You know the saying, "timing is everything"? Well, it's spot on for fishing too. When you cast your line makes a huge difference, just like your location and gear. Sadly, many folks haven't quite grasped the art of choosing the perfect fishing time. So, we're here to help you master the basics and uncover the secret to the age-old question: "When is the best time to fish?" Let's dive in.

Why Is Timing Important?

Fishing can be thought of as a game of averages. After all, there are a tremendous amount of factors outside the angler's control that influence whether or not the fish are biting and how often. The best a good fisherman can do is put themselves in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and hope for the best. But a key factor is knowing when to head out to the water to avoid wasting your precious free time. And a lot of things can influence the proper timing!

What Creates Good and Bad Fishing Times?

When is the best time to fish? The answer will vary based on a few critical factors, ranging from the obvious to the surprising.

Season (Natural and Legal)

Group fishing out on open water as the sun is going down

Seasons play a crucial role in fishing, both natural and legal ones. Winter months can be chilly and uncomfortable for you, but that's not all. Fish tend to be less active when water temperatures drop, which means they need less food and you'll get fewer bites. On the flip side, fall and spring offer prime fishing opportunities when fish are more active.

But we're not just talking about Mother Nature's seasons. Legal fishing seasons also dictate when and what you can fish. These rules outline which fish you can keep and the necessary permits or licenses you need. It's essential to stay on top of these regulations, as breaking them could lead to losing your license, hefty fines, or even worse. So, always review the rules and stay on the right side of the law.


Man and woman fishing in Alaska

Stepping beyond seasonal climates, let's chat about the day-to-day weather when you're planning to fish. Sure, weather can be unpredictable, but today's forecasts help you prepare a few days in advance. Surface conditions like water clarity and cloud cover play a role in getting those bites. Rain and wind? They can either entice fish or send them swimming away. Fun fact: even air pressure influences fish behavior—some swim to the surface as pressure drops before a storm.


Men and woman fishing on a boat in Montana

Tides might be more significant in saltwater fishing, but they're still valuable knowledge for any angler. You see, high tides can lure fish closer to shore, while low tide sends them farther out. The sweet spot? That's what we call a "running" tide—when the tide is moving in or out, enticing fish into motion. It's prime time for casting a line.

Similarly, the flow rate in rivers and streams also affects your fishing experience, as does the water level in lakes. So, whether you're a saltwater or freshwater fisherman, understanding tides and water flow can make all the difference in your catch.

Desired Fish

Man holding a fish he just caught

Certain fish may only be present in areas at one time of year or another, based on water temperatures, migratory patterns, and their general life cycle. Knowing these differences can be the difference between plentiful amounts of exactly the fish you're looking for and a strikeout of a trip. 

As noted above, timing is also crucial from a legal and regulatory perspective, with certain fish not able to be harvested before they reach a specified size, which happens around the same time each year.

How Can I Find the Best Fishing Times Where I Am?

Whether casting a line at your local fishing hole or plotting a bucket-list fishing trip, the strategies for finding the best time to go fishing are the same. Talking to experienced anglers who've spent lots of hours fishing the area can be a surefire way to find when the fish are most likely to bite. Consult local fishing or wildlife authorities to see if they can provide you with any additional resources.

In addition, technology can be your best friend. The internet is full of resources on fishing in just about every part of the country, including first-hand accounts from those who've fished there. You can also take advantage of many diverse fishing apps, allowing you to quickly check out conditions or other information on the go, wherever you have cell service or wifi. With just a few taps of your finger, you can have up-to-date data on the tides and movement of currents.

Maximizing Your Catch at the Best Fishing Times

The best way to take advantage of top fishing times is to simply be ready. Keep your eye on conditions at your favorite spots when you know you have some free time coming up or are itching for some fishing. Even an hour or two of packing and prep time can mean less peak time on the water, so having as much of your gear set to go as possible is key.

All of this information also needs to be considered for those planning longer fishing trips further from home, including to top destinations from the Florida Keys to the Great Lakes. Research yearly conditions and check out what kind of lures, bait, and other equipment are providing anglers with success. When you arrive, all you'll need to do is get out on the water and enjoy.

Timing is Everything in Fishing 

Few things are more important to fishing success than casting your line at the right time. But finding that perfect timing doesn't require a lifetime of experience or fancy, high-end equipment. With some basic research, anglers can monitor each of the key factors we've discussed that work together to create those fishing days you'll be telling stories about for years to come. 

When it comes time to gear up and cast a line, Free Fly has you covered with breathable, packable, quick-dry men’s fishing apparel or women’s fishing apparel designed for your next water-bound adventure.