rig

These rigs are easy to set up and are great for bottom fishing. Plus, you can use these rigs while anchor fishing, drifting, or casting off a bank.

5. Slow Down Your Presentation

Also, as I mentioned above, when water temperatures drop, fish get lethargic. So when the fish slow down, you should as well. If you want to be successful during this time of year, you must slow down your presentation.

For example, if you’re drift fishing, try decreasing your speed. Therefore, play around with your drift rate until you find one that works best for you.

Pro Tip: I recommend drifting at 0.4 or 0.5 mph in the winter.

6. Location Matters

 

Additionally, another thing to keep in mind when fishing in the winter or other times of year is that location matters. If you have a contour map of the body of water you’re fishing, target areas with steep drop-offs. Also, you want to keep a lookout for some holes or areas with cover. During the winter, channel and flathead catfish like to hang out in nesting holes with slow-moving water.

7. Look for Current Breaks

 

While searching for areas to catfish, I recommend fishing in areas where the current breaks. Current breaks can be anything that acts as a barrier, such as standing timber and boulders. In the winter, catfish will hold in current breaks, where water is moving slow.

8. Fish the Bottom

    Bullet Weights Bank Fishing Sinker

A lead fishing weight against a white background.
    This bank sinker is an ideal lead fishing weight to use for keeping your bait on the bottom. In addition, this weight is a good choice to use on 3-way catfishing rigs.

Typically, in the wintertime, catfish and other fish will hang out towards the bottom, where water temperatures are warmer. So, break out those reliable lead weights, a depth finder, and set up your line with your favorite bottom catfishing rig. Scroll up to refer back to tip number four to see my go-to rigs.

9. Play With Leader Lengths

    ReeMoo Snap Swivels

A case with various snap swivels against a white background.
    Snap swivels are a key piece of tackle to use while catfishing. This set of snap swivels includes various sizes. Snap swivels are fantastic for changing out your leader quickly and easily.

In addition to fishing the bottoms, it’s essential to play with various leader lengths. Specifically, adjusting your leader to different sizes will help gauge how deep the catfish are hanging out.

Pro Tip: Prepare your rigs at different lengths and attach the top of your leaders with snap swivels. Using a snap swivel will allow you to change your leaders out on the water quickly.

10. Use Technology

    Garmin Striker Plus 4

The Garmin Striker Plus 4 against a white background.
    The Garmin Striker Plus 4 is a good starter fish finder. The Garmin is equipped with a dual-beam transducer and sonar function.

Nowadays, we’ve come a long way with technological advancements. So swallow your pride and consider using a fish finder, depth finder, ice flasher, or sonar device. If used correctly, these tools can help you out tremendously in finding the perfect wintertime catfishing location.

11. Look for Forage

 

Whether you are catfishing in the spring or the winter, a good rule of thumb is to follow the forage. Specifically, locating shad schools and dropping bait below them is a sure easy way to find a hungry blue catfish. Also, using equipment like a fish finder is a handy tool to use when searching for forage.

12. Bring a Fishing Buddy

 

Do you enjoy fishing with friends? Consider taking them along for a catfishing trip in the winter. Fishing with friends is not only safer, but you can have them drop a line close to yours and enhance your coverage. If I’m camping with friends and we’re bank fishing, we’ll spread our lines out along the shoreline.

13. Use Bite Detectors

    Wingsflying Pole Bells

Pole bells against a white background.
    These pole bells are another essential item to have in your tackle box for catfishing. These bells are loud and they'll quickly alert you when a fish strikes.

Bite sensors are a fantastic tool to keep in your tackle box. They’re great for the wintertime and night fishing in general. You can use something as simple as pole bells or even a more high-tech item like digital bite alarms.

Furthermore, bite alarms will help you detect bites when fishing with multiple poles during the winter. They can also sense a fish when it’s harder to tell if you have a fish on your line. In addition, pole bells are convenient in the winter when strikes are harder to notice.

Most Importantly, Stay Warm and Dry!

Lastly, it’s essential to your safety to stay warm and dry while catfishing in the winter. So always pack and store additional layers of clothing in both your car and boat that you can change into if you get wet.

Which of these 13 wintertime catfishing tips did you find the most helpful? Let us know in the comments below. Also, did you enjoy this article? Consider sharing it with your friends and family on social media. Stay safe out there everyone!