Is the best time to go fishing really early morning or late evening?
Everyone’s heard it from someone who’s heard it from someone—who’s heard it from another someone.
In fact, I’ve always simply trusted my father’s words to fish when it’s dark. After all, that’s all any of us can do when no one out there’s got any definitive data on the matter.
To get to the bottom of this once and for all, we surveyed 513 anglers on what the best time to go fishing for them is.
The findings? Pretty interesting.
Here’s everything you’ll find on this page:
- How we carried out this survey
- Key Takeaways
- The best time to go fishing
- The best time to go freshwater fishing
- The best time to go saltwater fishing
- Is fishing at night good?
- Do freshwater fish bite at night?
- Do saltwater fish bite at night?
How We Carried Out This Survey
We surveyed 513 anglers (non-angler responses were deleted) and asked them an array of questions, taking into account nuances like freshwater versus saltwater fish.
To get respondents, we leveraged our large audience by asking each visitor to our site to complete a survey. We thanked our survey respondents by offering a chance to win a Piscifun ICX Frost Carbon Ice Fishing Reel, which was given to a randomly selected participant.
To ensure the integrity of our data, we asked each respondent to provide a picture of themself with their fishing gear as part of the survey. This helped us to verify that all respondents are anglers. Here’s the survey we asked them to fill up.
With the insights gathered from our community of dedicated anglers, here are the key takeaways.
- Whether it’s freshwater or saltwater fish, early morning (6:00 am to 9:00 am) is the best time to go fishing. 53.6% of surveyed anglers say they catch the most fish in that time period.
- Night time, with 28.5% of votes, is considered the next best time to go fishing after early morning. Late morning and the afternoon to evening period are considered the worst times to go fishing.
- Late morning and the afternoon to evening period are much better times to go saltwater fishing than freshwater fishing.
- Despite being less ideal than early morning, night time is still a great time to go fishing. 6 in 7 anglers have no trouble catching fish at night, whether it’s in freshwater or saltwater.
The Best time of day to go fishing
More than half of the anglers surveyed—53.6% to be exact—say they catch the most fish in the early morning, between 6:00 am and 9:00 am.
However, evening onwards is also a great time to go fishing, with 28.5% of respondents selecting this as the prime time for fishing.
In contrast, the late morning and afternoon-to-evening periods are deemed less optimal for fishing, chosen by only 7.0% and 10.9% of respondents respectively.
Anglers have long debated over whether early morning or evening is a better time to fish, and now, finally, we have our answer—with almost twice the votes, early morning beats evening hands down.
Having said that, evening is still a pretty good time to go fishing. After all, more than 1 in 4 anglers say they catch the most fish at that time.
On the other hand, late morning and the afternoon to evening period are very obviously terrible times to go fishing.
Only 1 in 14 anglers say late morning (9:00 am to 12:00 pm) is the time that catches most fish.
And only 1 in 9 anglers say the time period from afternoon to evening (12:00 pm to 6:00 pm) catches the most fish.
We also surveyed anglers on what time freshwater and saltwater fish bite respectively, and interestingly, much fewer anglers felt that early morning was the best time to catch saltwater fish.
What Time Do Fish Bite?
The results for freshwater fish are roughly the same as that for fishes in general.
Unsurprisingly, early morning is still the best time to go fishing, with almost 3 in 5 anglers (59.0%) saying they catch the most freshwater fish at this time.
Following behind is again, evening, with 24.1% of anglers selecting this as their ideal freshwater fishing time.
Late morning and the afternoon-to-evening period got 6.2% and 10.7% of the votes respectively.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
When it comes to saltwater fish, only 46.0% of surveyed anglers say they catch the most fish in the early morning. This is a sharp drop from the 53.6% for fishes in general and 59.0% for freshwater fish.
There was only a slight drop for evening (24.5%).
However, roughly twice as many anglers (13.3%) said late morning is the best time to catch saltwater fish. And about 1.5 times as many anglers (16.2%) say the afternoon-to-evening period is when they catch the most saltwater fish.
There’s definitely a clear difference in the ideal timings for saltwater and freshwater fishing.
This is likely due to the presence of factors like tide timings and baitfish activity.
Predatory fish often feed before and after low tide and high tide. As such, the increase in anglers who chose late morning and afternoon to evening may be attributed to favorable tide changes in this time period.
Saltwater bodies also have a wider variety of baitfish. As such, there’s a higher chance of at least one of those baitfish being more active during either of those time periods.
