Christina Lemke holding her personal best 37-inch channel catfish that came to the boat during an amazing night bite.
Is Nighttime Really the Right Time?
by Brad Durick
It’s not always better to catfish at night but it can be the right time.
I have always been a student of the catfish. I literally have books of catch notes and river stats that have assisted me in becoming a better catfish angler. When the question of is it better to fish catfish at night arises, there must be more than a yes or no answer.
As a guide, I choose not to fish at night mostly because I never have and because I have always had somewhere to be in the morning. I’ve always been able to catch fish in the daytime, so it has never been a requirement to move to the night.
Things we Know
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s when the first writings about catching catfish were being published, they talked a lot about fishing for catfish at night. Speaking to avid catfish anglers that fished even before that, all said night fishing for catfish was the only way to go.
When you look back at those first writings and early videos, night fishing was when the biggest and baddest fish bit. Anglers in these videos spent the day looking for bait with a game plan that included fishing all night. Especially for flatheads.
One common thing that history has taught us is that most anglers historically fished from the bank. The limited mobility of bank fishing tended to make many anglers look for their favorite spot and wait for the bite. It is well known that catfish feed at night and follow the bait which tends to go shallow at night. With that said, it is clear that people fishing from shore would believe that the bite is better at night.
Shore Fishing at Night
Fishing from the bank at night limits anglers to a few favorite spots. With no boat to take them to the fish, they must wait for the fish to come to them.
“It is just peaceful and I get my best fish at night”, stated Minnesota shore angler, Christina Lemke. “All of my best fish have come at night.”
Lemke shared with me many social media photos of flatheads that came at night. Recently she visited the Red River where she landed her personal best channel cat numerous times during the night from around 11:00 pm to about 4:00 am.
Lemke is proof that with a little research to find a prime feeding spot, shore anglers can see amazing results by fishing at night and letting the fish come to them.
Conditions Can Push Catfish to a Night Bite
Catfish will go to a night bite when it is brutally hot. We call this the dog days of summer. The cats don’t like the hot direct sun and will look for shade in deep holes, snag piles, or even under low hanging trees. Catfish anglers also don’t like the heat so fishing at night is a way to hide from the oppressive heat.
Over my years of guiding I have seen this bite change to low light and night while the fish are there but won’t expend the energy to feed during the heat of the day.
Another condition, that will push catfish to a night bite is large amounts of boat traffic. I have seen this a couple of times in my experience where large numbers of pleasure boaters ripping around on the water will turn the day bite to a night bite. It seems that fish like to eat in peace and quiet.
Ben Olson, Fishing Manager at the Grand Forks, North Dakota Scheels store says, “I enjoy the minimal boat traffic during the busy times. I also think the fish react to the lack of traffic at sunset and beyond.”
I can attest to what Olson says, especially this year with the huge amounts of traffic from anglers staying close to home due to COVID 19.
Technology is Much Better Than It Used to Be
Early catfish anglers did not have the technology we have today. It was around 2007 that the really high-tech depth finders, mapping, and imaging units appeared on the scene to help anglers find fish. Now anglers do not have to wait until night to catch catfish. They can simply use technology to go into their houses during the day, find them, and catch them.
No technology has changed catfishing quite like side imaging. Introduced by Humminbird, it is now a mainstay for many anglers. Side imaging allows anglers to search for fish in a wider area while getting a picture of the structure and the lay of the land before a spot is even fished.
Is Nighttime Really the Right Time?
Most modern anglers agree that catfish can be caught all day long. Thanks to technology we can go get them any time but we have also
established that catfish have not changed and that they still move during low light. We know they don’t like a lot of heat and they will move to a night pattern like a deer if there is a lot of traffic.
So, Is nighttime the right time? The answer is it can be. Anglers fishing at night will enjoy many advantages of fishing after the sun goes down. There will be less traffic, feeding fish, and a cooler outing. Shore anglers who find the right location will also enjoy the cooler temperatures and are likely to have aggressive fish looking for their baits.
I have always said, “get out and fish when you can.” If the nighttime is when you can fish there is no reason not to expect success. More importantly, it is your opportunity to enjoy one of the keys to a happy life.
Captain Brad Durick is a nationally recognized catfish guide on the Red River of the North, seminar speaker, and author of the books Cracking the Channel Catfish Code and Advanced Catfishing Made Easy. For more information go to www.redrivercatfish.com.