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So, you wake up fairly early and get your first line out on the water by 8 am, but then nothing…..no bites, or any action for the next 3 hours! Did you miss the best times of the day to catch the fish biting, or were you too early?
This is the issue that all anglers will face at various times of the year. So what exactly are the best times of the day to go fishing?
Firstly, it should be said that you can catch fish at any time of the day or night. But there are certain times that seem to be a lot more productive than others.
Best times of the day to fish in saltwater
The main determining factors
The main things you need to look at when deciding on what time to go out fishing, are the sunrise and sunset times, lunar phases and then the daily tide times.
You can find out these by doing a simple Google search. There are also apps that you can install on your phone that also give you this info, but I have always favored a simple search on the big ‘G’.
Tide changes are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. The effectiveness of fishing at different phases of the moon has created lengthy discussion over the years, and there are so many variables included in this that it is hard to make any conclusion as to whether fishing on a full moon is productive than other phases of the moon.
A look at the weather forecast is also a sensible thing to do. While fishing in unpleasant weather may not be ideal for you the angler, it may also be the time when the fish are biting.
Just be sure to look at swells if you are going to be doing any rock fishing during inclement weather, as you do not want to put yourself in a dangerous situation.
Fishing at sunrise
Fishing at sunrise is my personal favorite time of the day to fish. I have often hooked into big fish shortly after getting down to the location just before the sun rises.
Predatory fish like to hunt under the cover of darkness, as it allows them to approach their prey without being seen.
Many believe that as the sun begins to rise, the fish go into a bit of a frenzy while they still have the remaining cover of darkness before it becomes easier for their prey to see them once it is full daylight.
Sometimes the action can be hot for an hour or two after sunrise, and sometimes just for a short while. But I always feel confident when I am throwing a bait out just as the sun is starting to rise.
Plus, seeing the sun come up at the start of the day is an experience that everyone should enjoy. Even if the bites don’t go crazy, how can you not enjoy the experience as you feel the first warmth of the sun for the new day?
Fishing at sunset
The same concept applies to predatory fish when the sun starts to set as it did when it rose in the morning. It announces that it is time to start hunting and feeding again.
If the fish have had a relatively quiet day feeding, the sun starting to drop behind the horizon can signify the time for the predators to get back into hunting mode, and they are probably a little peckish if feeing has been quiet over the daylight hours.
I have fished at sunsets before, and at times it has been as if a switch was flicked, and all the fish woke up hungry at once.
I always feel as if fish fight harder at this time of day as well. It seems that the dropping sun signifies an urgency to feed, and the baits and lures seem to get smashed harder and the ensuing fight always seems more intense.
Fishing by the tides
Fishing when the tides are stagnant, i.e right at the time of a tidal change, is not a good time for the fish to be biting. But as soon as the tides start to run in or out, then you will see the feeding activity increase, and this is when you want to have your lines in the water.
Fish get more active when the tides are running at their strongest, as the baitfish and other crustaceans are out feeding themselves, and the predatory fish take full advantage of this.
Fishing on an outgoing tide
Once the high tide turns, the outgoing tide will start to funnel all of the smaller fish and crustaceans through gullies and natural channels. This is where the predatory fish will be prowling, waiting to snap up anything that is swept into their path (hopefully your bait!).
If you are aware of any underwater structure, then these are good places to focus on with an outgoing tide. The larger fish will hide behind or within the structure waiting to ambush smaller fish as they pass.
Fishing on an outgoing tide can remain active as long as the water keeps flowing fast. As it slows down, that usually means the bites will too.
Usually, the best times to fish an outgoing tide are the first two hours after the high tide and the last two hours before the low tide.
Fishing on an incoming tide
Once low tide has passed and the water starts to rise again, you can expect the fish activity to liven up.
An incoming tide can often mean cooler and clearer waters being pushed over the shallow waters, and this encourages smaller fish and crustaceans to start to populate the pools and channels that were left exposed while the water was at its lowest.
Again, the first and last two hours are usually the most active feeding times of an incoming tide. If you aren’t aware of any structure or channels under the water to target, then keep trying different areas until you find the spots where the fish are located.
Fishing at slack water times
Slack water times are when the water runs the slowest. This usually means right on the turn of high and low tide, and also in the middle of high and low tides.
While the feeding activity does drop off during these times, it doesn’t mean to say that they will stop feeding altogether.
There will always be some hungry fish that will want to take advantage of a well-presented bait floating in front of their face.
If you are fishing from shore, then low tide is always a good time to survey the areas that you like to fish.
Sometimes you can get a really good insight into what is below the surface and some potential hot spots that you could find productive at high tide (look for holes, gullies, and structure that would attract fish).
Structure is also a good thing to observe, as you can get a better image of where the predators may be hanging out while they go searching for their food, so you can target these areas as the tide gets higher.
Best times of the day to fish in freshwater
The best times of the day to go freshwater fishing can vary a lot depending on the weather. The seasons can make a big difference too, depending on where in the world you live. For example, ice fishing in the middle of winter will often be a much better time of the year for certain species over the summer months.
One good thing when trying to decide the best times of the day to fish in freshwater is that you don’t have tide times to worry about as you do with saltwater fishing.
It can also vary quite a bit depending on what your target species is as well.
But a good thing to remember is that when you see a lot of smaller baitfish or hatches of flies on and around the water, then the bigger fish are more likely to be feeding.
Dawn and dusk are generally very good times of the day to fish in freshwater. A lot of species will be active and feeding around these times, so definitely worth the effort to ensure you have a line in the water either first thing or the last part of the day.
When the temperatures become extreme during the day, it can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, and the fish become less active.
Also if it is a very sunny day, you have to be careful about casting shadows on the water if you are fishing close by.
Shadows can spook fish, and remember that shadows will move as the sun moves through the sky during the day, so bear this in mind when you find your swim to fish at.
Fish will bite all through the day
While the above information will help you establish the best times of the day to go fishing, I should also mention that you will catch fish at all times of the day. It’s just that some parts of the day are generally known to produce better results than others.
But don’t let this discourage you from going fishing at any time of the day, as you can still hook into some decent fish outside of the ‘peak’ times too.
Any day that you can get out fishing is a good day, and if you can get out when the fish are biting the most then it will just make your day even better.
Let me know in the comments below what times of the day (or night) you prefer to go fishing!