One of the most common questions I am asked is, what factors effect fishing the most? Every time I'm asked that my head starts to hurt. There are as many theories out there on how and when fish feed as there are fisherman. So, with that said, the opinions you are about to read are just that, opinions. Over the past 20 years or so I have created a few theories of my own and have adopted a few told to me by other fisherman. However, I think it best at this time to quote one of my professors from college, "The laws of nature are always the same unless they aren't". With that in mind I will try to explain a few of the trends I have witnessed.
Here are the links I use for weather forecasts
Weather, in my opinion, is one of the largest determining factors in how fish act. However, there is more to this weather factor than it being clear or rainy. There is frontal systems, rising and fallowing barometric pressure, air and water temperature and of course rain.
Frontal systems are a change in air pressure that proceeds a front. Fronts are the narrow transition-zone separating temperature and humidity. Low pressure systems often develop along frontal boundaries and cloud cover and precipitation often occur near an approaching front.
This may seam like a lot to much to remember but stay with me and you will start to understand how all this relates to you catching fish.
Air pressure is a force per unit area. Mercury barometers measure the height of a mercury column in a vertical glass tube. The closed upper end of the tube has a vacuum and its lower end opens into a small container of mercury. When air pressure changes, the height of the mercury column changes, dropping as air pressure falls, and rising as air pressure increases.
Now lets look at the biology of a fish. Fish have an organ called a swim bladder. The swim bladder is a gas-filled sac that controls the fish's buoyancy and in some species is important for hearing. If a fish starts to descend, the increased pressure from the water surrounding the fish results in a compression of the gas inside the swim bladder. The fish becomes negatively buoyant and will tend to sink. If a fish swims into shallower water, there is a decrease in water pressure and so the gas in the swim bladder expands, and the fish tends to float upwards.
Now taking what we know about the constant change in barometric pressure, consider the effect this has on the fish. For the past 20 years I have watched this single aspect change the way fish act more than any other factor. From my observations I have concluded that fish are more active on a moving pressure within 30.08 and 29.87. However, it appears fish feed more aggressively on a falling pressure between 30.00 and 29.90. This is not to say that fish don't feed at other times, I have just seen better feeds during these times.
This is an aspect I do not feel we need quite as much science. Most fish like humans, have different temperatures they prefer. Over the past few years I have found windows in the water temps that fish seam to be more active on the flats. These number may differ from place to place and from year to year depending on how hungry the fish are. As for this area this is what I have found.
Redfish are most active between 63 and 78 degrees.
Trout are most active between 60 and 80 degrees.
Snook are most active between 70 and 85 degrees
Tarpon are most active between 75 and 85 degrees
Once again I have to emphasize that these fish still feed with temperatures above and below this window. I have just had my best luck within them.
This is a fun one for me. The only effect I have seen this have on fish is the number of fisherman trying to catch them. I have caught many of my larges fish in the middle of the afternoon heat.
There are a lot of factors rain has on you chances of catching fish. The first of course is the barometric pressure. The other primary effects are water temperature and fresh water.
Rain affects water temperature when the water is warm by creating a thin cool layer on the surface. Depending on water temperature prior to the storm determines how long that layer will remain before being absorbed by the main body of water. Most of the time that calm just after a hard thunderstorm on a hot July afternoon will produce some of the best fishing of the day especially for those of you wanting to throw top water lures. That cool surface layer seems to bring everything up. Now I can't be sure if it is just that cool layer bringing out the hunters. The activity may also be due to the cooler layer bringing the bait up and the predators can now see them better without all the waves and rain disturbing the surface. I do know that that first 30 minutes just after a storm has produced some of the best fish I have ever caught on top water.
The interdiction of fresh water into the river can also really turn on a feed. Try fishing a culvert or other freshwater outflow just after a good down pour. Many times this is a great time to fish snook and tarpon who are drawn to these areas. In these areas also pay attention to the type of bait that has come into the nutrient reach water to feed. When fishing these areas try to match the hatch.
Now with this in mind, when that storm comes pushing through on a summer afternoon and messes up your day. check out the radar to see when it will be gone, grab your rod and reel, head out to the river and wait for the games to begin.
