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Has the bite been slow? Are your fishing frustrations mounting? The good news is that we are here to help. This article will cover the best time of the day to go freshwater fishing. The time of day that you go fishing can be the difference between a no bite and a full boat kinda day. Different species of fish will each have their own activity patterns. Know their patterns, know the area and know the species you are after.
Fish are cold-blooded and can not regulate their body temperature. Therefore, choosing the right time and water temperature for fishing is crucial for a successful day on the water. The oxygen level of the water changes when the temperature is high versus low. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water. So, the fish will change their eating habits based on the time of day and the waters temperature.
Summer, spring, fall and winter are completely different depending on the region you live in. For example, summer in Florida is 95 degrees while in Wisconsin you will see average temps in the 70’s. Behavioral patterns of fish are affected by seasons but summer is typically the go-to time for fishing in most of the United States. In general, during the summer months the best time to fish is in the early morning and late afternoon. Because fish do not have eyelids, they will tend to avoid the high sun so it is best to fish during the lower sunlight hours. During the fall the best time to fish is midday from 12 – 4 pm as the waters warm-up from the sun. However, in the southern states follow the sunrise and sunset times due to the naturally warmer water temperatures.
In addition to the season, type of fish and time of the day the most crucial fishing factor is weather. Wind, rain and clouds will all play a part with the fish bite. Wind is good. Bait fish will move with the wind and the game fish will chase them. Tip: cast into the same direction as the wind so your lure moves in the same direction as the bait fish. Rain can be both good and bad. A light rain is good because it will be harder to spook the fish with your movements and they will also be attracted to the insects washing into the waters. Hard rains are not good because the muddy bottoms will stir up causing the fish to take cover. Cloudy is almost always good. The reduced sunlight allows fish to venture out further from their hiding spots on cloudy days.
Watching the weather fronts is also a helpful tool for that additional edge. Fish tend to feed before a cold front (high pressure) passes through. They sense the changes and hurry to eat before the front. So, the several hours prior to a cold front are great times to drop that line. However, immediately after a cold front is not ideal because the change in pressure and temperature shuts fish down. They will hide in heavy cover and become inactive. Warm fronts (low pressure) cause a drop in barometric pressure and the bite will often increase.
Best Time Of The Day For Freshwater Fishing
Panfish: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Crappies, Bluegills, Perch and Sunfish are all sightfeeders. They will basically attack anything that moves and will fit in their mouth. During the summer days they will school up and head for deeper cooler water. So, the best time to fish for panfish is between 4 – 7 pm when the water begins to cool down. Late afternoon will cast shadows of trees, structures and vegetation on the water helping the panfish see surface food.
Bass: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Successful bass fishing begins at sunrise and then continues for the next 3 – 4 hours. Largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass will begin to feed on baitfish during the early morning while it is still low light. The baitfish become active early attracting the bass to become active and bite. They will slow their roll during the high sun and heat of the day. During sunset hours they will be on the hunt to feed again. However, the absolute best time of the day to go fishing for bass is typically at night. A full moon will add to a heavy bite night. For the breakdown of seasonal bass fishing tips, check out our article Bass Fishing Basics.
Catfish: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Channel, flathead and blue catfish are known to feed heavily at night. But, that is not always the best time. Catfish will feed and remain active during all hours of the day. They eat when they are hungry and not at any specific time. Night fishing is a great option if you are looking to avoid the summer heat. For Catfish, the conditions are more important than the specific time of day. The higher the water level the better. With catfish you can mix it up. Try fishing at dusk from 7 – 9 pm or in early morning light. If you want to avoid mosquitoes, fish in a quiet setting and beat the summer heat then midnight fishing is for you.
Pike: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Pike are territorial fish and will attack at all times. Walleyes, saugers, musekellunge and chain pickerel will use the calm waters in the morning to search the shallows looking to feed. Summer afternoons they will usually head to vegetation and deeper waters. The warmer water will slow them down especially when it’s hot outside, so afternoons are not your best bet. Pike feed again once the sun starts to go down and water cools. However, when the water gets to dark (after sunset) they will get lazy.
Trout: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Rainbow, brook and brown trouts will feed during the day but the best time to catch them is at sunrise and the next 2 hours. The second option is 2 hours prior to sunset until dusk. Trout have good depth perception and excellent low light vision. Warmer water temperatures during the summer will make trout more sluggish so they are best caught in the early morning. However, when there is a full moon trout will feed at night because it is cooler, they still have light and the waters will be less active (boaters, swimmers, etc.).
Salmon: Best Time Of Day To Fish
King, Atlantic, chinook, coho and pink salmon vary greatly with seasons. In the spring the best time is the early afternoon and early evening. They will hang out along the shoreline as waters warm up eating surface food. In the summer the late afternoon and early evening are prime. The water is cooling off and the salmon come towards the surface. In the fall fish for salmon during the afternoon. The sun warms up the water enough for them to be comfortable to feed. Also, in the fall they are feeding heavily to add weight prior to the winter.
Carp: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Fishing for carp is a year-round activity. However, success comes by knowing the times of day that they feed. They prefer the night and late afternoons during the summer and early afternoons in the winter. However, they are known to be caught at any hour of the day depending on specific locations. Avoid the evening during winters because they hunker down to avoid the frigid waters.
Sturgeon: Best Time Of Day To Fish
Peak times for catching sturgeon species tends to be between 6pm and 2am. At night they come into the shallows. April through October are the prime time sturgeon fishing months. They are bottom feeders so look to the ledges, channels, flats and rocks. Sturgeon move with the tide, so knowing your local tides will guide you in the right direction for specific times. Spawning season is July and August and they are aggressively feeding so check the tide and get fishing.
Fishing is always great with a full moon. Typically, the bigger the tide the more active the fish (even in freshwater). If you want to fish by the moons phases then we suggest grabbing a Farmer’s Almanac. This publication will give you additional useful weather information to help you plan the years best fishing days. And always remember: The best time of the day to go fishing is actually whenever you can go fishing!