When To Go Fishing?

Jacob Kruse asks:

I've been a big fan of your work since your time at In-depth Outdoors and have enjoyed your latest videos with Tony Roach. I always love watching you catch big gills.

What are your thoughts on time of day, weather, barometric pressure and lunar phase affecting fishing or when you should be looking at getting out? Particularly relating to bluegill and other panfish. With young children my fishing time is limited, so I figure why not try to optimize when you can get out.

It's funny, the exact moment I read this I was eating lunch at Hunter's Point on Mille Lacs with Tony and I showed it to him.  His response?

"Go fishing anytime and every-time you can.  You may get hit by a train tomorrow."

My thoughts these days are much the same as his, but I fully understand when you're coming from.  More and more often, the pressure to catch fish surpasses the idea of just going fishing.  So to maximize your time on the water, I've found that 60% of the time the following works everytime:

  • Fish pre-frontal conditions - These are signified by any change in the weather, typically for the worse, where calm stable weather gives way to precip, winds, or other storms.
  • A stable barometer provides the best long-term fishing as fish settle into more predictable locations and patterns, while the hottest or fastest fishing is in the hours when the barometer has reached the "shoulder" of the slope and is starting to decline.  Continual peaks and valleys make for yo-yo-like fishing patterns and inconsistent action.
  • Use a site like Weather Underground to show the graph of relative barometric conditions.  
  • Lunar phases tend to affect predatory fish more from the research that's out there, and bluegills don't feed after dark in "most" lakes.  There are clear water bodies and lakes with active night-time invertebrates that are the exception to that rule.
  • Early and late is always the best, but it's better to find them during the day and move with them if you can.

Per Tony's advice, don't look for reasons not to fish, but if you get the choice you're usually best served by heeding the above advice.  That said, I've had incredible days in bluebird conditions with pressure high enough to give every fish in the lake a headache, but they didn't mind.  All the more reason to hit it when you can!