Here is a great link for moon phases U.S. Naval Observatory
Where the moon is in the sky and what phase the it is in can determine when fish feed. This is once again not to say that fish don't feed at other times. However, I have been out on days when I thought the fish had set their clocks by the solar lunar tables.
When thinking about the moon and its relationship to fishing look at it this way. When you have a full moon that is going to be up at night. The fish holding near the bottom have a big advantage on the smaller bait that schools near the surface. The predators are hiding down low in the dark shadows watching everything that swims by. They blend in so well with the rocks and vegetation that nothing sees them. Then, overhead the outline of a baitfish swims by with the moonlight. The moon works like a spotlight following singer across the stage . As long at the moon is up and full all night the show is on and there is nowhere to run.
Now with that in mind, if you want to be apart of this feeding show you have to be there when the audience is waiting. If you get on the water during the day chances are everyone has already eaten. The best fishing on clear nights when the moon is full is usually between 2 to 3 hours after sunset until an hour or 2 after sunrise.
Now the other side of that coin is when we have a new moon. The predators can't see much of anything and do most of their feeding during the day. During this time I have done some of my best fishing within a half hour prior to sunrise to throughout the day.
With every rule there is an exception and when it comes to fishing there are a lot of them. One thing I have found over the past few years is if you have a full moon and a cloudy night the fish get thrown out of wack. The fish have been use to feeding every night for a few days and now they can't see anything during their regular feed. On days like this I have found one thing to be true, I don't know how they are going to act. One day they will go nuts at sunrise, the next you couldn't pay a fish to hit anything. The good news is more times then not the are starved and will hit almost anything till late in the morning.
all know that the tides are affected by the rise and fall of the moon.
Most fishermen also know that the tides have always directed them to the
best fishing times. Could it be that these feeding times are being
influenced more by the position of the sun and moon rather than the actual
tidal stages. That is exactly what John Alden Knight hypothesized in 1926.
The height of the water and water temperature is one of the largest factors in determining where the fish will be feeding. The depth determines what can get into an area to feed and how warm or cool the water is going to be. Keeping this in mind I will explain some of the trends I have observed.
When the water is high this opens up many possibilities to the number and type of fish you may find. On the flats a new feeding area has just been opened in areas where the water seasonally recedes. Bait and predators both move up on these new flats in search of food they were unable to reach days before. It is at this time when the water has first risen that these areas produce some of the best fishing.
One of the keys to fishing these freshly covered areas is to fish them prior to the water rising. By doing this you know where the best ambush spots are going to be for the hungry predators. This fish will move into those small dips along the grassy shoreline. Those rocky areas that were only a few inches to a foot deep the week prior. Also keep you eyes open for the trees that now have water under them. These are the spots that snook and trout love to move into.
Low water fishing can be just as good as high water fishing on the flats. When the water level drops it pushes fish to the outer edge of the flats and into holes. It also causes fish to group up in larger schools and makes the competition more aggressive. The bait will move onto the shallower areas and the predators will set up their ambush nearby. The key to fishing these areas is stealth. When you see areas with large schools of bait try and make your casts from as far away as possible. When predators are hiding in shallow water they are very spooky and will leave at the first sign of danger.
Is it too windy to fish? This is a question I am asked all the time. To me the answer is best answered by asking yourself a few other question. The most important question you need to ask is, is it dangerous? If you can answer no, then ask yourself, can I still cast? Is there someplace I can hide from the wind? If you can answer yes to the other questions, its not to windy.
As long as you feel safe with you choice than the wind can work in you favor. There are Pros and cons to windy and calm days. The trick is to learn to use the advantages to your favor.
Some of the best fishing I have done has been on windy days. The rules for catching fish can be harsh though. The first thing you must always be aware of the amount of noise you are making. Wade fishing will give you a big advantage. When you wade you don't have to deal with the lapping waves on the boat, the drifting too fast to get a good cast to fish and the wind pushing you into water too shallow to motor out of. If you pole a lot like I do, you have to deal with laying on a heating pad when you get home. Fish are also harder to spot when sight casting and you can only cast one way effectively at any distance.
