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Those unfamiliar with fishing often believe they simply need to cast a line and wait for a bite. Although that’s the overarching idea, the sport has many nuances and complexities that beginners don’t know. One of these nuances is the weather. Weather plays a huge role in determining fish activity.
The best weather for fishing can look quite different depending on the location and season, and experienced anglers tend to dive into analytics like barometric pressure. Although barometric pressure is helpful, it doesn’t mean anything to the average fisherman who just wants to cast some lines and enjoy himself.
We decided to keep things in layman’s terms and focus on three variables that anyone can measure – temperature, precipitation and time of day. So here it is: Modded’s comprehensive guide to the best weather for fishing!
The Best Weather for Freshwater Fishing
A successful day of freshwater fishing usually happens under stable water temperatures and cloudy skies, but there are exceptions to that rule. Here are the weather conditions you should look for when preparing to fish in freshwater ponds, lakes, creeks and rivers.
All fish are sensitive to water temperature changes, but freshwater fish in particular don’t like when the water gets too hot or cold. When things get too warm, they often take shelter in the depths and covered areas, so fishing within the optimal temperature range will strongly influence your success. Here are the best ranges for some popular freshwater fish:
- Trout: 52-64 degrees Fahrenheit
- Smallmouth Bass: 63-68 degrees
- Largemouth Bass: 65-75 degrees
- Striped Bass: 50-70 degrees
- Catfish: 68-72 degrees
- Musky and Pike: 60-65 degrees
- Crappie and Perch: 68-72 degrees
As you can see, some fish are more sensitive than others. It takes a precise temperature range to get substantial catfish activity, while the striped bass is a little more versatile. You should purchase a fishing thermometer to get an accurate reading.
Freshwater fish also have acute reactions to sky conditions and precipitation. You can expect to see the best results on cloudy days when the sun doesn’t beat down on the water’s surface. The lower lighting and calm waters entice larger fish to leave their hiding spots and feed, and the smaller fish follow hoping to pick up the scraps.
Sunny days increase water temperatures and force fish to hide in shaded areas (under trees, docks, etc.), which means the water won’t be as active as usual. Rainy days decrease water temperatures and often cause the fish to relocate, intentionally or not. However, you can catch many fish after a shower if you move downstream to faster-moving water or to areas with the greatest light exposure.
3. Time of Day
Sunrise and sunset are by far the best times to fish in freshwater pools. The sun’s rays aren’t warm enough to disturb the water temperature, but the water near the surface is transparent enough for them to look for food. Fish like to have their feeding frenzies during these time periods. That’s why you often see anglers in their boats at the crack of dawn or just before dusk.
The Best Weather for Saltwater Fishing
Saltwater fishing is more difficult than freshwater fishing because of the ocean’s unpredictability, but catching fish is also more straightforward. First of all, the sheer abundance of fish increases your likelihood of a good catch. Saltwater fish are also more tolerant to adverse weather and aren’t so particular about bait. However, they still prefer certain conditions over others.
Saltwater fish usually have smaller temperature ranges than freshwater fish, but they also have access to farther and deeper ocean waters. If things get too warm or too cold, they can always look for more amicable waters. They can afford to be particular. Here are the optimal temperature ranges for some prominent saltwater game fish:
- Striped Bass: 55-68 degrees Fahrenheit
- Atlantic Salmon: 56-60 degrees
- Pacific Salmon: 42-48 degrees
- Billfish: 78-80 degrees
- Redfish: 75-88 degrees
- Tarpon: 77-81 degrees
- Halibut: 40-42 degrees
- Mahi Mahi: 80-82 degrees
- Grouper: 72-75 degrees
- Snapper: 58-62 degrees
- Bonefish: 73-82 degrees
These fish might be able to relocate on a whim, but you can always chase them. Every serious saltwater fisherman has a reliable vessel so they can follow fish into optimal waters. If you play your cards right, you could end up in a perfect pocket surrounded by schools of fish.
Cloudy days just before a cold/warm front are the best times for saltwater fishing. The clouds help stabilize the water temperature, while the incoming precipitation increases water pressure. Fish migrate closer to the surface to avoid the high pressure and look for food before the storm hits. You’ll have to tolerate some choppy conditions to fish in this weather, but the results will be worth it.
Fishing on a sunny or rainy day is also viable, but you need to adjust the depth of your bait. If it’s cold and raining, cast your lines deeper where the fish are hiding. If it’s warm and sunny, you can keep your bait closer to the surface.
3. Time of Day
Sunrise and sundown are reliable times for saltwater fishing, but they’re not the best. The best time of day is an incoming tide. Fish near the shoreline become more active as the tide rises because the water becomes colder, more oxygenated and more visible – the telltale signs of a feeding frenzy. High tides occur about every 12 hours (twice a day), so keep track of your coast’s tidal changes to determine the best time to cast your line.
Go Catch A Big One
Although there are some minor differences, the best weather for fishing is a cloudy day with incoming changes – whether it’s sunlight or precipitation. Armed with this rudimentary knowledge, you can choose the most optimal days for fishing, increase your catch rate and reel in a big one.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.