Do catfish ever feed on the surface?

I’ve been fishing on the bottom for catfish, because I know they are bottom feeders. But there are some big fish breaking the surface. Could they be catfish?

Catfish are known for being bottom dwellers. With their keen sense of smell, they prefer to stay hidden in the depths, especially around foliage and other obstructions that provide them cover. But, they get hungry and head up to the surface for food, too. In fact, these bottom feeders eat just about anything, and you can often find them hanging around the surface of the water looking for some of the tasty delicacies that can only be found there. If you want to catch catfish near the surface, your best bet is to use very stinky live bait. The stinkier the better; if it smells, it is more likely to pull one of those whisker fish from the depths. They really go for bait fish at the surface, especially shad. Shad flip around on the end of the line, and that attracts catfish from the depths. Time of year makes a difference too. In general, catfish will head up to the surface when the air is warm. This means that you will generally find more catfish hanging around the surface during the summer and spring, and not so much in the colder months. You will especially find them around the surface in the early evening or early morning when they go out for food. Remember that they like the warm air, but don’t like to sunlight, so you won’t usually find any around the surface during the daytime. Another great time to find catfish getting adventurous and coming up to the surface is during the spawning season in the late winter, after the first thaw.


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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