Of all the big fish that I have ever caught, fresh or saltwater, river or lake, surf or bay, at least 95% have come between 10 am and 8 pm. So I guess this is the question: is the “early worm catches the fish” theory based on fact, or is it based on the fact that more people are actually fishing in the morning?
There is nothing like motoring out to the spot on a placid calm morning before the sun comes up. The ultimate feeling of calm and serenity is unparalleled, and when I am on the water at this time, few places or feelings can beat it. It is the ultimate escape, but is it necessary? I'm beginning to discover that, for me, this feeling of peace is the reason for an early rise, NOT because the fishing is necessarily better.
Granted, there are certain situations where time of day is emphasized, but on those days, something else has to be right as well. For instance, I have had a few days in San Diego Harbor where we are on the water before the sky is light and have done very well. However, that bite is not based on time of day but rather the fact that the tide was incoming on that particular morning. Also, if fishing a mountainous region like the Eastern Sierras in August when the water temp is at its peak, early mornings can be best.
I did not discover this (nor do I necessarily live by it) by actually charting or analyzing my days, so I have no statistical information to back this up. It was when I was in college, when waking up before 10am was blasphemy, that I started to realize that I might not be missing out on too much by getting to the water this late. Sure, I would get to a lake or spot and hear the “You should have been here this morning. It was better” line, but then I started to notice things. The individual who would deliver this line was still sitting in the same spot with the same rig. He wasn’t changing with the conditions. I also started to read up on various tidbits from the experts. One particular line from a famous fishing book stood out.
His name was Bill Murphy, an iconic big bass chaser from San Diego. He wrote a book called In Pursuit of Giant Bass, which became the gospel for big bass hunters across the country. The book discusses everything from time of year, depth, lures, boat position, moon phase, anchoring, you name it. One section he discussed briefly was time of day. He simply stated that he had caught the majority of his big fish between 10 am and 2 pm. This is from arguably the greatest big bass angler of all time, so why does everyone want to get there early? Do they have things to do later and this is the only time they can get to fish?
One thing has become clear to me: just because the fish stopped biting in an area where they were biting in the morning does not mean that they have stopped biting altogether. Maybe they moved deeper, maybe they moved to the east, who knows, but they are still there and can be caught.
In the Eastern Sierras, from the Owens Valley to Bridgeport there are legends and myths abound, from Bigfoot to John Muir. One particularly newer story involves a group, the High Noon Hunters. Their motto- “Anybody can catch a fish at 6 am, but it takes a real pro to catch one at high noon.” I don't know if this group of renegades is onto something or not, but their legend is growing, and tradition cannot grow from nothing right? The Old Timers, who have fished the region for generations and are always on the water by dawn, look down on this group with disdain, cursing the very mention of they who dare challenge the status quo by fishing no earlier than 10 am. Who is right?
If you do make it to the afternoon hours, there is a guarantee: there will be a lot less competition from other anglers. The boat traffic will be less as well. In short, try to get the honey-dos done in the morning next time. You might be surprised.
Brady grew up in North San Diego County. His home lakes were Dixon and Wohlford, but when Diamond Valley opened it became one of his passions. He also fly fishes the Eastern Sierras, particularly Hot Creek and the East Walker. When the surface action begins in the ocean in late spring and summer, he fishes offshore 2 or 3 times a week. He lives in Long Beach and is very close to some excellent surf fishing spots for halibut, corbina, and spotfin.
Fits right along with my belief, the best time to fish is whenever you can get on the water. On trafficked waters I do believe that late day can be better in that the boats create waves that stir things up, resulting in a strong "boat" bite.
have noticed here in CO especially with the higher elevation lakes, morning and dusk are certainly better. The predators seem to come in shallow in the morning and best bite seems to be as the sun comes up. Also at that time, if the lake is very calm and a breeze comes in to stir the water, the bite is even better.
Being on the water when the sun comes up and its nice and calm
is a great fishing experience!
Mornings when I can sleep in are too rare to get up early these days. But I used to fish at sunrise a lot, back in the day. The main reason was because top water action is at its best as the sun is just coming up, and I always loved top water fishing. There's nothing quite like the sight and feel and sound of a top water strike to get the heart beating fast.
Top water fly fishing in the high alpine lakes and streams of Colorado is undoubtedly more productive during the early morning hours and the dusk hours. This may primarily be because of the insect hatch that corresponds to that time of day, but regardless the bite is better at those times for high alpine trout on top water.
based on my experience, there is absolutely no best time of day to catch a really fig fish.
I have had great success fishing at dawn through around 10 am. Depending on location good catches in the afternoons and early evenings. For my fishing the weather, sun, wind, seems to play a larger part in my catch rate than the time of day.
Some of us just get started as the Sun is setting and darkness takes over. Its great sleeping in late! Caught a few big walleye years ago at dawns early light. Most of my big eyes have bit between 10pm and midnight! A few just as the Sun sets. Its a fact that the rapid change in light intensity at dusk and dawn is a major trigger for some specie.
Nice write up man! I guess you can get that early morning "escape" by fishing through the night and into the morning for channel cats. Where I happen to fish, the night is the best bite around, and many of the locals don't even head to the reservoir until sun down.
I generally get out early because I just want to go fishing as soon as possible. I also have to say most of my biggest fish have been caught in the morning or evening, but that's probably just because those are the times I go fishing the most.
Good one. Exchanging greetings with the sun, just as she makes her daily appearance, is what does it for me. Fish or no fish.
It’s not so much about the bite as it is about the crowds. Many Front Range lakes (and ramps) get absolutely crazy after 10:00ish in nice weather. My approach is to get to the lake at dawn and leave by 10:00 or so...about the time most of the "zoom-zoom" crowd starts showing up. Either that or show up at 6:00pm...after they have headed home to sleep it off...heh
As far as bass fishing goes here in Florida, I have caught the better numbers before 10 am but the bigger fish have come later in the day after noon. I would say the early morning bit is about 30% of our catches.
Appreciate all the comments guys. It's interesting to hear the ideas about times. I'm going to hit Irvine lake this weekend and don't plan on being there before 830 or so, whenever I get finished with my French Slam from Denny's. I'm also the guy who has slept in my truck at the gate of Diamond Valley just to be the first one out there. Depends on the day I guess.
Good fishing to all.