Fishing trips are one of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They are great for spending time with friends and family or even just exploring new places on your own. In most cases, preparation is the key to a successful trip.
When planning your next fishing adventure, the first question you will need to ask yourself should be, when is the best time to fish?
While the answer to that question may seem daunting at first, this article should serve as a guide to choosing when the most advantageous time will be to catch the specific fish species you are after.
Page Contents (Click Icon To Open/Close)
Factors That Affect Fish Activity
Researching when a specific species is most active will give you the best shot of catching, rather than just fishing. You will want to study the behavior and feeding habits of your target species. In most cases, bait should match the hatch; basically, the best bait to use would be the same bait that the target species is naturally feeding on. Next factor, when do these fish spawn? The fish will be stacking up as many calories in their pre-spawn state. This will give us the best chance at getting bit.
Different species are more likely to be active at specific temperature zones. For example, fishing for Lake Trout in The Great Lakes, you will be looking for fish in roughly 55° water. This can be tricky, as water temperature in early May could give you the magic 55° at the very bottom of the water column, but in late May, that 55° zone may be halfway between the bottom of the lake and the surface. There are specialty electronics that can help you decipher water column temperatures, the most common is referred to as a fish finder or depth finder.
Tides and Moon Phase
Moon phases determine tide patterns due to the gravitational relationship the moon has with the earth. Fishermen also swear by fishing on a full moon, believing that the illumination allows the fish to sight feed. In a saltwater scenario, focus on fishing a falling tide. This provides the fish with a chance to feed on insects, crabs, or shrimp. Fish also become more active when the water is flowing more rapidly, feeding when the water is stagnant, at slack tide.
If it is sunny and hot, you may want to focus on fishing deeper water. The fish, especially freshwater, tend to stay out of sunlit, warm water to regulate their body temperature. Conversely, cloud cover keeps the water slightly cooler, allowing fish to be more active through the entire water column.
Plan to fish when the pressure is falling. This condition triggers fish to feed instinctually. When the fish are bracing for an incoming weather system, they need to feed prior, giving us anglers our best chance to land more fish. When fishing from a boat, be sure to keep an eye out for strong weather patterns so that you are not out on the water in dangerous conditions! For more on pressure, check out this YouTube video.
Best Times to Go Fishing
Best Time Of Day To Fish
For most of us, life is busy, and our highest priorities are family and related obligations. So, the short answer here is to fish whenever you can! For the long answer, compile all of the information we have already highlighted and make an educated decision.
As we know, fish feed based on light and temperature, along with the availability of food. To have the best chance of catching, focus your efforts on early morning and early evening, fishing at both dawn and dusk. The transition of dark to light and light to dark is when fish are the most active.
Best Month/Season To Go Fishing
As for time of the year, this can depend on the target species. Generally speaking, late spring and early fall tend to be the best bet for freshwater species. This runs along the same lines as the morning and evening reasoning. King Salmon, Brown Trout, and Steelhead each make spring runs into the tributaries of larger bodies of water.
When the ice and snow are thawing, it becomes the perfect time to chase these fish in the shallows of the South Shore of Lake Ontario or fly fish in the famed Salmon River of Pulaski, New York. When the water is cold, minnows and insects have not hatched yet, so the Largemouth Bass will not be feeding in the same manner as they will be a few weeks later in the year.
As spring becomes warmer and life begins to become more active, the fish follow suit. Then, the shallows come to life. Small baitfish minnow schools and insect larva hatch underwater emerging, making their way to the surface, the bait have arrived.
Summer has decent fishing, The salmon of Pulaski, New York, have left the streams and retreated to the depths of Lake Ontario, but the combination of high water temps and underwater weed growth make the fishing more challenging for those previously mentioned Largemouth Bass. The fish have plenty of feed and habitat, so attracting them to artificial or unnatural presentations becomes more difficult.
This time of year is great for catching many saltwater species; they have their own intricacies we will discuss shortly. Early fall brings fear of impending winter to the fish. Instinctually, they feed as much as possible to brace for the months ahead when food becomes scarce. This provides an excellent opportunity for bites. Finally, winter. Here in the northern states, we have a large population of ice fisherman. Fishing solid water becomes a sport all of its own and can be saved for a whole different column at a later date.
When to Fish for Various Species:
Best Weather Apps for Fishing
Fishing in Different Locations (By Water Type & States)
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Is rain good for fishing?
You can catch fish in the rain, but you want to stay away from fishing in heavy rain. Light rain disturbs the surface enough to prevent fish from seeing you, and it also washes insects off leaves and branches into the water, enticing fish to feed. Heavy rain tends to make the water murky and muddy. This hinders the ability of fish to breath and sight hunt their prey.
What are the possible catches when the water is too cold?
Typically panfish are the easiest thing to catch when the water is cold. In cold water, you will want to fish deeper water where fish will most likely be. Although it is colder on the surface, the depths will usually be warm enough for the fish to regulate temperature. They may not be as active, but if they are, you will be in the right zone.
What are the possible catches when the water is too warm?
If the water is too warm, you may be able to catch predatory fish lurking near weeds or structures. Small baitfish pods can usually be found in warm water. Predatory fish will ambush the bait from deeper water, primarily if they can hide amongst rocks or weeds.
What should I look for when surf fishing?
Surf fishing is a bit different. You cast out a large weight with a chunk of bait that is generally for targeting predatory fish. Surf fishing is great because it does not require very much local knowledge of fishing habitat or behavior. If you find yourself surf fishing, keep an eye out for baitfish breaking the surface. In most cases, predatory fish have pushed bait balls up into shallow water, and they have nowhere to go but up. That bait ball is right where you want to be casting.
What kind of fish do you catch when fishing at night?
Night fishing is great for catfish, bullhead, walleye, and any other fish that uses its sense of smell more than its sense of sight. Using live bait or stink bait works well in these scenarios.
Preparation is key when it comes to most things in life. Managing the factors you can control will give you a better chance for a successful fishing trip, just as they would with any other life event. With this article, I hope you have a better perception of planning your fishing trip with relation to time. Always remember that fishing is a wonderful way to escape from everyday life; timing it right just may lead to a little more success.