Time to Fish – what’s best

Historically, it has been the experience among anglers that it’s better to fish before breakfast or after dinner. Whether this preference is based on experience or theory, is anybody’s guess. But there are many reasons why anglers would prefer these times opposed to others.

Fishing Pier at Dawn

It could be the cooler conditions or possibly the outdoor experience or it could be that the fish actually bite better during those times. Who knows, but there are several theories that could tell the story. So let’s explore several.

There is definitely a big difference between fishing dawn and dusk verses day time. Coolness verse the heat of the day. Sunrises and sunsets, various moon phases, cooler air and water temperatures along with the amount of light striking the water all can contribute to a change in feeding habits.

The sun has always had an effect on fishing. On bright days with the sun directly overhead seems to chase the fish deep in the water and slows their metabolism. On the other hand, low light and cloudy days seem to turn the bite on.

At dawn and dusk, the sun rays can be at a sharper angle to the water. This angle allows for lower light to penetrate the water and enhances the sight of various marine species. The lower light conditions can give feeding species an advantage finding food or the bait quickly because of their light sensitive eyes.

The moon phases can also affect the movement and height of the tides but more importantly this water movement can confuse many bait fish.  And this water movement can also bring in a change in more comfortable water temperatures.

Another theory is the amount of oxygen content in the water. Cooler water contains more oxygen then warmer water. So it’s natural that fish find comfort in these cooler conditions and tend to feed more.

At dusk, the air temperature will usually drop. The cooler air causes the water temperatures to also decrease slightly. This cooling trend creates a desirable environment for most species Small living organisms and bait fish are extremely active during these times and make for easy prey of the larger fish. So with more activity brings an increase in the possible success rate.

At dawn, the air temperatures begin to increase with the sun rise. The water temperatures will also increase. Even though it might be slight, the fish seem to sense this change and typically will begin to feed aggressively during this period being aware that their feeding cycle may end soon.  As the temperature continues to rise into the morning and dawn turns into day, this change causes the fish and their prey to slow down considerably and seek deeper cooler waters again.

Obviously, these are only couple of theories on why fish feed more aggressively during these times. There could many other conditions and reasons why fish are more active at dawn and dusk.  

Regardless of the reasons, anglers will continue to look forward to that “before breakfast and after dinner bite”.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Let’s Try Fishing – Which Bait

The next topic is “Which Bait” in part four of the “Let’s Try Fishing” series for beginners. Bait or food for the fish can come in several different variations: Live, fresh or artificial. And each one has a place in your bait arsenal.

Bait Shrimp

A brief example of the most popular saltwater baits are: Live baits – shrimp, crabs, and other fish species and blood worms. Fresh baits – dead shrimp, cut mullet, blood worms and squid. And examples of artificial baits are synthetics like fish bites or fish gum. Obviously, there are many more baits but let’s limit them to the few that I like to use when fishing on the Outer Banks.

Of course, we want to keep this simple so we are only going to talk about fresh baits. These should be easier to use for the new angler.

Shrimp is probably the best bait, most frequently used and readily available. It seems everything that swims eats shrimp. It is important to buy only fresh shrimp. Tackle shops or seafood retailers sell the best bait shrimp. But you need to make sure it’s fresh not frozen. Frozen bait shrimp loses its scent quickly.

Next popular bait is cut bait. Cut bait comes from another fin fish species. Anglers use a variety of different fish for cut bait but jumping mullet gives off scent that will attract fish. I like mullet because it stays on the hook better. These whole mullet fish usually come in two sizes corn cob size and finger. Either one works.

Next is squid. Squid is an overall good bait and works well for just about every species. Unfortunately, I have found it attracts some of the unwanted species such as skates and sharks. So a last resort bait.

Finally, as you can see blood worms are on both the live and fresh bait list. I consider them right up there with shrimp. And some cases, better. They are really good at catching fish but also attract small bait stealers and crabs. One disadvantage is their cost but I will overlook this when nothing else works.

Regardless of which bait you use, make sure its fresh when you purchase it. It is imperative that you keep it on ice in a cooler and not in the heat or sun. I also recommend that you never use yesterday’s bait – buy fresh each day.

When baiting your hooks with either baits, don’t oversize the bait. Shrimp should be cut into segments, not whole. Cut mullet into small chunks and leave skin and scales on. I use only a small piece or less of the bloodworm. And finally when using squid, cut pieces in one inch by three inch strips.

When baiting your hooks, just use enough bait to cover the hook. It’s important to leave the tip of the hook and a little bit of the barb out. During the bite, the exposed hook helps it penetrate into the fish’s lip quickly.

Remember, fresh is best. And shrimp seems to be the bait of choice of most anglers.

Check back soon for the next in the series of “Let’s Try Fishing”

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Let’s Try Fishing – Rod & Reel

Today’s topic in the “Let’s Try Fishing” series is rod and reel setup. There are many places to purchase a rod and reel and associated gear on the Outer Banks, but only a local tackle shop can provide quality gear and how to use it. And as a new angler, purchasing quality gear and following their advice is invaluable.

One mistake many first-time anglers make is bringing their “favorite” freshwater gear when fishing in our harsh saltwater environment. That decision to use the wrong gear may work initially but inevitably it will fail and most likely at the most inopportune time.

Now let’s talk about what equipment and gear is needed. Remember, we want to keep this simple. So you want a good all-around rod and reel setup. The best starter rod will be a seven to eight foot with a medium flexibility. I like a one piece rod but a two piece allows for better storage. This size and style rod should give you the sensitivity to feel a bite and enough backbone to reel in most local species. The reel should be loaded with a 12-15lb test monofilament line. Braided line is also an option which I will discuss in a future article. So for now stick with monofilament lines.

Next part is tackle or rigging. The basic tackle setup will be a snap hook connected to the end of your main line with a standard two hook bottom rig and a sinker. You can either tie the bottom rig directly to the main line or use a snap swivel. A snap swivel allows for quick change for gear. But either method should work well. We will discuss knots in another article but for immediate access you can find basic knot tying methods in this section of my website: https://walkingangler.com/basic-knots/

Next you will need to decide on hooks and sinkers. Your tackle shop staff can help with the proper size and style of hook and sinker types. I suggest a simple Number 4 “J” hook and a #2 or #3 pyramid sinkers depending on the waves and tides. The key to weight size is to just hold the bottom and not allow the weight and bait to move.

So there you go. A complete and simple rod, reel and rigging set up. We could get more involved describing the various styles and types but let’s leave that up to the tackle shop staff.

Check back soon for the next phase of Let’s Try Fishing.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony