Catfish are one of the most abundant fish in North America, and they play an important role in the ecosystem as both predator and prey. But when do catfish spawn? This question has been asked by catfish anglers since the beginning of time, and there are plenty of myths to make the answer seem more complicated than it really is.
Catfish Spawning Behavior
To help clear things up, here are some important facts about catfish spawning behavior. Read on for more details about catfish spawning and how their lives change from day to day throughout their yearlong life cycle.
Catfish Are Seasonal Spawners
What month do catfish spawn? Catfish spawn when water temperatures reach 68 degrees or about six months after ice-out.
During spawning season, which usually occurs in May and June, fish are more vulnerable to injury and disease because they’re gathering at shallow shorelines to release sperm and eggs into currents that will carry them downstream.
While one meal on a spawning catfish is satisfying for many predators, it’s important not to eat too many as it can cause populations to dwindle.
Spawning Happens Over Spring, Summer, and Fall
When do channel catfish spawn? The biggest spawning time for catfish is between spring and fall, but it can be year-round in warmer climates. In general, spawning usually occurs from May to October, and June is when most eggs are laid.
As mentioned previously, however, catfish spawn all year round in warm waters like Florida or Texas. If you live in one of these areas, your best bet for successful fishing is learning about seasons and when they occur before you go out with a catfish rod and catfish reel.
Knowing When Catfish Are Spawning Means Knowing When They’re Feeding
It’s normal for catfish in the ocean to lose interest in their food when they’re spawning. Most tend to spawn at night, though exceptions certainly exist.
For example, March through May is the prime spawning season for blue catfish in Florida. A blue catfish weighing eight pounds that has just spawned may be interested in eating again in 24 hours or so.
A smaller two-pound fish may take a week or longer to eat after spawning, so knowing how large your fish are will give you a good idea about how long it’ll take them to return to feeding after mating has occurred.
This knowledge can help you plan your fishing strategy around when you think your target fish will be most vulnerable.
When Does Your Fishing Season Start?
Fish living in lakes and ponds are typically classified as resident fish since they tend to stay in a single location for most of their lives.
However, migratory species like salmon and catfish can travel great distances between their spawning and feeding grounds. For example, catfish can travel upriver hundreds of miles before they even begin spawning.
It’s also important to note that while some fish like salmon do die after they spawn, many other types — including catfish — will make repeat trips from their freshwater habitat to saltwater to feed before returning again once the mating season is over.
When it comes to fishing, knowing when your target species migrate and how long you have to catch them is essential if you want to be successful.
You’ll need information about not only when your target species spawn but also when they begin migrating back towards their original waters (or another suitable habitat). That way you’ll know exactly when you need to act fast if you want any chance at all of catching them.
There Are Both Migratory and Resident Fish, Depending on Species
It’s pretty typical for catfish to migrate to spawning grounds. This can happen when there’s a change in temperature, rainfall, or other environmental factors. When it comes to how far they travel and what causes them to move, that depends on species and on the location of water bodies.
That makes things tricky since spawning can be seasonal. In general, expect females to travel upstream in rivers and streams towards males who are waiting near nests made from shallow gravel shoals.
The nests are well-camouflaged so it’s rare for humans to catch these fish in their spawning areas (though you might see their erosion). The majority of catfish will die after they have spawned because not much sustenance is available at those locations.
The Right Bait Can Be a Game Changer
In preparation for the fishing season, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a local fish and wildlife office. They’ll be able to tell you what type of bait will work best in your area.
You can also take some initiative on your own and make sure you’re fully stocked on worms and doughballs. It’s worth noting that the time catfish spawn is usually an active time of year for anglers, so getting in touch with one of these offices early is key.
In some areas where fishing rules are stricter, you may have to apply for a special permit if you plan on using live bait; doing so could help save future anglers’ headaches by keeping them from accidentally snagging aquatic life they weren’t supposed to snag.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when catfish spawn. Many factors go into how long a fish will take to mature enough to be able to reproduce. The water temperature is one of them, as it varies depending on what season it is and where you are in relation to latitude.
In addition, there are also other creatures that can eat young catfish or destroy their eggs during incubation. Therefore, it might not be possible for us human beings to truly pinpoint exactly when they spawn without seeing them do so firsthand.
However, keeping track of some specific indicators can provide some indication of a population around you may begin spawning soon. Just keep in mind also that the catfish spawning season typically happens between May and June in most places.