The best time to surf fish is not an easy topic to cover. There are a lot of different weather factors that impact fishing. Plus, fishing has a tendency to be very random.
Fortunately, there are definitely certain times and weather factors that do increase your odds of catching a fish, which is exactly what this article will cover.
- 1 The Best Time of Year for Surf Fishing
- 2 The Best Time of Day for Surf Fishing
- 3 The Best Weather For Surf Fishing
- 4 Ideal Tide For Surf Fishing
- 5 Best Moon Phase for Surf Fishing
- 6 Final Thoughts
The Best Time of Year for Surf Fishing
Unfortunately, the best time of year for surf fishing varies based on your location and the type of fish you’re trying to catch. Due to that, my answer here will ignore location and the type of fish you’re trying to catch. I will simply answer in general terms.
The rule of thumb with surf fishing is that fall and spring are the best time of year. The water should not be too hot (fish go offshore) or too cold (fish don’t feed as much) in the fall and spring. Plus, many fish spawn in the spring, so you should have plenty of action at some point in the spring. Fish will generally eat more to prepare for winter, so you can expect more activity in the fall.
Don’t let that scare you, summer and winter are not terrible for surf fishing. You can still catch fish in the winter, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Of course, this depends on the type of fish you want to catch. For instance, winter is a great time of year to catch trout on the gulf coast of Florida.
Overall, stick to surf fishing in the fall and spring. Just remember that there is almost always an opportunity to catch fish at any time of the year.
Final Verdict: The best seasons for surf fishing are spring and fall. You can still catch fish in the winter and summer, though. You just have to know your area and target fish.
The Best Time of Day for Surf Fishing
The best time of day for surf fishing is something that we know with a little more certainty. Here is a breakdown of the best times for surf fishing.
Dawn is generally considered the best time of day for surf fishing. Most surf fishers aim to have their lines in the water an hour or two before official sunrise. This allows them to have some nighttime fishing, and it allows them to have their line in the water as the sun breaks the horizon.
I recommend fishing for one to two hours after sunrise. You should stay longer if the fish continue biting, but that is rare. Remember, fish are nocturnal feeders, and they tend to stop eating as the sun rises.
Many fishermen go surf fishing in the early morning before going to work. It sounds strange, but it is possible if you live near a beach.
Surf fishing about an hour before sunset (when it starts to get cool), and into the night is another excellent time. In fact, many people only surf fish in the evening because the weather and fishing is better. You may even have an empty beach depending on the area.
I recommend evening fishing if you don’t want to wake up at 5AM. It also works well if you want to fish at night.
Fish are nocturnal, so it makes sense that many surf fishers hit the beach at night. However, I don’t enjoy surf fishing at night for one simple reason.
Sure, you will have a flashlight or lamp with you, but the darkness makes cleaning a fish, tying a knot, and watching your cast more difficult. Storms can sneak up on you at night, too.
Despite those drawbacks, the surf fishing at night is great, which makes it worth the hassle to many people. Seriously, you can catch almost every type of fish in your area at night. Sharks rarely bite during the day, so you have to go for them at night.
I might have made night time surf fishing sound bad, but it’s really not that bad. And all the action definitely makes up for the somewhat minor inconveniences. I recommend surf fishing at night if you have some familiarity with the beach.
Daytime is often regarded as the worst time for surf fishing. As mentioned earlier, fish are nocturnal feeders, and they don’t eat much during the day. They may even go further offshore if you live in a hotter climate.
Sure, you may catch the occasional fish during the day, but you will increase your odds of catching a fish if you fish at any other time or location.
With that in mind, I do not recommend surf fishing during the day. If you still want to fish in the day, try pier fishing, flats fishing, or fishing any structure. You will have much better luck at those locations.
If you still want to surf fish during the day, try to find a rip current or some structure near the shore. You have light, which makes finding suitable structure and rip currents so much easier.
Final Verdict: The early morning, evening, and night are the best times for surf fishing. You also get to enjoy an emptier beach and better weather. Nighttime is the best time, but you may have to deal with more on-shore challenges during the night.
The Best Weather For Surf Fishing
The best weather for surf fishing is tough to pin down because the weather frequently changes while you’re fishing. Contradictory weather patterns may also appear at the same time (ex. cloudy and windy). With that out of the way, here are some common weather patterns, and how they impact surf fishing:
You might think wind is an unimportant factor in surf fishing, but it’s not. In fact, the wind is one of the more important factors in determining whether you will have a good day surf fishing or a bad day surf fishing.
Generally, you want a light breeze since it will stir the water up. It also makes the beach a little cooler if the weather is hot. No wind is ok for surf fishing – it’s rare to not have any wind on the beach, though.
A strong breeze will make the water too cloudy, and the fishing tends to worsen in cloudy water. The wind may make fishing harder due to tangled lines and inaccurate casting.
Final Verdict: A light sea breeze is great for surf fishing. Too much wind generally results in poor fishing.
Most people don’t even know about barometric pressure, which is a shame because it’s an extremely important part of fishing. I’d actually rank barometric pressure as more impactful than time of day. Basically, a change in barometric pressure indicates that a pressure front has moved overhead.
Lower pressure means worse weather. Higher pressure means better weather.
In my experience, the best fishing occurs as the barometric pressure drops. This makes sense because the fish know a pressure drop means worse weather, so they enter a feeding frenzy in preparation for the bad weather. The fish stop biting once the pressure stabilizes at a low point, which is fine because the weather will have deteriorated.
Rising barometric pressure often results in good fishing, but not as good as falling barometric pressure. A high, stable barometric pressure almost means awful fishing. Many anglers don’t even bother fishing when the barometric pressure is higher than average.
