Are Catfish Bottom Feeders? A Complete Guide

Do you know why catfishes are named so? It’s because of their barbels which resemble a lot like the whiskers of cats. However, there are different species of catfish and not all of them have whiskers like barbels. They all differ in behavior and eating habits to a great extent. Catfish diet spreads wide between dead materials found at the bottom of the sea to alive microorganisms available at the top. But are catfish bottom feeders? There are varying answers to this question.

So, if you are planning on go fishing to catch catfish, then this can be very tricky for you to identify where you can find catfishes. Here, we will discuss in detail and clarify as much confusion as possible.

What is a Bottom Feeder Fish

The bottom feeder means one who feeds from the bottom. In water bodies, there are different layers. For example, there is a top layer that we can see on the surface of the water body. There is a layer lying in the middle and also a bottom layer which is near to the soil below the ground.

Bottom feeders are those fishes that reside and eat mostly near the bottom layer of the water body. These kinds of aquatic animals are often called “benthos” in biological terms. But this term is not specific only to fishes. Benthos includes everything that lives at the bottom layer, which means it can also be plants and algae. However, the term specific to bottom-feeding fishes are benthic fish, benthopelagic fish, etc. Different fish species are included in this category.

Are Catfish Bottom Feeders

We have already mentioned the three different species alive on this planet and how they vary in their eating habits and behavior. Therefore, we can see differences in the catfishes in choosing the layer of the water bodies that they prefer to stay on. So, they cannot exactly be categorized as bottom feeders.

Usually, they stay at the bottom during the daytime. Especially during the hot summer days, they cover themselves up with sand to keep themselves cool and remain hidden. During the night, they come up to the surface of the water bodies and look for food. So, we can see that there is a shift in their habitat depending on the season as well.

In both extreme hot days of the summer or cold days in winter, they prefer staying in the lowest level of the water. This is because the lowest level heats up or cools down the slowest. That is why they prefer staying in the bottom layer. On the contrary, spring is their favorite time of the year. Since the weather is neither too hot nor too cold, they feel comfortable moving in all levels of water and actively search for food.

However, “Are catfish bottom feeder fish?”- this confusion arises because of their physical structure. Even though their anatomy is that of a bottom feeder, they are versatile and do not fix any specific water level.

When Catfish Will Be Bottom Feeder

As discussed earlier, the catfish changes its habitat based on the temperature of the water. That is why the timing of the day and seasons affect their habitat. During the daytime, they remain at the bottom layer. Moreover, in extreme weather of summer and winter, they also remain at the bottom layer to survive. Since the bottom layer becomes hot or cold at the slowest speed, they remain there during these times of the year.

What do Catfish Feed on at the Bottom

Catfishes are voracious eaters. They eat a lot and they eat different kinds of food. Their barbels help them to smell and discover any food source nearby. Since they travel to different layers, their food habits change with the layers they stay in. When any aquatic animal dies, their dead bodies automatically drift downwards and gradually decompose there. Catfishes take advantage of this when they are in the bottom layer. At that time, they feed on dead aquatic plants and animals. Those catfishes are called detritivores, the one who feeds on the dead.

Besides, various plants grow at the bottom layer. Many catfishes eat that too. In addition to that, catfishes often prey on other bottom dwellers and feed on them. They use various techniques for this. One of the most popular techniques is using sand to cover their body and stay hidden.

Is it Good to Eat Bottom Feeder Fish

There are different opinions about whether it is good to eat bottom feeder fish or not. Some people simply love the taste of bottom feeder fishes. However, some people also claim that they have a very weird smell like mud. Also, it is considered bad for health by many. But these fishes have been a part of the human diet for centuries, and they are eaten in many countries around the world. No one had to face any trouble due to eating them.

Besides, a lot depends on the quality of the water the fish was raised in and the way the fish is cooked. A well-cooked fish is bound to taste good. Frying is a popular method of cooking bottom feeder fishes. According to some, bottom feeder fishes taste better than other fishes because of their dense, moist, white meat.

