You have your tackle box stocked with new lures, a great new saltwater spot picked out, and an open day on your schedule. It just might be time to get out on the boat or over to the pier and wet a line if the fishing conditions are right. Hmmm, should you take that vacation day now or wait another day or two? Knowing when to fish saltwater is a matter of researching several factors that help to dictate when the fish are going to be most active and hungry. Pay close attention to influences like saltwater tides, weather, time of day, water temperature, and the migration patterns of your target species in order to determine when the best time to fish will be.

Saltwater Tides

Saltwater tides coming in and out at dusk

Saltwater tides will fluctuate daily and are very important in determining when to fish saltwater areas. Here are a few things to consider:

  • A slack tide means that the tide is neither incoming nor outgoing and that the water is not moving much. Avoid fishing during times of slack tide and focus on time periods where tidal movement will be most pronounced.
  • Plenty of water movement means that baitfish and crustaceans will also be moving and active. When the bait is active, so are the predatory game fish that feed upon them.
  • A strong incoming tide is generally the optimal time to fish since the current will be bringing baitfish, crustaceans and other prey in towards land.
  • The best way to find out when the best fishing tide times will be is by checking a daily tide chart or by asking for a chart at your local tackle shop.
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Lunar Phases 

Lunar phases can affect when to fish saltwater areas in a few different ways. First, a full or new moon sheds more light on the water at night, which can affect the feeding patterns of fish since it’s easier for them to see and feed. Second, during a full or new moon, the saltwater tides are stronger due to the pull of gravity. Stronger currents will mean more active baitfish and other prey making for optimal fishing tide times.

Weather Patterns and Barometric Pressure

An offshore fishing boat that knew when to fish before a front came in

The arrival of a front that brings either cooler or warmer air temperatures will affect fishing. If you are looking for a time when to fish saltwater areas, a good period is just before a front comes through, when the barometric pressure is dropping, and when there is some cloud cover. After a front passes the skies are normally clear and the fish need time to re-adjust to the change in conditions before they will actively feed again.


Time of Day 

Anytime of day is a good time to fish; however, dawn and dusk are generally the best time of day to fish provided that the weather and tidal movements are favorable. Remember to reference a saltwater tide chart to see which range of hours during the day will be the best fishing tide times.

Seasons and Migration Patterns 

Swimming tarpon that migrate when saltwater tides are too warm or cold

Depending on the species, water temperature, mating habits, and feeding habits, many game fish have a season or specific time of year when they are more commonly found in a certain area. As an example, one of the most famed sport fish of Florida, the tarpon, prefers water temperatures of 72 to 82°F. When water temperatures drop below this level or increase above 82°, tarpon will migrate to waters within the species preferred temperature range. Many of the migratory game fish species are pelagic fish which live in the water column of coastal and ocean waters.

Make sure to check the newspaper or your local fishing reports before going fishing so you know how the saltwater tides will be running on the day you plan to fish. A little bit of research can make a big difference in the number of fish you catch.