Monday, June 29, 2015

Best Time to Fish

Someone in one of the fly fishing forums was looking for suggestions regarding why they weren’t catching as many fish as they expected.  They were fishing a few U.P. Michigan Ponds/lakes for brook trout.  He had put in long days starting the day at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., and fishing to 5:00 -5:30.  OF course, the days were not a total loss - beautiful scenery and several loons to keep him company.

My initial response, although I had never fished the ponds/ lakes mentioned, I will say, I've been fishing for a long time, in alot of different places for alot of different fish. One of the biggest mistakes I generically see folks make - fishing at the worst time of the day. Most folks are coming out just as the fishing slows down, and go home just as the fishing starts to pick up.

I have found you are best off to fish early in the morning, and late in the evening. Having been doing this for a long time, I can say it is often dramatic what a difference if makes. The difference is sometimes lessened on a cloudy day, but on a sunny day, you are much better off taking a mid day nap and resting up for an evening of fishing. Someone may be able to come up with an exception, but day in and day out, fishing the low light times of day is the way to go.

So wrote Rudyard Kipling - “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun”

My advice was pretty much solely based on my own personal experience.  But as I thought about it, there are a number of factual reasons to support my claim. 

 In a given lake or pond, trout may indeed be at the top of the aquatic food chain.  That's probably true as long as they don't have to worry about what's in the air.  In ecosystems where loons, herons, kingfishers, fish eating raptors, etc are present, fish drop down a notch or two in the predator/prey pyramid.  Since the birds are all sight feeders, if they are present, fish learn to stay scarce when they are highly visible from above.

I'm not at all familiar with the biology of U.P. lakes and ponds.  Down in my neck of the Michigan woods, zooplankton forms the basis of the food chain in alot of lakes.  Many species of zooplankton exhibit a behavior known as diurnal vertical migration.

In the evenings, the zooplankton swim toward the surface; at dawn, they sink back down thru the water column.  The stuff that eats the zooplankton tends to focus their feeding behaviors during these migration periods.  Zooplankton is particularly vulnerable during these migrations. Their swimming motion is often species specific and readily recognizable.  That motion may certainly be a feeding trigger for the species that prey on the zooplankton.   That in turn causes the larger fish to become more active in terms of feeding on the smaller fish.

OF course the same thing applies to the aquatic bugs, fish tend to become active when the bugs are active.  Alot of hatches occur during the early mornings and late evenings.  Aquatic insects tend to avoid the bright sun and mid day heat.  Perhaps partially to avoid detection, as well as avoid dehydration.

During the middle of the day from a prey fish perspective, there is less activity going on, i.e. less chance of an easy meal, coupled with the fact they are more likely to get eaten themselves by something in the air, fish soon learn to retreat to the safety of the depths.  Same way I use to tell my kid, not much good happens after midnight, not much good happens to our fish friends at noon.

It really all comes down to risk vs. reward.  Fish that make unwise choices about their safety tend to get eaten, which in turn removes those behaviors from the gene pool.

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