Experienced anglers know that with the right equipment, technique, and a hot fishing spot, it’s possible to reel in a catch at any time of the day and night. However, there are times of the day and months and days of the year when fish are more active and likely to bite.
Here we’ll give you expert tips to build your fishing calendar so that you’re sure to hit the lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans near you at the best time to fish this year. We’ll give you guidance on when to throw in a line for popular species like bass, catfish, trout, and crappie.
Best Fishing Times Trends
There’s a lot of science that can inform the best fishing times for your area, the species you’re after, and the time of the year during which you’re casting your line. That said, there are a few universal windows where fish are typically more active and likely to bite. Here are a few examples.
Time of Day
The sun has a lot of influence on when fish swim into shallower waters to feed, and most species are more active around sunrise and sunset. If you head out about a half-hour before the sun comes up or goes down, you should see fish steadily biting for an hour or more around these windows.
The seasons can impact these windows a bit. In the summertime, both dawn and dusk are effective, but if you live up north where the seasons change, near sunset tends to be better during the spring and fall months.
Anglers down south may not notice a difference because the water temperatures don’t vary as widely and may not affect fish behavior the same way.
The pull of the moon can also influence fish behavior, and you’ll most often see that with the rise and fall of the tides. In the hour before and the hour after the peak of high and low tide, you’re more likely to see activity from nearly every species.
This same principle applies to when the moon rises and sets. If you prefer night fishing, track the time of the moonrise, and plan to cast your line within an hour of that window.
A change in pressure, which is normally accompanied by a change in weather, can sometimes trigger fish to feed. When it goes up, the weather is usually nice, and these are sometimes the best fishing days because not only do they bite, but you can enjoy every moment of the great outdoors in the process.
That doesn’t mean you should take stormy days off your fishing calendar. The best fishermen know that every species still needs to eat when the weather is bad – it’s just a matter of finding the right bait to lure them from their protected coves.
When Flies Hatch
Freshwater fish that feed on bugs and flies are in tune with their hatching seasons. When you notice that new hatchings are swarming, take note of the species and hit the water with the same type of fly to make the most of the cycle.
Days During the Lunar Cycle
We already know that the moon affects the tides, but it can also impact fish behavior in general. Anglers agree that the first half of the moon cycle, the phase between the new moon and full moon, are best for catching fish.
Fishing Calendar by Species
In addition to the best practices above, there are some specific considerations that can help you catch different species of fish. Here, we’ve rounded up advice on the best fishing times for:
Each of these freshwater fish has slightly different feeding and spawning behaviors that mean there are windows where they are easier to catch. Let’s dive deeper.
Best Times to Catch Bass
Bass are among the most prevalent freshwater fish in North America, and you can catch them in lakes, rivers, and ponds year-round. However, during their pre-spawn period in the springtime, they are exceptionally hungry and might be easier to catch.
Look for bodies of water between 55 and 65 degrees at dawn and dusk. If they’re muddy or cloudy with cover or camouflage throughout, you’re likely to have found a great spot to reel in a bass.
Check out our bass fishing tips for beginners.
Best Times to Catch Catfish
There are several different species of catfish you can fish for, and the best time to catch them will depend on what type you’re after. Blue and Channel are most active in the winter months, and springtime is prime time if you’re after a trophy class catfish.
Most species spawn in the summer, and flathead catfish are known to go into a feeding frenzy during the warmest months of the year. Because they’re storing food before the water gets cold again, you’ll reel them in easily if you hit their peak times.
Best Times to Catch Trout
Warmer seasons are the most popular time to fish for trout for several reasons. First, it’s far more pleasant to be wading in a cold stream in warm weather. Additionally, that’s also the time of year when they’re most actively looking for food.
Cast a line in the early morning or at dusk to get them biting, and also pay attention to insect activity around the water. If there are lots of flies or mosquitos near a mostly still surface, the area may be primed for a feeding frenzy that you can take advantage of.
Best Times to Catch Crappie
Another prevalent freshwater species is crappie. They can be found in every one of the 48 continental states and will head to shallow waters when they feed.
Like other fish, early mornings and spawning season are a great time to cast a line. They also are late-night eaters, and many anglers have success between midnight at 2 a.m. at reeling them in.
No matter the time, the best baitcasting reels can help you get the job done.
Build Your Fishing Calendar
Now that you know the best fishing types for many different species of fish, you can build your fishing calendar for the season. Remember that the best time to fish is always when you have time to go. Whether you’re a novice or an advanced fisherman, your technique, rig, and patience will often be what lands you the catch of the day.
Use these tips to help you plan and hone your schedule to make the most when you have time to cast a line.