Nevertheless, early morning remains the best time to catch fish, followed by evening. Just know that if you’re planning to do saltwater fishing, the period from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm is a more viable time to catch fish than if you were fishing in freshwater.
Why It’s Hard To Determine
One would think “What’s the best time to fish?” should be an easy question to answer.
After all, the best time to go fishing would be when fish are actively looking to feed, so the question is when are fish most active?
Scientists have long established that cooler temperatures generally decrease the metabolism of cold-blooded creatures, while warmer temperatures increase it. In theory, this means that fish should be more active in the late morning and the afternoon, when waters are warmer.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.
When are fish most active?
According to the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA), a long-standing American environmental organization founded in 1922, although warmer temperatures increase the metabolic rate of fish, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water also decreases.
This means as fishes’ metabolic rate increases and they need more oxygen, the amount of oxygen unfortunately decreases. Fishes tend to react negatively to this.
Also, when water temperatures rise, fish become stressed and their bodily functions become affected. This can cause them to stop feeding and makes them less likely to hunt for food.
Source: Izaak Walton League of America
So warmer temperatures increase fishes’ metabolism, but also deprive them of oxygen and stress them out. As such, it’s hard to determine whether fishes will be more active during warmer (afternoon and late morning) or cooler temperatures (night and early morning).
Given this paradox, science alone is insufficient to identify the peak activity periods for fish, which also means it can’t help us find the best time for fishing.
Well, if we don’t know about fish activity levels, how about fish feeding times then?
Fish Feeding Times
According to Aqueon, a leading aquarium equipment manufacturer, most fish feed in the early morning and at dusk.
And yet The Spruce Pets, with its veterinary review board comprised of veterinary doctors, says otherwise. According to The Spruce Pets, in nature, fish will eat based on food availability, so they will eat whenever they have a chance, i.e. at any time of the day.
Once again, there’s conflicting information by different credible sources. This only adds to the difficulty of determining the best fishing times.
Ultimately, data is king. It should be clear by now how without concrete evidence, there’s simply no way to find the ideal time to go fishing.
But does centuries of experience count for nothing? Do age-old beliefs passed down many generations of anglers hold any truth? Let’s find out.
Is Fishing At Night Good?
76.3% of anglers surveyed consider night time to be a good time for fishing.
So yes, this longstanding belief does indeed hold true. Night time might not be as good as early morning, but as you can see from the survey results, there’s no denying that it’s still a great time to go fishing.
Once again, we’ve also surveyed anglers on both freshwater and saltwater fish.
Do freshwater fish bite at night?
A staggering 86.9% of anglers surveyed say that freshwater fish do bite at night. Breaking down this percentage, 57.7% of the anglers say they bite well at night, while 29.2% feel the bites are only decent.
Clearly, night is a great time to go freshwater fishing. Although roughly 3 in 10 anglers say freshwater fish only bite decently at night, at least they’re still biting.
Only 13.1% say they have trouble catching freshwater fish at night.
Do saltwater fish bite at night?
85% of anglers surveyed say that saltwater fish do bite at night. Specifically, the percentage who say they bite well at night is 57.7%, the same as for freshwater fish, while 27.3% feel the bites are only decent.
So there isn’t much difference between freshwater and saltwater fish. Either way, most anglers agree that they bite well at night, roughly a quarter believe say only bite decently, and only 1 in 7 anglers say that they have trouble catching fish at night.
In other words, 6 out of 7 anglers have no trouble catching both freshwater and saltwater fish at night.
All in all, although science and age-old practices are great sources of wisdom, it’s always best to rely on solid data.
To sum things up, early morning is the best time for fishing, as confirmed by more than half of the anglers we surveyed. Another great time to fish is evening, which about a quarter of surveyed anglers picked as the best time for fishing.
Late morning and afternoon are generally really bad times to go fishing. If you’re doing saltwater fishing though, you’ll enjoy slightly better luck fishing during those time periods. Nonetheless, early morning and evening are still the best times, so try to fish during those periods.
Of course, nothing beats first-hand experience. So if after some fishing, you feel that the ideal fishing time at your local water body is different from what our survey says, follow your gut, it’s rarely wrong.
But for those who need some guidance, hopefully, you now have much more clarity when it comes to planning your fishing trips.
Best of luck fishing, whatever time of day you decide to go at. And most importantly, make sure you have the right gear.