How to Determine the Best Fishing Times

January 20, 2021

As you spend more time on the water, you’ll notice the influence that weather patterns, solunar periods, and tides have on fish behavior. These three factors are important when considering the best fishing times. If you do just a bit of homework regarding when and where to fish based on conditions, you’ll bump up your catch rates considerably.

Seasonal Weather Patterns

From a seasonal standpoint, fish can be found in certain areas and depths of a waterway depending on weather patterns and water temperatures. For example, hot summer days cause fish to become less active in shallow lakes, ponds, and rivers or can drive them into deeper parts of a waterway, where water temperatures are cooler.

During the coldest winter months, fish head into deeper waters that are less influenced by the effects of the wind and air temperatures. Since fish are cold-blooded and can’t keep their body temperature at a constant level, the water temperature will always have a major impact on physiological functions and feeding behaviors. When weighing weather into the equation, try to plan your trips around periods of stable weather that don’t include extreme high or low temperatures.

Best Day of the Week

The next step is to narrow your time frame down to certain days of week based on solunar theory. John Alden Knight proposed the idea of solunar theory back in 1926, and is the basis of today’s solunar calendars. Solunar calendars provide predictions on when there is likely to be an increase in wildlife feeding activity based on the relative position of the moon and sun. In other words, fish feed more actively when the gravitational force of the moon and the sun are the strongest. Solunar calendars provide a rating for each day of the month based on this moon and sun data. Each day of the month is generally rated as average, good, better, best, or season’s best.

One important point to keep in mind when referencing a solunar calendar; however, is that the weather will play a larger role. For example, the solunar calendar may indicate that a particular day is expected to be one of the best days of the month, but if a major cold front arrives the day or two before, inshore saltwater fishing or freshwater fishing conditions are likely to be more challenging.

Best Time of Day

Once you consider the weather and check a solunar calendar to see which days of month are likely to be good for fishing, the next step is to plan around the best time of day. Solunar calendars will always provide two major and two minor feeding activity periods during the day. I always plan to be at my fishing spot about an hour prior to the start of a major solunar fishing period. If you don’t have access to a solunar calendar, or just want to keep things simple, remember that fish feeding activity is historically associated with the hours around dawn and dusk.

Tides for Saltwater Fishing

When planning a saltwater trip, tides and current play the largest role in determining when the best fishing times will be. Ocean tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The current that is associated with this rising and falling of the oceans causes an increase in baitfish and crustacean activity, which also boosts the feeding activity of predatory game fish.

Check a local tide chart using a tide chart app or tide table to find the local tide station that is closest to your fishing location. Plan your trip based on the peak periods when the tide is either rising or falling. In other words, the more moving water or current you have during a certain time of day or night, the better fishing is likely to be. When there is little to no water movement (slack tide), fish are less likely to feed due to the lack of current and associated forage.

Pulling the Factors Together

To pinpoint the best fishing times, combine these factors. Pick a day of stable weather with no major drops or increases in temperature, check a solunar calendar to see which days around a new or full moon might mean the fish are likely to be actively feeding, and check a local tide chart for best periods of moving water if you’re planning a saltwater fishing trip.