Fishing season is well underway for many fishermen across the country. And while most sportsmen wouldn’t dream of heading out to hunt or fish without the right equipment, many don’t realize the importance of learning how animals react to the environment around them. Knowledge of this interaction can lead to more trophies on the wall, more food in the frying pan, and more fond memories.
Millions of people have access to a fishable body of water, and the means to catch fish are affordable on almost any budget. Whether it’s fishing with night crawlers at the local pond or fly fishing the blue ribbon rivers of the West, fishing at the right time can prove to be the difference between tight and slack lines.
Ideal water temperature varies from species to species, but a few hot or cold days in a row can quickly push temperatures above or below the sweet spot, especially in small bodies of water.
While a beautiful, sunny day may beckon you to head out to your favorite watering hole, cloudy, overcast days, and even days with light rain, are when fish bite the best. Clouds help remove shadows on the banks of the water, which makes the fish less fearful. Predatory fish often have better low light vision than their prey and, therefore, hunt better on low light days. This is also why dawn and dusk can be some of the most productive times to fish.
Heavy rain can turn off the bite (in small bodies of water in particular) and makes it unpleasant to be out on the water anyway. Wind can also affect the world beneath the surface. In some situations, the water and waves churned up by the wind can push baitfish against the shore where game fish will key in on them. However, wind can make it difficult to fish and even dangerous to be on the water in some situations.
Barometric pressure can be the surest indicator of whether or not the fish will bite. A falling barometer will cause them to actively feed, peaking at the lowest point of pressure just before bad weather arrives. This is the time to be fast and aggressive with your fishing tactics. Once bad weather has moved through—and a high-pressure system ushers in cool, clear days—the bite almost immediately shuts down. This is the time to switch to a slow, finessed strategy or just stay home. Once the barometric pressure settles down, the bite will slowly come back to normal.
Do Phases of the Moon Affect Fish?
The phases of the Moon can affect fish activity greatly. Like deer, fish are most active during the few days before and after a full and new Moon. These times can be especially productive if the Moonrise or Moonset coincides with the sunrise or sunset (see the Calendar pages for exact times of Moonrise/set).
Saltwater fish are especially affected by the phase of the Moon, which create extra high and low tides. Higher tides can draw fish into new hunting grounds, especially if they have triggered the spawning of prey fish that may be easily tracked down. On the other hand, lower tides may concentrate fish in spots where they might not be during normal water levels.
Of course the best way to make these cues work for you is to keep a fishing journal. Recording the weather — the time of day, the lunar phase and position, as well as the tactics you used and the success of your outing — will help you become a more successful angler.
We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of it for you — Be sure to also consult our Best Days Fishing Calendar here.