When Do Catfish Spawn?

Catfish­ w­ill generally wait to spawn until the water temperature reaches at least 66 degrees Fahrenheit, as the table below shows.

­

Species

Preferred Range of Temperature

Flatheads

66 F to 75 F

Blue and Channel

70 F to 84 F

White

68 F to 72 F

[source: Sutton, Maryland Fish Facts]

Therefore, for the catfish, geography is destiny. Because water in southern latitudes warms first, catfish-spawning season begins in the south first. Most species spawn in the late spring or early summer. Obviously, it takes longer for a lake to heat up than it does for a shallow backwater to do so.

Spawn in a Jar
You can't fish for catfish in a jar, but spawning jars have been around since the 1950s. They make life easier for fisheries, because the hatching jars require less space than hatching troughs do. A further savings can come from using three-liter soft drink bottles rather than purchasing expensive equipment. If you've always wanted to have your own stocked pond, consider contacting a local extension fisheries specialist for more information. [source: Dorman]

­In Maryland's Chesapeake Bay region, for example, blue catfish may spawn from April through June. Yellow bullheads begin a month later. [source: Chesapeake Bay Program Bay Field Guide] Obviously, this is too soon for catfish in Canada to begin spawning; the water won't be warm enough that early.

Remember, too, that not all fish in a water system spawn at the same time. Any part of a lake or river may have catfish at one of three stages: pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn. And of course, there will be fish too young to spawn. You'll observe dark or black spots on juveniles and small adults and may want to toss them back. After all, white catfish can live to be about 14 years old, and the oldest Canadian catfish ever caught was estimated to be about 24 years old. Letting the young catfish live may allow you to catch a larger catfish in a year or two. [source: Sutton, Maryland Fish Facts]

Let's say you're determined to catch a catfish during spawning season. Where would you hide, if you were a catfish? Check out the next page for some ideas on where to cast your bait.