Every aspiring angler dreads the potential walk of shame – the possibility of heading out with high hopes and returning with nothing to show for it. There are many things that could ultimately be the difference between reeling in a legendary catch and leaving emptyhanded when it comes to fishing. But, the most influential factor that should be considered when surf fishing is timing.
The best time to surf fish is around dawn, from 6 am – 10 am, and dusk during high tide. This is due to how the tide and low lighting affect fish’s behavior, and seasons like spring and fall, and the new moon and full moon phases aid these ideal conditions.
Surf fishing is way more successful if it’s done at the most optimum moments, which can differ depending on the surf fishing location. A lack of understanding of the ins and outs will most likely result in a plethora of disappointment and lost time.
I’ve narrowed down the ‘when’ and ‘how,’ with the most effective timing strategies for surf fishing that will take you from novice fisher to esteemed angler.
When’s The Best Time For Surf Fishing?
Fish are tentative, careful creatures, and they avoid danger at all costs. While this is ultimately what makes fishing such an intriguing skill, it’s also what makes it so challenging.
Surf fishing is generally more successful in the midst of the new moon and full moon phases, and during overcast seasons like spring and fall. You are more likely to catch fish in the hours surrounding high tide and low light hours, such as before sunrise and after sunset.
Since they will only take a bite at your bait when they are comfortable enough to feed near the shore, it’s important to understand the conditions that attract them.
What Time of The Day Is Best For Surf Fishing?
The appetite and feeding activity of fish varies throughout the day in accordance with the surf and weather conditions. This changes hourly, and it plays a vital role in getting that catch.
In most cases, fish feel safer near the shoreline when there is sufficient cover for them to avoid predators while feeding.
Another important factor that’s affected by the time of day is the water temperature.
Fish cannot regulate their own body temperature and need to consistently follow the current to where the temperature is just right for them.
Depending on the type of fish being attracted, the water temperature should be anywhere between 55° F and 80° F in order for the fish to feed – and ultimately be lured by your bait effectively.
As a result, fish are more likely to swim towards the shore when the surf conditions and weather provide this environment.
Although the exact time of day would differ depending on the surf fishing spot’s geographical location, these conditions are usually ideal during high tide and low light hours.
An ideal time bracket for surf fishing has notably been the 2 hours around high tide as the water level is at its highest point, and the deepening waves provide suitable feeding conditions for fish.
The 2-hour window offers the opportunity to take advantage of this entire cycle, as the feeding activity will still fluctuate within this time period, depending on the stillness of the waters.
Low lighting is a major factor, as it provides cover for fish and prevents larger predators from using sneak attacks.
The low lighting also decreases the fish’s chances of noticing your line and hook, which makes a catch more likely.
The best times of day for these conditions are before sunrise and after sunset. The fact that the shoreline is less crowded during these hours also contributes to the fish feel more comfortable to approach.
Be sure to check your local weather predictions and high tide estimations.
In many countries, there are often times where the high tide, in fact, happens before sunrise and after sunset, which would make an incredible opportunity for some impressive catches.
When is The Best Season For Surf Fishing?
When it comes to seasons, it mostly comes down to the species of fish you are aiming for, their behavior in different seasons, and underlining conditions like the season’s effect on the weather.
Some fish have specific migration patterns in relation to seasons, so this is something that should be checked out if you are trying to reel in something special.
However, most fish are more likely to approach the shore when the season provides cover for them, much like high tide and low lighting does.
Seasonal changes like cloudy skies, lack of direct sunlight, and rainfall all impact the conditions of the shoreline.
The impact of raindrops and the impression of wind churns the water in the surf zone, making it choppy, hazy, and opaque.
This provides much more suitable conditions for fish as opposed to the still, translucent waters that often come with a bright and sunny day.
Choppy, hazy waters create a few favorable circumstances for surf fishing.
While it indeed provides an optimal environment for fish to near the shore and engages in feeding activity, it also creates somewhat cloudy surroundings for fish.
This, in turn, lowers the likelihood of the fish seeing your hook and increases the chances of that bite leading to a successful catch.
When this happens, and fish cannot see very clearly.
They also tend to roam around landmarks such as large rocks or structures – with the idea that they are safer around these objects as opposed to swimming in open waters with a clouded vision.
This makes it easier to get the fish close enough to catch, but you may have to switch out your bait with something bigger so they won’t miss it completely.
As a result of these ideal conditions, it’s usually best to fish during spring or autumn. During summer, there is generally not enough cover for fish to near the shore easily.
During winter, heavy rainfall and waters that drop below ideal temperatures may also prevent them from nearing the shore.
Of course, it’s still possible and will depend greatly on seasonal changes specific to your location and the behavior of the species you are pursuing.
Which Phase Of The Moon Is Best For Surf Fishing?
There is an abundance of old wives’ tales surrounding this topic.
Some believe it’s a myth, some who stand by scientific reasoning, and some veteran anglers who wholeheartedly believe that you could get the biggest catch of your life by simply keeping an eye on the moon.
The relevance of the moon phase itself continues from the importance of ideal lighting conditions and the effect on the tide.
Stronger currents and large tides increase the appetite of many fish species, and the biggest tides tend to occur around the full moon and new moon phases.
When it comes to a full moon phase, there has been evidence suggesting that many fish species are more likely to bite on the days surrounding the full moon.
In some cases, there have been reports of fish feeding activity being heightened for the entire week surrounding the full moon.
It is not always specific to the day of the full moon, with some fishermen having poor experiences on the day of the full moon and resounding success on the days surrounding it.
The relevance seems to be placed more on the effect the overall full moon phase has, which takes place over a few days – rather than the full moon itself.
In the midst of the full moon cycle, there is a higher level of light refraction in the water at night.
This improves the ability of fish to see their surroundings, and they will venture out to feed during the night more than usual as a result of feeling more capable under these lighting conditions.
During a new moon cycle, it is the complete opposite situation for fish, and they will struggle to feed during the night due to insufficient visibility within their environment.
They will be more likely to loiter around rocks and structures where there is provided cover for some safety.
Fishing under these circumstances would require you to swap out your bait with something more visible or with a stronger scented bait in order to lure them.
The inability for fish to feed during the night in the midst of the new moon phase will result in an increased appetite during the early hours of the morning.
So, this is something to bear in mind during this phase as you could potentially have a successful fishing day if you take advantage of these circumstances.
Surf fishing can be a challenge for even the best of days. Having an understanding of what conditions to look out for in terms of timing, seasons, and moon phases in relation to the behavior of fish will certainly give you an upper hand.
That being said, don’t get baited into spending too much time waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. Check out your local weather chart, lunar chart, and tide predictions to narrow down the best time for you to go for it.