Informational Guide

Best Fishing Times

Wondering when the best fishing times are? We look at the different factors that will help you determine the best time to fish.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

Best Fishing Times

Wondering when the best fishing times are? We look at the different factors that will help you determine the best time to fish.

by Andrew

by Andrew

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.

Factors That Affect Fish Activity

Target Species

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.

Water Temperature

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.

Weather Conditions

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.

Atmospheric Pressure

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 Time To Go Fishing


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:

  • Bass
    The best time to fish for Largemouth Bass on lakes is when the Bluegill are up in the shallows for their spawning season. The Bass are feeding on the Bluegill, so a crankbait with a Bluegill pattern will do the trick here.
  • Crappie
    This would be a great target species for those ice fishermen; the best time to catch a Crappie would be in the early spring or late fall. This is when the fish are schooled up in shallow water. Jigging small plastics tipped with minnow heads tends to work well for these panfish. If you do target them in the summer, you will want to be fishing deeper.
  • Walleye
    This is the engineer's fish. Walleye are tough to target; you want to troll nightcrawler spinners on a rig called "slow death." Best time to fish is late summer and fall, when the fish are giant, after a summer of feeding. This species will traditionally be more active after dark.
  • Catfish
    These are your traditional midsummer fish. They like moving water and do not mind warmer temps or muddy water. These can be trolled for, caught with dead bait, or any stinky bait. They are caught through the day or through the night. They seem to be an exception to all of our rules.
  • Trout
    More often than not, these fish are caught very early in the spring. They feed on fish eggs and small bugs that hatch in large water tributaries. Fly fishing for trout is the favorite pastime of almost everyone who has ever tried it.
  • Salmon
    There are a few different methods to fish for salmon. You can fish streams with trout egg sacks, called rowe. Or, you can troll deep, large bodies of water using levelwind line counting reels on nine foot trolling rods with copper lines and spoons all summer long. In Alaska, they are caught on everything from fly rods to huge nets during their fall runs upstream to spawn.
  • Carp
    A mainstay in Asian countries, Carp usually are fished for in late summer all over the United States. Some anglers use a conventional rod and reel; some use a bow and arrow to harvest these fish.
  • Bluegill
    These panfish school up in late fall. While you can catch them all summer, If you want to catch big numbers of Bluegill, you will jig worms over the schools just before the time the snow begins to fall.
  • Muskie
    The fish of ten thousand casts. These are an elusive species that you are most likely going to catch in the late fall. This is when Muskie move into shallows and can be caught on large plastics or trolled for with bucktails, using heavy-duty casting rods, similar to what you would use for catching Northern Pike. For this fish, you require not only preparation but a great deal of luck!

Best Weather Apps for Fishing

  • FishTrack
    Satellite fishing charts, route planning, and marine weather forecasts; Fishtrack provides saltwater anglers with everything they need to find fish. With color satellite imagery, users can overlay maps and weather reports to plan their dream fishing trip. This app not only can help you prepare for a trip but gives you the ability to check conditions in real-time while you fish. These style apps are great for catching fish, but more importantly, they keep you safe. Having charts and weather reports is invaluable on the water.
  • Fish Points
    This is an app for hotspots and logbooks! Another great addition to your phone app library, even better if you have a tablet version that you can keep in your boat or tackle backpack. Having a great day of catching on the water is always great, but when you can record the information and specifics of where you hooked and what you were catching on, it allows you to duplicate results and pattern fish. This technology takes good anglers and turns them into great anglers.
  • Fishangler
    What could be better than logging all of your great fishing holes? Finding out where everyone else is catching too! This app is a social networking app where you can share information with fellow anglers from all over the country. Sharing photos and trends will expand your horizon regarding fishing in different locations and using different baits you may not have thought about. Viewing others' photos always provides a little motivation to get out there as well.
Best Fishing Times Today

Fishing in Different Locations (By Water Type & States)

