The age-old question of “When’s the best time to fish?” is one that every angler has had to ask. While we all know that fish are influenced by the weather, everyone who’s dropped a line more than once in their life knows that there’s a lot more to it than that. So, how do you know when to go fishing? Read on and find out!
If you’re looking to time your outing like a pro, there are two things you need to make sure of. One, the fish need to be there – a shocker, we know! And two, they need to be in a bitting mood. As you can imagine, a number of factors come into play here.
Some, like the tides for example, affect fish on a daily basis. Others happen every once in a while. The important thing is that most of these influences repeat periodically, and that makes an angler’s life a lot easier. Let’s take a look at these factors in more detail.
What time of day is best for fishing?
Fish are cold-blooded, which makes them very sensitive to temperature changes. To understand what time of day is best for fishing, we need to look at how water temperatures change from season to season, and from dawn to dusk.
In wintertime, cold temperatures and a general lack of food typically cause fish to slow down. Freshwater fish cut their activity so dramatically that even their metabolisms take a hit. Catching fish in the winter is far from impossible, but you need to nail your timing to get a fish to strike.
Mornings are usually a no-go in winter. The waters are still cold from the long nights, and the sun hasn’t been up for long enough. As midday and early afternoon start to roll on, the waters start to heat up and the fish are ready to bite.
Just like bears after their hibernation, fish come out of winter eager for a feast. On top of that, many species are preparing to spawn, so you can look forward to a lot of activity. You still have to time your outing right, though – fishing during the spring can be hit and miss!
The mornings are still pretty cold, so you’d better wait until later in the day to make your cast. Late afternoon to dusk is typically the best time to fish in the spring. There are plenty of insects around, especially later in the season, and that’s something no fish can ignore.
Fish are more active when it’s warm, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be jumping at you when it’s 100-plus degrees. Heck, they don’t like the heat any more than we do. That being said, there are times when fish will be lining up like you’re giving out free lemonade on Memorial Day.
Summer mornings are an excellent time to wet the line. Be sure to get an early start, because the waters can heat up quickly. Around midday, when the sun is at its highest, fish retreat to deeper waters to cool down. However, as dusk approaches, you’ll be able to have another go at them.
The “dawn vs. dusk” debate is one of those things anglers never seem to agree on. On most days, fishing can be equally as productive both times of the day. It’s always good to aim your outing around the species you’re after. Species like Flounder or Sharks are particularly active towards the evening.
While most fishers choose to wet their line in the summer, there’s a whole army of anglers who’d argue that fishing is actually better during the fall. While it certainly isn’t as forgiving as summer, fishing when the leaves are falling can be pretty darn spectacular. If you get your timing right, that is.
Early fall brings about a lot of changes. Fish aren’t as active at dawn anymore, but they’re still feeding as much as they can in order to survive the upcoming winter. And you? You can stay in bed and prepare for a late morning fishing trip. The top of the water column will have had time to warm up, and the fish will surely come knocking.
As the days start to shorten, fish start to “call it a day” sooner and sooner. If you’re fishing in late fall, aim your outing for early afternoon, and you’ll still get a good number of hookups.
In most places, fall equals rain. And while most people frown at the thought of winds and grey skies, anglers have buckets full of fish to look forward to. Check out our complete guide on how weather affects fishing if you want to learn more.
What days are best for fishing?
We know how temperatures affect fish, so why doesn’t every summer morning trip end with a full bucket? That’s because some days are just better for fishing than others. Let’s take a look at why this is.
Moving with the Tides
As we mentioned, tides are one of the biggest things you need to watch when timing a fishing trip. That’s because moving water tends to stir up a lot of nutrients which, in turn, gets bait fish going in a big way. If you’re a fish, this spells feasting time.
Now, contrary to popular belief, fish aren’t at their most active when the tides are at their highest or lowest point, but rather when the tides are changing. This is where learning how to read a tide chart will come in handy. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the tidal change, the more active the fish.
The question is, how do you know when this is going to happen? We’ll give you a hint: it has to do with that pumpkin in the sky.
Tides are mostly caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun, but it is the moon that does most of the leg work. That’s why the biggest tidal changes coincide with a full moon and a new moon. So, to answer the question, to know when to expect the biggest tides, look no further than the moon phase calendar.
If you’re interested in learning more about angling by moon phases, check out our article on solunar fishing.
What about freshwater?
The moon doesn’t just affect saltwater fish, mind you. Spawning fish, like King Salmon, specifically wait for the biggest tidal surge when making their way to their spawning grounds. But don’t think that moon calendars are the be-all-and-end-all of planning a fishing trip.
The moon might as well be a rock as far as lake fish are concerned. Apart from the occasional well-lit night, the moon doesn’t do a lot for lake fishing. Armies of moon-worshiping Bass anglers notwithstanding, tidal movements just aren’t as important for lake fishing.
So when should you go?
Knowing everything we just mentioned, you’d think that picking the best time to fish would be as simple as circling a date. But what about the weather? What about traffic? What about your mom’s doctor’s appointment? Let’s face it, we all live busy lives, and things can always get in the way.
So to answer the question – the best time to go fishing is when you can. More often than not, this will be all you need.
And now, let’s hear from you. What’s your favorite time to go fishing? When have you had the most success? Share your experience in the comments, we always like hearing from you!