The advantages are you don't have to worry as much about talking and movement in the boat. The waves are making enough noise to cover most sounds. You can also fish a flat a little more stealthy by setting up a good drift. This is one of those times a good drift sock can be useful. You can also make some great casts as long as you keep the wind at your back.
On windy days you may also notice that bait fish will seek out calmer water. This can be a good thing as long as the fish that feed on them look for this too. The worst thing about days like this is you just don't know. You have to look at all the factors and try and determine if you have a chance.
Calm, flat water may sound like a piece of cake when you compare it to a windy day. However, that is not always the truth. There are a lot more rules you have to follow when sight fishing the flats. Once again the number one thing to keep in mind is noise. When the water is calm and clear, fish can see and hear you much further away and are spookier then normal.
If you follow these rules you will find your fishing to be much more productive:
Move slowly when trying to find fish. If you are poling, do so as quite as possible. Do not make any sudden jerky movements.
Wear colors that will match your background. Soft blues, grays and others. Do not wear that chanteuse or hot pink shirt you just bought.
When you cast, lead the fish. Remember, casting a lure to fish is just like throwing rocks at them. Cast from as far away as you can.
If the fish come to the boat, let them pass by. Don't move. Don't cast. Act like a statue. Let them move 20 feet or so away before you start casting again. I have watched this too many times to count. If you say as still as possible and let them go you are going to have a better shot at catching one.
Water clarity is one of those topics that it seems like everyone who has ever held a rod in their hand has an opinion about. I have heard so many different ideas that it makes my head swim. I have found one simple rule that has worked well for me. I follow the rules nature has already set in place, Match the Hatch.
When the water is clear it would only make since that fish can see better. So always keep in mind that they can see you in many cases long before you see them.
As for lure color. Use soft colored lures that resemble the natural bait in the area. Use clear lures with flakes. Be careful with top water plugs. When the water is crystal clear fish are more apt to spook easily when sight fished. Work you lures slowly, try to make them look like an easy meal.
When visibility is low use brighter colored lures with more action. A lot of times when the water is murked up fish hunt more by the action and smell than they do sight. When working top water, use nosey lures to grab their attention. Also try adding scents to your lures.
Fish aren't typically quite as spooky when the water is like this. Many times you can get right on top of them before they spook off. They also seem to settle down a lot faster.
Try using bright colored soft lures with bright colored tails. Bounce them across the bottom with sharp upward jerks. Fish will almost always strike on the fall when working a lure this way. The upward movement grabs their attention, then they come in for the kill on the fall.
This is one question I get asked more than any other. The answer all depends on what you want to fish for the most. During different times of the year some fish are more plentiful than others. Keep in mind though that reds and trout can be caught year round. The mane factor that effects them is water temperature.
Spring is my favorite time of the year to fish. The water is usually clear and sight sight fish is at it's best. The redfish are in schools up to 600 fish and are almost always willing to feed on top water. During this time of year it is common to catch reds between 10 to 40 lbs.
Trout fishing is great in the spring. It is during this time of year we have boated more trout over 30 inches. So if you have always dreamed of catching that gator trout now is the time.
Snook start showing up in late spring as well as small tarpon. These fish are on one day and off the next in the Cocoa Beach area. You best bet for these fish is to fish the southern part of the county near Melbourne.
We also have jacks, ladyfish and many more this time of year.
During the summer the schools of reds tend to break up and scatter across the flats. This can be a good thing though. Fishing single reds is a great way to test your sight fishing skills. Single reds cruse the flats looking for that next easy meal.
Trout fishing is usually best in the early mornings during the summer due to the water warming up. There are still some good sized fish to be caught but most of the time it requires a lot of casting.
This is a great time to fish snook and tarpon. These fish love the warmer water and will give you a battle like you have never fought before.
We also have jacks, ladyfish and many more this time of year.
Next to spring this is my second favorite time of the year to fish. It is during the fall that we have an increase of bait fish and with it comes every hungry fish around. Everything want to put on a few extra pounds for the winter.
