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When it comes to fishing, there is never a one-size-fits-all approach. That is why, when it comes to the best time of day to fish, you need to consider not only where you are, but the kind of fish you’re going after. Ultimately, these facts will dictate the best time of day to fish more than anything else.
Morning vs. Afternoon vs. Night
When it comes to the best time of day to fish, the morning vs. afternoon vs. night debate will hinge on the water temperature and the amount of light. There will be some fish that are more active during specific times of the day based on the water temperature. This is also true for the current time of year. So while you might fish in the morning of a summer day, you may fish in the afternoon of a spring day based on temperature. It all comes down to the kind of fish and location over anything else.
General Fishing Time of Day
Sometimes you may not know what exactly you’re fishing for. While it is always best to do your research on the given location ahead of time (this will also help you decide what bate works best) you can make generalized assessments based on the time of year for when you should go fishing.
During the summer months, for example, it’s best to go fishing early in the morning or late in the evening. The water temperature cools down significantly during these times. Often, the early morning is best as it allows for an entire night to cool down the water temperature, but late evening can also work.
If you’re fishing during the fall or spring months, you’ll usually want to go around dusk. Before you head out for fishing, check out the laws of the area. If you’re on state, local, or federal grounds there may be time restraints for when you can be present on a certain area of land.
How to Determine the Best Time of Day to Fish?
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In order to determine the best time of day to fish you need to do some research ahead of time. Don’t just show up to a water source and cast out a line. Look up what kind of fish is present in the water. Without this information, you’ll be fishing with one arm tied behind your back as you won’t know the time of day or the kind of bait to use.
Fishing for Bass
If you’re fishing for bass, the best time of the year to go out and fish is during the animal’s pre-spawning period. This is during the spring when water temperatures sit between 55 and 65 degrees. During these conditions you’ll want to go out and fish either early in the morning or later in the evening. Wait for the sun to dip down so it isn’t very bright. Bass do not like the bright water and will stay away for the most part during these conditions.
If you don’t have the option to fish early in the morning or later in the evening, wait for a cloudy day or look for muddy water. Both the clouds and mud will block out the sun, which can increase fish movement in the water. In these instances you can fish during the day. Outside of this, when it comes to the best time of day to fish for bass, shoot for early morning and later evening hours during the spring.
Fishing for Trout
If you are fishing for trout, you’ll want to wait for bug season. Yes, it won’t be as comfortable for you (make sure to bring the bug spray), but when the mosquitoes are biting is the best time of the day and year to fish for trout. Typically, this is during the warmer months. You may also want to look for still water as the insects will be thicker here, which is prime feeding for trout. As this breed of fish is not as sensitive to light as bass is, you can go throughout most of the day.
Fishing for Steelhead
If you’re out looking for the best time of day to fish regarding steelhead, you can go just about any time of day during the early summer. This is prime fishing season for steelhead. However, later in the summer months you’ll want to go fishing right before sundown.
Fishing for Walleye
As for the best time of day to fish walleye, you’ll want to head out during the spring and fall seasons. The temperature is just right to catch these fish during this time of the year (for the spring months look for April or May, or in the fall months look for September and October). Spring is typically better than fall as walleye breed during the spring months and feed rather aggressively.
During the fall, you’ll find the walleye are likely to be larger, although fewer in number, so while you’re more likely to catch something during the spring, the fish will be larger in the fall. Avoid fishing during the day for walleye. Early night fishing is excellent for this kind of fish, although early morning is still desirable. Stick close to the shore for this kind of fish.
Fishing for Perch
Depending on where you live and where you are fishing, perch may be the best option for local fishing. The optimal time of day will depend on the time of year. If you are fishing during the later spring months and early summer months, you’ll want to shoot for either early morning or early evening hours. If you are fishing during the late summer months moving into fall, you will want to fish later in the evening. Once it transitions from dusk to night though, you’ll want to pack it up as perch don’t usually bite during the night.
Fishing for Crappie
If you’re out fishing for crappie – which for many is a relatively underrated fish in terms of taste – you’ll want to shoot for either the evening or early morning. This is one kind of fish that is excellent to go after during the night. Crappie will feed at night, so if you can head out and be set up between midnight and 2 AM, you should set yourself up to catch a good number of fish. This is also a fish you can go after if you’re looking at ice fishing.
Fishing for Bluegill
Bluegill is a fish that can be found in different areas around the country. Due to the different habitats there can be a larger range of when the optimal time of day is. Typically though, the best time of the year to go fishing for bluegill is during the spring. The bluegill will spawn during the early summer, so if you know bluegill is in the water where you will fish, this can be a desirable time to go.
As for the time of day, it isn’t as specific based on the location options, but typically, you’ll want to shoot for early to mid morning. The temperature will be just right to head out for the fish. During the afternoon in the late spring it can be too warm for substantial movement.
Other Tips and Considerations
It is always important to keep in mind the tides if you are fishing near a beach. Fish will move in larger numbers during tidal shifts, so this can give you a greater opportunity to catch fish. If you are fishing near the beach, look this information up ahead of time and you’ll be rewarded with an optimal fishing time.
If you are a year-round fisher and enjoy the colder weather fishing, you’ll want to avoid fishing during the evening or morning hours. During this time of year, the sunlight is your friend. It will help heat the water up and the fish will be more active. So regarding winter fishing, you’ll almost always want to shoot for mid-day through the afternoon.
Most fish you go after will avoid activity during the night. However, there are a few specific kinds of fish that are prime targets during the nighttime. Catfish and walleye are two prime examples. These fish come out to feed during the first portion of night. Ideally, you will head out with a cloudless night and when the moon is out to provide enough lighting for the fish.
When it comes down to the best time of day to fish, it ultimately will always depend on the kind of fish you’re going after. Each kind of fish is a little different and likes different water conditions. So while you can take the general information on the time of day based on season and even when the tide changes, the more important information to consider is the kind of fish. This will specifically indicate the time of day and from there, you can make the necessary adjustments.