Saturday, January 15, 2011

When to Go Fishing

Short answer : two hours before through two hours after high tide for most species, though some do well during the same period around low tide. Night can be better with a full moon, daytime with a new moon or for sight feeders. Read on for more specifics...

I've heard the question " When is the best time to go surf fishing? " many times. The simplest answer is : go when you can , but there are several factors you can use to determine when you might have a greater chance of success , just in case you have a tight schedule. Keep in mind that what follows is my opinion based on my experience and observations. Most anglers have their own theories on the best times to go and there are a wide range of opinions on this subject.

Perfect fishing conditions for me would be an overcast day with a slight chance of rain , winds out of the northeast at a steady 5 miles per hour and high tide occurring somewhere between nine and ten o'clock in the morning. I'd also like the moon to be somewhere between new and half , but I don't worry about the moon phase as much when I'm fishing in the ocean. On a day like this , I would arrive around seven o'clock , catch bait and have everything rigged and ready to go ASAP. I would definitely fish until noon and maybe later , depending on what the fish were doing.

Overcast days have always worked well for me. I think there are several reasons why , but I can't prove it. Your line is harder for fish to see when it is overcast and it minimizes shadows that can spook the fish. Most overcast days are also associated with a nearby low pressure weather system. I've heard theories about weather and fishing that go something like this : low barometric pressure makes fish feel less full so they are more likely to eat , high barometric pressure makes the fish feel full and less likely to eat. I'll let you make your own judgments about that , but I have seen first hand that fish will bite on rainy days and not at all on the following day after the storm has passed and high pressure has started to move in.

I've discussed the wind here on the blog before , but to sum it up northeast winds push warmer water and fish towards the shore. At speeds over 5-10 miles per hour it becomes increasingly difficult to cast and the surf will get noticeably rougher , making it harder to keep your bait in place.

Tides have a pretty significant influence on fishing conditions in my opinion. High and low tides are the result of the moon's gravitational pull on the water , so the position of the moon during its orbit around Earth dictates surf conditions. You can find out more here , but basically there will be more water in your fishing hole during high tide and less during low tide. Fish seem to come in during high tide. I don't know why exactly , but more water equals more fish. Regardless of the reasons behind why fish do what they do , I've always had good luck starting two hours before high tide and fishing until two hours after. There are some people that like to fish low tide the same way and I'm sure certain species of fish have a preference for feeding during low tide.

There is a great deal of information regarding fishing and the phases of the moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac and several other sources that offer calendars with " Best Fishing Days " use the lunar calendar to predict when the fish might be biting. I'm not much on fishing at night , but it can be really productive when the moon is full. This is the reason behind my statement above about preferring a new moon. Species of fish that are primarily sight feeders are less likely to be actively feeding at night under a new moon and more likely to be caught in the morning.

The bottom line is go fishing when you can. I wouldn't let the absence of any of the conditions discussed above stop me from going , but I would try to fit a trip into my schedule if the conditions were forecast to be just right.

Have a great week!


  1. I came over from Foggy Mountain's blog and your blog title caught my eye. Surf fishing runs deep in my blood. I'm sure that has to do with being born and raised on the Eastern Shore. You're the first I've found that actually blogs about surf-fishing! Thank you, thank you, thank you. My grandfather had us surf fishing when we were in diapers....and made us vacation twice a year to Ocracoke Island, especially when the red drum were running. I will definitely be following you in the future!

  2. Thanks LB! Your grandfather sounds like my kind of fisherman , I love Ocracoke Island. Thanks for following.

  3. I think night is best myself..although ive been out a dozen plus times this year and got skunked every outing.

  4. Thanks for the info I'm a first-timer
    So I need all the resources I haven't had luck this year yet hopefully it will change.


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