Tarpon, Tarpon Tarpon..... that says it all.
The snook fishing is incredible. The water is up from al the late summer rain and the snook are in the mangroves and under the docks waiting to blast a top water plug.
The reds too are bulking up for the winter. Most of the reds are in small groups of 3 to 10 fish and can be found around schools of bait. (look for needle fish)
Trout fishing improves for the same reasons. They are trying to put on a few pounds. The best feed continues to be at first light.
We also have Spanish mackerel, jacks, flounder, ladyfish, blues and many more this time of year.
Winter can be a great time of the year depending on the water temperature. If the water doesn't get to cold the reds and trout remain active during this time of year. If the water gets cold the reds and trout slow down and only feed in the late afternoon.
Most of the trips I run during this time of year are for ladyfish and jacks. These fish are a blast on light tackle and fly. They like to spend a lot of time in the air and you can catch the almost every cast. So, if you have a little one that is just starting to fish or you just want to hook in to some non stop action, this is the time to do it.
We also have Spanish mackerel, jacks, flounder, ladyfish, blues and many more this time of year.
I love this question. It is my belief that 99% of the lures on the market are designed to catch fisherman not fish. Keep that in mind next time you are at the tackle shop looking for something new. The rule of thumb I always use is "match the hatch". If you fish with lures that look like the bait the fish are feeding on you can't go wrong.
I have heard all sorts of stuff about some fish seeing different colors and some fish only seeing black and white. I say that if a fish can see a mullet and are feeding on them, use something that looks like a mullet. I would not recommend using something bright pink and chartreuse. Use more subdued colors that want scare the fish.
From what I have experienced watching fish feed it appears that fish hunt more by the action of a lure and what it is more than they do its color. When they hunt, they are looking for that bait that looks and acts more like their regular meal. The exception to this rule is hunger. If a fish is hungry they will eat anything small enough to fit in their mouth. This is one of the reasons you hear of people catching fish on weird colors.
One exception to this rule is trout. Trout will eat anything. They feed more on movement than they do a particular bait. So, when fishing for sea trout you may want to use the brightest, loudest lure you can find.
I am a match the hatch kind of person. Most the lures I use look like mullet or needle fish. I currently use Rip Rollers and Original High Rollers made by High Roller. I feel in love with these lures a few years ago for a few reasons.
1) These lures catch fish. I have used used a lot of lured over the years and this lure has the best action of any top water plug I have ever used. The "walk the dog" action of the Original High Roller and the 3.25 High Roller looks more like a bait trying to skip across the water than the typical zigzag of other "walk the dog" plugs.
The Pop and spit of the Rip Roller is the perfect combination when trying to tease trout, reds and snook to blast the surface.
2) All these lures are hand made to last as well as catch fish. You may pay a few extra bucks for these lures but I have never seen a lure that would last as long. Many of the plugs I have used in the past loose their finish or scratch up just after a few fish. If you fish very much with top water plugs you will find that they actually save you money in the long run. Take it from someone who spends over $6000 a year on tackle.
This is another area I have fished with a number of different lures over the years and have found a few that stand out in the fish catching ability. There are 2 lures I use more than any other. Cotee's Real Magic and their Shad Grubs.
The Real Magic was introduced to me a few years ago by a friend who swore it was the best lure ever made. When I first saw it I have to admit I gave him a hard time. It was the silliest looking lure I think I ever saw. It didn't look to me like it would catch anything. Then he out fished me with it. Needles to say I called Cotee and started carrying them myself on the boat. Since that time I have caught reds trout and snook on this lure. The only difference me and John have now is on how to rig them. He like to rig them with a jig head and I still prefer to rig them weedless with a 5/0 .Daiichi Bleeding Copperhead Hook.
The second type of lure I like to use is Cotee's swimming Shad. Grubs may be grubs but I have found that Cotee has one of the larges selections of colors. When rigging these grubs I always use is a red jig head.
These 3 lures make up the bulk of my arsenal. Over the years I have used hundreds of lures and it always comes back to these 3 are the ones that put more fish in the boat.
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