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 factors are important to consider when pinpointing the best fishing times.

Doing a bit of “homework” regarding where and when to fish based on conditions can bump up your catch rates considerably. In other words, if you want to catch more fish… keep on reading.

Seasonal Weather Patterns

When getting started, it’s important to understand that fish will be found in particular areas and depths of a waterway depending on current weather patterns and water temperatures. For example, hot summer days can 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, a general rule for selecting the best fishing times is to pick a period of stable weather that doesn’t include extreme high or low temperatures.

Best Day of the Week

Since you know that fish will be more active during stable weather periods, let’s run through how to choose a particular day of the week for fishing based on solunar theory.

Solunar theory was proposed by John Alden Knight back in 1926, and is the basis of today’s solunar calendars which provide predictions on when there is likely to be a boost in wildlife feeding activity based on the position of the moon and sun. Solunar calendars are based on the theory that fish tend to feed more actively during peak solunar periods 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.

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.

In addition to the best days of the month, a solunar calendar will also provide two major feeding periods and two minor feeding periods throughout the day. This leads us to the subject of how to narrow down a particular time of day that will be best.

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. As mentioned, a solunar calendar will provide two major and two minor feeding activity periods during the day. I generally like 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 a boost in fish feeding activity is historically associated with the hours around dawn and dusk.

Tides for Saltwater Fishing

When planning a saltwater trip, tides are the primary factor as far as when the best fishing times will be. Ocean tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The movement of the water that is associated with this rising and falling of the oceans causes an increase in baitfish and crustacean activity, which boosts the feeding activity of predatory game fish. Generally speaking, the more pronounced the tidal movement, the better the fishing tends to be.

Check a local tide chart (using a tide chart app or tide table) to find the tide station nearest you, and plan your trip based on when the tide is either rising or falling. When there is little to no water movement (slack tide), fish are less likely to feed due to the lack of current and forage that is carried along with it.

Pulling the Factors Together

To pinpoint the best fishing times, you’ll want to 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.