Matt on a rare fresh water expedition.
Matt on a rare fresh water expedition.

As the above equation demonstrates, there are many factors that influence your success in fishing.  Some of the factors are ecological, astrological, some are meteorological, physiological, and this list could go on ad infinitum.

Time of Day

I’ve been asked many times as to when you should fish.  My answer is always yes.  Meaning that it is far more important to take advantage of an opportunity to fish than to worry about what time of day it is when you’re fishing.  That being said, I prefer fishing at night for a myriad of reasons.  There are far less people out. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught was at night.  My highest numbers were caught at night.  Being out at night is far less taxing on the body than being in the sun.


Short Term Weather- My experience is when low pressure moves through, the fishing is better.  Yes, this means fishing in the rain, but don’t go fishing in thunderstorms.

Long Term Weather- If there’s a drought, that affects the salinity in the bays and tidal rivers which means certain species of fish can end up where they normally aren’t.  The reverse of this is true for really wet seasons.


Force of wind effects the ability to fish both by the roughness of water, the ability to cast and moving schools/shoals of bait fish.  Heavy winds can be both beneficial and detrimental, so can sustained winds from a particular direction.  The key here is learning how to exploit what is at hand.  There are also certain species of fish that seem to not feed as much when the wind is coming from a specific direction.


Current effects where fish will be, where food sources will be, types of fish present, types of food present, and approaches that need to be taken to catch fish.


Tide cycle is roughly twelve hours, so generally there are two high tides and two low tides each day.  How quickly the tide shifts, meaning how quickly it takes to reach high or low tide, is dependent on your distance from the Equator and the North Pole. This is also influenced by how far away from the ocean you are when fishing.

In my area, the tidal switch normally takes four and a half to five hours, with roughly an hour slack water, when it is high tide or low tide.  There is no tidal influence on the water during this time.  This does not mean there will not be current or wind movement of the water.  Certain species feed heavier while the tidal shift is happening and don’t feed as heavily during slack water.  As far as which is better, outgoing or incoming tide, depends on location.

Moon Phase

Lunar cycle is 28 days.  Yes, the tide is directly tied into the moon, but it also effects fishing, particularly night fishing.  In my experience, I’ve caught very little on the new moon.  The closer it gets to the full moon, the better the fishing usually is, that being said I normally don’t fish out going tides during the full moon. The tides both low and high are more severe during the full moon, so there tends to be more detritus in the water during the outgoing tide of a full moon. The influence of the moon affects fishing both day and night. The phase of the moon which is best for fishing depends on which species is being targeted.

A ring perch caught and released during their spawn.
A ring perch caught and released during their spawn.


These factors include when food sources hatch, when food sources spawn, and when they shed or molt.  The spawning time of the species of fish being targeted also influence fishing. Most species of fish population density gets greater during the spawn, so they are easier to catch.  Understanding the life cycle of animals the fish is preying on will help to know when to use lures that imitate that prey or bait that is that prey.  For example, blue crabs population’s  biggest molts usually happens around the full moon.  During the full moon, there are more soft crabs (crabs that have molted but their shells have not hardened yet) and peeler crabs (crabs that are about to molt) for the fish to target.


Understanding how a fish is built and therefore feeds greatly enables you how to present your bait in the most effective way.  For example, a white perch has a mouth that is on the front of his head near the bottom but still in front.  Meaning he usually attacks prey straight on or from underneath.  So you are more likely to catch a perch using bait that is suspended in the water column than resting on the bottom.

Black drum’s mouth is on the underside of their head they feed with their mouths on the bottom and their tail up.  In shallow water, some species of fish like the black drum, you can actually see their tails out of the water.

Frequently fish with their mouths on the bottom are what is called scent predators as opposed to sight predators.  Scent predators track their prey by scent, and these species typically have barbels that assist with the location of prey.

Some species of sight predator fish, like fluke, flounder and catfish, are ambush hunters, meaning they wait for something to swim by and then they attack.  Typically, they lay on the bottom around structures on the bottom. Others, like blue fish and mackerel, swim continuously looking for prey.



My real point behind all this is that there are many things that need to be considered to be effective at fishing.  You can’t just drop a hook with bait on a line and expect to catch fish.  One of the things I have learned from a lifetime of fishing is that the only absolutes are those regulations placed on us by law.  There is no box to think outside of.

All this being said, my point is that there are many things that influence your success at fishing.  Though sometimes, even under the most ideal conditions fishing is not favorable and sometimes under the worst conditions, fishing is favorable.

Do yourself a favor and go fishing and if you can, take a kid with you.


A throw back to a day fishing with my first born, Henry. He's a strapping lad of 17 now.
A throw back to a day fishing with my first born, Henry. He’s a strapping lad of 17 now.

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