Knowing when to go saltwater fishing can be tricky business. Have you ever set out on a beautiful day — clear blue skies with the best gear and bait that is sure to tempt — and still came home with barely a catch? Why didn’t the fish bite? Well, the answer depends on several variables and a little knowledge can go a long way in enjoying a successful fishing trip. Learn the 5 secrets to know when to go saltwater fishing and how weather, tides and light affect your angling abilities.
In general knowing when to go saltwater fishing will be at dawn or dusk (depending on the other factors below). The start and end of the day with the changing light triggers predatory fish to go feeding. Take advantage of this natural time for fish to be gathering in predictable places for a victorious time on the water.
Changes in barometric pressure associated with good and bad weather encourage unusual feeding activity. For example, the time just before a major drop in barometric pressure indicating an incoming storm encourages fish to bite. Once the storm has passed and the water quality settles the fish will return to their normal feeding patterns, sometimes extra eager after having difficulty over several stormy days locating food.
Wind can also play a factor as bait is driven to the shoreline or mud and debris is churned up in the water. Pay attention to the temperature as well — the water temperature tells where and at what depth the fish will be found. Keep in mind that fish are cold blooded creatures so the colder the water the slower the fish’s metabolism. A fish with a slow metabolism is less likely to feed but the warmer water makes them more active, and therefore more hungry and inclined to take the bait.
Another weather pattern to pay attention to is a warm spring or summer rainfall. The rain can help hide your presence among the fish and it serves to wash bait and insects into the water, prolonging feeding periods. Note that hard rain is not ideal — it creates muddy water, and potentially dangerous conditions for the fisherman.
Oftentimes closely related to the weather, the light will also impact when to go saltwater fishing and your success. While we already mentioned that the soft, low-lying light of sunset and sunrise will increase your odds of catching fish, there is more to consider. Fish often feed more in low-light conditions so heavy or intermittent clouds can play a role as well. The light will also determine what color lure would be most effective — a good rule of thumb is to match the color of your lure to the water color. A bright sunny day will call for a water-matching blue or green lure with a reflective surface. A cloudy day and murky water could require a brown, matte finish lure.
Bright sunlight puts fish on the alert as avian predators can easily see their forms silhouetted in the water. Fishing conditions won’t be as favorable at high noon on a clear day because the fish will be on the defensive rather than settling into a feeding pattern that is so favorable for fishing.
If you prefer to fish at dusk and into the evening you’ll want to take into account the moonlight. During a new moon the nights will generally be too dark for optimal fishing. During this phase of the moon you’ll see increased tide heights which increases the cloudiness of the water creating less favorable conditions. When a full moon is out however the additional light from the moon allows fish to be more active and feeding at night. The fishing will continue to improve during the waning moon because there is enough ambient light combined with a calming of the tides and more clear water.
Tides and Currents
The tides and currents will make a huge impact on your odds of success in saltwater fishing. Both these factors impact water level meaning an area that is shallow at one time of day might become nothing but bank during low tide.The gravitational pull of the moon and sun is the driving force behind the tides, forcing water up or down over different times of the day. The current moves water in specific directions, impacted by the tide, wind and water density. These two factors create water movement and fish react to both tides and currents. A simple way to think of this is to think of tide as vertical movement of water and current as horizontal movement of water.
A good rule to follow is to seek out the changing tide and moving currents. Static tides with little moving water are generally not favorable fishing conditions. Thankfully tides and currents are predictable! Referring to a tide chart to check what time of day might be best will set you up for a higher chance of success before you even hit the water.
A little research about the best tides for fishing in your area will help predict where the fish will be, which way they will be swimming and where the fish prey will congregate and you’ll be setting the stage for success.
Time of Year
If your goal is to catch a specific species of fish then be aware of the mating and feeding habits of that species during the different seasons of the year. Some varieties of fish will migrate to different areas depending on water temperature during the different seasons. Checking local fishing reports and doing a little bit of research will give you an advantage.
With these tips and tricks you’ll be well on your way to a successful fishing trip. Let us know your most memorable fishing experience. Did the weather, light and tide make all the difference? Tell us in the comments below!