Do Bottom Feeding Fish Taste Good

Bottom feeding fishes can taste well if they are cooked the right way. But this is true in the case of almost everything you eat. So, there is no such thing as the bottom feeder fish is bad in taste. Many people prefer the meat of the bottom feeder fishes since they are dense and moist. Most fishes have flaky meat, but these do not, which makes it the preferred fish for many.

What Bait is to Use for Catfish and Bottom Fishing

There are different kinds of baits used for bottom fishing. You can either use dead baits or live baits. Some lures are also used by experts. The trick is to let the bait sink to the bottom of the water body so that you can catch your target. But there are some baits which are very effective while you are trying to catch a catfish. So let’s have a look at those:

Chicken Liver:

Chicken livers are the most attractive baits for a catfish. Mainly because they are meaty and their smell is irresistible for catfishes. So, when chicken liver bait is used, catfish gather around the bait in large numbers. They are cheap and also easily available. But one challenge with using chicken liver bait is that it is difficult to keep them hooked.


Crawfish are also very effective bait in catching catfish. But somehow it is often overlooked. Live crawfishes can attract many catfishes. However, they are not suitable for use in large water bodies. They are mostly used in ponds, rivers, or other shallow water bodies. Moreover, crawfishes are not readily available like chicken liver. In that case, the angler must find a live crawfish. Another important thing to keep in mind is that crawfish are food to many aquatic animals.

Night Crawlers / Worms:

Using worms as bait is the classic method of fishing. It works with catfish as well. But catfishes like bigger meals, so it is important to use bigger worms. That will increase the possibility of catching them. You can also increase the effectiveness if you just hang the worm on the bait and suspend it in the water.


Have you ever heard of soap being used for fishing? Well, that is very true. Many fishermen use soap as bait, but which soap is to be used is still a debatable topic. Many say that ivory soap is very good as bait. Catfishes are also attracted to it.

French fries:

When we said catfishes eat anything and everything, we meant it. Seems like they also love some French fries. That is why many fishermen use this as bait too.

How to Target Bottom Feeder Fish

There are different ways to target bottom-feeder fish and do bottom fishing. But each to his own, the best way to do it depends on the angler himself. But we will give you an overview of the different ways you can do bottom fishing.

From Boat:

You can do bottom fishing from your boat if you are comfortable doing so. However, there are two methods to be chosen from while you are bottom fishing from a boat-anchoring and drifting. Anchoring your boat can be helpful if you can identify a good spot where a lot of fishes are available. But you can also do it by drifting. If you are unable to find a suitable spot or face difficulty in setting up your boat, then drifting is the right option for you.

From the Shore:

Many people do bottom fishing from the shore as well. However, to catch fishes from the shore, you need to be skilled. Because you cannot cover as much area as you could have while on a boat.

From the Surf:

You can also do bottom fishing from a riverbank or surf. But make sure to look out for the weeds or crags as those can cause obstructions while fishing.

From a Pier:

If you choose to fish from a pier, use a lighter line for your sinker. That will help you with retrieving the rig if the line gets snagged.

What are the Methods to Target Bottom Fishing

To be successful in your attempt at bottom fishing you need to follow a few techniques. It is important to keep your rod pointed downwards so that it is in touch with the water body. Secondly, the rod should be brought straight up and hold the reel after giving one or two turns. And lastly, when the fish gets attached to the hook, it tries to get away a couple of times and then gives up for a small fraction of time. That is the window to make your move.

List of Bottom Feeder Fish

There are several fishes available on the sea that are bottom feeders. For example:

  • Eels
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Carp
  • Snapper
  • Shark, etc.

Final Words

We hope this article has answered the question “Are catfish bottom feeders?”. As mentioned above, they are not specifically bottom feeders because they can reside in every level of the water body. But they are included in this category because of their anatomy and eating habits. However, one thing to be kept in mind while fishing for catfish is that it has specific times when it stays at the bottom level, and to catch them, one needs to identify that first.

You can also learn – How to fish for trout?

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