Best Times to Fish

Too many hot days in the summer can make fish in shallow lakes, ponds and rivers sluggish. Actually the same thing happens in the winter when water temperatures are lower. Why? Fish are cold-blooded. They can't keep their body temperature at a constant level like humans or other warm-blooded animals. So the temperature of the surroundings influences the fish’s body temperature and functions. Really high or really low water temperatures reduce the amount of oxygen in the water making fish less active.

So the first rule of when to fish is that fishing will be slower when it's too hot or too cold. Understanding biology will help you decide what kinds of lures and baits to use and how fast or slow to work them. Work your tackle slower and colder water and faster in warmer water.

Fish prefer early morning and evening sun to the bright sun of mid -day. Morning sun warms the shallows and creates comfortable water temperatures for fish to feed. Late morning is best when the sun is had more of a chance to warm the shallows. This is particularly true in early spring with darker mud bottoms because dark areas absorb heat more rapidly than light sandy bottoms. Warm water temperatures make baitfish more active and available to game fish on a cool early spring day. On a hot sunny day, fish move to shallow water and top water lures and fishing bait are best in the early morning and late afternoon with cooler temperatures and lower light levels. The mid day, hot water surface temperature, decreased service oxygen and occasional increasing winds cause fish to move deeper. In these conditions, deep fishing baits, rigs and lures are best. You can now see how a combination of time of day, light and weather affects your fishing.

Spring early morning - fish aren't biting, the water is cold and doesn't heat up because the sun is low and the rays bounce off the water. Best to wait a week or so after the thaw, spring turnover takes time for the water temperature to even out to 39.2°.

Spring Late morning-early afternoon - fish are biting on and off. The water begins to warm up because rays begin to penetrate the water. Remember to fish the downwind shoreline, as the winds will push the warmer surface into that area.

Spring Afternoon-early evening – Fish are eating a lot because their metabolism and digestion are cranked. Water is warm because the sun is directly overhead.

Summer early morning - fishing is excellent before sun up to midmorning. At this time of the year there is abundant food so finding a hungry fish can be a challenge.
Summer late morning-early afternoon = fishing is poor for most of the day. Fish moved to deep water to cool off.
Summer afternoon early evening - fishing is excellent from early sundown till dark as the waters cool and fish rise from the depths.
Fall early morning - fish are biting much from sun up to early morning. The water is cool because the sun is too low to penetrate the water.
Fall late morning-early afternoon - fish are biting on and off in warmer, shallow water. The water is generally cool due to the season.
Fall afternoon-early evening - fishing at this point is excellent. Sun is directly overhead for several hours and water gets more comfortable near the surface. This makes for seasonally good fishing because fish want to put on weight for the winter.

Wind can play a large role in when the fish. Wind pushes water and surface food to the far shore, with baitfish behind it, and with game fish behind the baitfish. So if you're fishing from shore and windy day, fish where you have to cast into the wind. That way your lure moves with the wind, just like the other food in the lake at the same time. If you're fishing from a boat, cast with the wind on a sheltered shore.

Storms and changing weather patterns affect fishing success since fish are keenly attuned to changes in barometric conditions. Many fish increase their feeding during the hours immediately before a cold front, but slow down after a storm. Fishing after a cold front is poor and continues to be poor for a day or two. Warm fronts cause surface water temperatures to increase, putting fish into a feeding mode. This is particularly true in the winter, when a warming trend can cause sluggish fish to start feeding actively. Most of the feeding activity is on or near the surface.

Cloudy days improve fishing since the clouds prevent light penetration. Overcast skies signaling to fish because they cause fish to cruise for food more than they would during a bright day when they tend to hide and stay close to structure. On overcast, cloudy days fish are likely to be a specific structure spot or areas and are more likely to be out scattered in waterway.

A light rain is another good time to fish, especially a warm spring or summer rain. Rain can help you hide from the fish since the rain breaks up the view of fish house through the water surface. This is true for sure, Wade or boat fishing. Rain also washes insects and fishing bait into the water creating a feeding binge.

Hard rain conditions are poor time to fish. Hard rain metals the water and makes it difficult for fish to find bait and lures and causes heavy runoff, which clogs the gills. Increased water flow and rivers from any rain increases current flow and makes it difficult for fish to maintain a comfortable position in the river. High water levels can also create rapids, waves and unsafe fishing conditions. Now that you know these are the best times to fish during the different seasons, check your state's fishing regulations and purchase your fishing license online.