  • Freshwater
    You can find freshwater all over the map if you live in North America. There are endless lakes and rivers in the Northern U.S. and southern Canada. The best time to fish locations like Minnesota, Ohio, or Manitoba would be the late summer. The weather is fair, and the fish are large! If you plan to fish in the southern freshwater of Florida, Georgia, or Texas, you will want to fish pre-spawn in the spring. While the rest of the country is thawing out, the southern freshwater fish have a head start when feeding. The weather is a little nicer as well.
  • Saltwater
    With the amount of saltwater that anglers have to choose from, you could fish any time of the year for a wide variety of species. Timing in saltwater depends more on the target species, and when they are traveling through a specific area you plan to fish. For example, sailfishing in the Florida keys is at its best when the fish are closest. Usually, between late April and late June is best.
  • Best Time To Fish In Florida
    The state of Florida is known for its Bass Fishing. With over 3,000 lakes, you have nearly endless possibilities when it comes to catching in the Sunshine State. The best time to fish is early spring between January and May. The southern Florida lakes begin to warm sooner than the pan-handle lakes, so as you move north, the seasons kick off later in the calendar. The peak times are March and April, pre-spawn. Saltwater fishing is also huge in Florida; chasing bill fish in the spring is very exciting.
  • Best Time To Fish In Alaska
    Alaska is the largest state, and it is full of salmon! The best time to try your luck is between June and August. You will be able to catch various salmon species in this range by fly fishing streams with waders or drift boats. June jas the tail end of King Salmon season, which will lead right into Silver, Red, Pink and, Chum salmon season. We recommend hiring a guide and watching out for bears!
  • Best Time To Fish In Texas
    Everything is bigger in Texas, including the fish! You can pick your poison in this state, chasing Largemouth Bass in March on Lake Fork or inshore fishing for Red Snapper, Dolphin, or Striped Bass. The Texas bass season, similar to Tennessee, where the Chickamauga Lake produces 10 pounders, kicks off as soon as the fish become active pre-spawn. Peak season varies across the state, but March is considered the best bet. In late summer, you can target Red Fish in Corpus Christi. October is Flounder peak season in Galveston. As for fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, the target species will be determined by when the fish are in the area you are fishing. The Red Snapper tend to stick around most of the year, but the Mahi, or Dolphin, move through periodically.
  • Best Time To Fish In Georgia
    Georgia peaches? How about Georgia Rainbow Trout! April is the perfect time of year to target these beautiful, hard-fighting species of trout. If you can plan a trip to the Toccoa River, you will have a chance to catch some of the 20,000 stocked Rainbows. Unlike the fly fisherman, these southern anglers use conventional gear and small spinners to catch these colorful fish. With high numbers and the ability to keep a limit, it is the perfect trip to bring friends and children for their first fishing experience.
  • Best Time To Fish In Ohio
    Over the past two decades, April walleye fishing in Ohio on Lake Erie's tributaries has been some of the best fishing in the world. In the 1980s, Lake Erie was known for pollution and lack of fish. With the help of anglers and conservationists, the Federal Government implemented strict penalties on companies dumping into the lake and began rejuvenating the fish population. Fast forward 30 years, and it would be hard not to catch a Walleye in almost any portion of the lake. Trolling crankbaits on planer boards will do the trick here. Ambitious anglers will run dipsy divers, downriggers, flashers, and dodgers to pull fish throughout the entire water column. 
  • Best Time To Fish In Minnesota
    The fall is the best time to fish for walleye in Minnesota. As the fish prepare for the icy winter, they can be found hunting the shallows for baitfish. During this time of year, you can fish from a boat or shore with a chance to catch. The second best time would be in winter, out on the ice. Anglers with insulated tents and ice augers set up for days at a time in pursuit of goldenbacks. The same is true for just north; Manitoba is a fishing hotbed both in the fall and on the ice.

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.


Conclusion

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.

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