Final Verdict: Changing barometric pressure almost always means good fishing (dropping is better than rising). Stable barometric pressure, especially higher than normal pressure, is horrible for fishing.
Most anglers that surf fish avoid fishing during a storm for a few reasons. Here are some of those reasons:
First, the fishing isn’t even that good. Remember, a storm results in low barometric pressure, which isn’t good for fishing. Storms also have high wind and rain that will make the water cloudy, and fish generally don’t do any feeding in cloudy water.
Also, fishing in storms isn’t enjoyable, and fishing is supposed to be enjoyable. You just won’t have an enjoyable time when it’s raining, windy, and possibly lightning.
I will say that the time before and after a storm is usually a great time to fish. It’s especially good to fish immediately before the storm when the weather gets cooler, the wind picks up, and you can see storm clouds in the distance. You might get stuck in the storm, but many anglers tough it out for the amazing fishing.
The fishing also gets better as the storm begins to clear.
Final Verdict: Don’t bother surf fishing during storms. The period before and after the storm should have good fishing, though.
Cold Fronts and Warm Fronts
Cold fronts and warm fronts do have an impact on surf fishing. I recommend not fishing if a cold front has passed. The fishing is good as the cold front moves in (and the pressure rises), but the fishing gets progressively worse as the pressure stabilizes.
Warm fronts (low pressure) are a different story. The fishing is usually great when the warm front moves in, and it will be decent for the duration of the warm front.
Final Verdict: Avoid surf fishing fishing during a cold front. The best fishing is when a warm front moves in.
The cloudiness will impact your fishing. In my experience, surf fishing on a day without clouds tends to be worse than days with a slight overcast. I believe this is due to the water temperature and barometric pressure (high pressure results in less clouds). You can mitigate this by casting into channels or further from the shore.
Final Verdict: You will usually catch less fish on a cloudless day. A slight overcast, or some clouds blocking the sun, is the best for fishing.
Most surf fishermen avoid fishing when the surf gets above six feet or so. The fish don’t bite as well, and it’s usually difficult for your line to stay in the same spot. You also need to cast your line much further when it’s wavy.
Some anglers avoid surf fishing when the water looks like glass, but the fishing is often great when the water looks like that.
Final Verdict: Avoid surf fishing in waves higher than six feet. This does depend on the area, though.
Many anglers pack up their gear if they feel a raindrop. In my experience, this is often a mistake.
Some of the best surf fishing happens when it’s raining. The type of rain does matter, though. Is it pouring rain?
The fishing probably won’t be good, and you should find shelter.
Is it a light shower? Is the sun still visible?
Get ready. The fishing often gets better during a light sun shower for some reason. Just make sure that you fish a little closer to the bottom since the fish often go deeper when it rains.
Final Verdict: Don’t fish in heavy rain. The fishing often improves in light rain, though.
Ideal Tide For Surf Fishing
You should surf fish during a high tide, but not during a slack tide – you need some water movement. High tide means deeper water and more baitfish, so the fishing just tends to be better.
The best surf fishing tends to occur on a rising tide. All the fish come in with the tide, and you will do well in certain spots. I recommend fishing channels as the tide rises (or lowers).
Please take caution with the rising water, though. Many surf fishermen have become stranded on sandbars because they didn’t pay attention to the slowly rising water.
Don’t skip low tide, either. It’s a great time to search for structures, channels, and other features normally submerged during high tide. You can also fish as the water goes out to sea. The fishing won’t be as good as high tide. Keep in mind that the fishing might not change much if you live in an area with a low tidal range.
Final Verdict: Fish during a rising tide. Scout out spots during low tide. Avoid fishing during slack tide.
Rip currents have a huge impact on surf fishing. I’ll put it this way, if you can locate a strong rip current, then you will probably have a good day of surf fishing. The location, and intensity, of rip currents will change based on the tide. And it does take some experience to find rip currents.
The best way to find a rip current is to watch the bubbles on the surface of the water. Do they flow parallel to the shore?
If they do, then follow them until they start moving away from shore. That is the rip current, and many fish like to feed in congregate there.
Obviously, you should fish that area.
If the bubbles just sit in one spot, then there isn’t a rip current. You can still fish, but you won’t do as well without any water movement.
I recommend searching for rip currents during the day. The locations sometimes move a little, but they will often be in the same general area at night.
Best Moon Phase for Surf Fishing
The moon has an impact on fishing. Many anglers swear the fishing is better on a full moon. Others claim that fish bite less during a full moon. Those anglers usually say that a new moon results in the best fishing.
In my experience, the fish tend to bite more during a full, or near full, moon. It might be due to more light making it easier for fish to see, but I’m not sure. All I know is that fishing during a full moon tends to go a little better.
The moon does impact the tide, though. A full moon or new moon will often result in a huge tidal range. You should catch more fish on a rising tide during one of those large moon tides.
Final Verdict: Surf fishing during a bright moon usually means you will catch more fish. The tidal range is also larger, which usually means more action.
Well, that about covers it for the best time for surf fishing. As I mentioned earlier, you won’t find the perfect time when all the signs line up perfectly – it just doesn’t happen.
You want to look for a time when some of the important points mentioned line up.
For instance, if a low pressure front is moving in, then you should go surf fishing no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s daytime or windy, just go fishing.
That rarely happens, though.
In my experience, good signals will appear alongside bad signals. In those cases, you should just go fishing.
Now, if you have to look at one sign to determine when to fish, then look at barometric pressure. It doesn’t always work, but it works enough times that it’s reliable.
All that said, you can still have a good day when the signs don’t line up, so don’t rely on them too much.