Best Time to Fish – Solunar Cycles

When it comes to figuring out what is the best time to fish, a few factors have to be taken into consideration. Different variables present various challenges that will determine your chances of success when fishing. Some of the key factors we will go through in this article include dawn/dusk, sunny/overcasting, the phase of the moon, the barometric pressure, and the seasonal temperature. 

What is the Solunar Fishing Cycle? 

The Solunar cycle is a theory created in 1926 by John Knight which proposes that fish are more likely to feed and hence easier to catch. It uses 3 factors of the sun, the moon, and the tides, to predict time periods of high fish activity. Solunar tables have been published which use moon up/moon down, high tide/low tide, and dawn/dusk to predict major feeding periods. 

You can see the solunar tables for your local area here.

Remember, solunar tables do not look at local environmental factors. They are a good tool but shouldn’t be taken as the only truth. 

Best Time to Fish - Solunar Theory of Fishing Video

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Key Fishing Time Factors 

The solunar cycle considers three key factors to give each day and major feeding period a score. It is not just the individual factors, but the combination of them as well that matters. 

I have also added barometric pressure as an impact on fish activity based on personal experience and common angler beliefs. 

Dawn or Dusk 

Fish are cold blooded and their activity levels are often driven by the water temperature. As the temperature warms up over the day they can start to feed – particularly in colder environments. 

Dawn and dusk are renowned for being good times to go fishing. These are times when both nocturnal and diurnal fish are feeding so there is likely a crossover period with more total fish feeding. 

Sunny or Overcast 

There are also some species of fish which are particular susceptible to the bright sun (particularly with no eye lids and upwards facing eyes). They might be more likely to be active during overcast days. 

The change in weather patterns are often driven by changes in barometric pressure, which we will discuss below - So it can be difficult to differentiate between the two impacts. 

Full Moon or New Moon 

The strongest fish feeding activity occurs when there is a full moon or a new moon, and is weakest when there is a quarter moon or a three quarter moon. This is because the combined gravitational force of the moon and the sun is strongest when both are directly overhead or directly below our heads. 

Barometric Pressure 

Barometric pressure is the measurement of the pressure of the atmosphere, which has been found to impact on fish behavior. The feeling of pressure change is often too subtle for humans to feel but fish often respond. 

The pressure affects the fish’s swim bladder and low pressure forces the fish to swim deeper to offset the drop in pressure to feel more comfortable. 

The theory is that when there is a fast drop in barometric pressure, the fish will go into a brief feeding frenzy before they swim deep. 

The faster the change in barometric pressure, the better the bite. 

  • Best Fishing - Fast Falling Barometer 
  • Steady Fishing - Rising Barometer 
  • Moderate Fishing - High and Flat Barometer 
  • Poor Fishing – Low and Flat Barometer 

If you are looking for more information on the impact of barometric pressure then there is a brilliant article here which is worth your time.  

What is the Best Month for Fishing? 

The time of year is one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to determining the best time of day to fish. Fish behave differently in each season. There is a better opportunity to catch fish during certain times of day in one season versus another.  

For example, fish are not as active during winter because of the colder temperatures. While you are capable of fishing during winter months, it is often not practical.  

Spring is considered, by many, to be the best season for fishing. This is due to the increased activity of fish spawning and looking for food after being dormant during the winter. The best time of day to fish during spring increases throughout the day.  

  • During the early morning, the water is cold and fish are not as active 
  • In the afternoon, the chance to catch fish increases from the sun being overhead and creating warmer water 
  • Evening is the best time to fish during spring because the water has had the chance to warm up, and the fish will be at their most active 

Unlike spring, the best time to fish differs slightly during the summer. 

Fishing becomes difficult during the summer since fish do their best to stay away from the surface of the water due to the increased heat. The early morning presents an okay opportunity for fishing because the water will be at a decent temperature. During the heat of the day, however, the water will have become too warm, and the fish will swim deeper to cool off – this does not mean that you can’t catch them though, you may need to adjust your gear to fish deeper. 

 The evening is the perfect time for fishing during the summer. The water will be cooling off, and the fish will begin to return to the surface.  

Many would argue that fall is just as good a time for fishing as spring. Moderate temperatures, coupled with the fact that fish are preparing for the upcoming winter months, means an increased activity from fish at the surface and throughout the water.  

  • The early morning means cooler water, so the fish will be less active 
  • In the afternoon, the water will become warmer making the chance to catch fish higher  
  • By evening, the time to fish is perfect because the water has had time to heat up from the midday sun 

There are also a few other aspects to keep in mind when deciding the best time to fish - Pay attention to the weather.  

Cloudy days are a great for fishing because clouds block out the sun which keeps the water from getting too warm.  

Rain can be either good or bad. Light rain will wash bugs into the water which will attract fish. Heavy rain will reduce visibility and the ability for fish to hunt causing them to avoid the area.  

Wind pushes smaller fish to the shore, so use this to your advantage to catch big game fish that follow.  

Also, pay attention to tides, and attempt to fish one hour before and after high and low tides. Tides create movement of the water that causes a feeding frenzy attracting more fish.  

There are also significant differences in the time of day and month of the year to fish depending on what species you are targeting. For example, bass fishing will be completely different to trout fishing. 

Finding the right time to fish is easy when you know what to look for. Remember these tips, and use them during your next excursion to improve your success with catches. 

If you have any experiences or local wisdom about the best time to fish in your area then please leave a comment below.  

Happy fishing!

Russ Egan
 

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Tyrnos for an overhead reel or a Shimano Curado for a baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.

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