do catfish bite in the rain

Do Catfish Bite in the Rain?

It doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas, Mississippi, or Illinois – if you’re on the water, it’s going to rain. So should you pull out the catfish reel when it’s raining…or is best to wait for a sunny day?

So, do catfish bite in the rain? The short answer is, absolutely! However, it takes understanding the weather pattern and how it all affects the catfish to know how to catch them in the rain.

Understanding how catfish feed, how the water temperature affects their behavior, and how atmospheric pressure impacts them is crucial to catching catfish in the rain.

Food Sources

What kind of world does a catfish live in and how does he feed himself?

A close examination of a catfish will show that he has a large, wide head with small eyes on either side.

While this configuration is less than ideal for being able to detect food visually, it is extremely useful for housing a disproportionately large olfactory system. Therefore, the catfish relies heavily on smell to seek out and find its food. This means that muddy water caused by excess flooding or rain doesn’t impede the way it chooses to hunt. Rather, it produces new potential food sources as the water level comes up. 

Two Options

Here is the key, during heavy rains and high water levels, you have two real options to locate catfish.

First, go shallow and start presenting a heavily scented bate of your choosing in the newly submerged area. This can produce large catfish that have risen to the newly exposed area who are looking to exploit new food sources. This is the basis limb lines, trot lines, yo-yos and bank fishing is based off of. This approach, while it can produce quality, it is more likely to produce quantity. It is especially advantageous for catching blue cats of varying size as they lean more to the predatory side of the catfish spectrum as opposed to being a true scavenger. 

Shallow for Quantity

The next option is completely opposite of the first. Instead of fishing shallow during rains and high water levels, you fish as deep as you can. The reason for this is two fold. First, the environment at the bottom of a body of water hasn’t really changed that much. Barring an extreme difference in the temperature of the air (and therefore the rain falling through it) and the water, the catfish that lives in these deep recesses of your favorite fishery hasn’t noticed the weather. Therefore, he will continue to do what he has always done.

Deep for Quality

Secondly, gravity is at work even during this less than ideal period above the surface. That means all of the food that has been washed into the water will eventually find its way to the bottom. Your biggest catfish are often waiting there for it. Simply put, they got huge for a reason and that reason is simple efficiency. 

Understanding Bottom Topography

While this technique is valid, it should be cautioned that it is also much more difficult. It requires an understanding of the topography of the bottom. That requires the use of maps, depth finders, and sonar to do correctly. It also requires one to think and understand about how the water flow, which will increase during high volume, will affect the way a catfish operates. The bank fisherman will have a much simpler life and be rewarded with more fish on his stringer, but the deep water catfisherman is the one that has his picture on the local bait shop’s wall. 


Another consideration that should be taken into account when catfish are concerned is water temperature. Hunting and fishing are often best understood in terms of calories. Calories in, calories out is the name of the game when it comes to survival. Catfish are uniquely equipped to take advantage of cooler temperatures as their metabolism is directly linked to their body temperature. Cooler temps means less calories burned. This translates to less demand on the catfish to feed itself when the water temperature drops. 

Fishing Is A Thinking Game

Therefore, the fisherman should have this in the back of their mind as they begin to make decisions about how to fish in the rain. Ask yourself, is this just a freak storm? How long has it been raining and how long will it persist? This will help you determine how active the catfish are likely to be. If the rain is bringing falling water temps due to the temperature differential and volume of cold water entering into the lake, the fishing will likely slow down. Under these conditions, fishing deep will prove to be much more beneficial. However, if this is just a one off occurrence with a relatively small amount of rain, then it is far more likely that fishing shallow will be more productive.  

Atmospheric Pressure

Another aspect of catching catfish in the rain is understanding how atmospheric pressure affects nature. While there are many potential reactions to the weather, few are as incredibly impactful as a low front moving through an area. Weather typically rides on these fronts and wildlife, above and below the waterline, can feel the atmospheric pressure changes. While they likely don’t sit down and plan their day out around them, a sudden drop in atmospheric pressure will result in the desire to locate a safe, stable area to hold up in. You are no different in this regard. You know when it “feels like rain” and start looking at the sky to confirm your suspicions. Catfish have similar feelings and inclinations when weather patterns change. 

Understanding Weather Patterns

This means catching catfish in the rain must be understood in terms of where you are in the weather pattern. Stability is the key driving factor that determines what fish will and will not do. If the weather pattern has been stable, they are much more likely to go about their business. If a front is about to move through, the fish will begin to become much more active in order to load up on calories before the weather changes. Weather changes bring uncertainty and the fish, albeit subconsciously, want to ensure they have a full belly going into those challenging times. Once the front hits, everything grinds to a stop and you would be better served to simply go home. 

Conclusion: Do Catfish Bite in the Rain?

Catching catfish is both easy and difficult simultaneously. Understanding some of these key factors is crucial to not only catching catfish in the rain, but simply being a good fisherman regardless of the query. Let’s summarize what we have talked about.

First, don’t be discouraged by the rain. Instead, let it inform the strategy you choose to employ. Catfish do bite in the rain either in the shallow new food sources or in the deep stable holes they are used to. Expectation management is crucial here since you have to make a choice between quantity and quality. Neither are mutually exclusive, but knowing how the current weather conditions will likely affect the overall experience is crucial to enjoying your time on the water. 

Secondly, water temperature is everything in fishing. Catfish do bite in the rain provided the rain doesn’t cause a drastic drop in water temperature. If the water temperature drops significantly, so will the metabolism of the fish. This results in a less than active catfish and a challenged fisherman. 

Thirdly, catching catfish in the rain is all about timing. If you time it correctly, you can be apart of a fury filled fish catching experience. However, if you come in behind a cold front, you will be fishing in futility. Timing is everything.