When to Go Saltwater Fly Fishing: Best Times to Catch Big Fish

Here we run through the best time to go saltwater fishing. As fish behaviour changes on a seasonal basis and different species become active at different times.

Although this is a really common question, there is no easy answer. That is because choosing a time to go fly fishing in saltwater usually depends on what fish you want to catch.

During different times of the year some fish are more plentiful than others, and, some fish, like Redfish and Trout, can be caught year-round. The main thing that affects them is water temperature.

Saltwater fishing in the spring

Spring is a great season to fish. The water is usually clear and sight fishing is at it’s best. The Redfish are out in schools of up to 600 fish and they are almost always willing to feed on topwater. During this time of year, it is common to catch Redfish that weigh between 10 to 40 lbs. So make sure to bring some redfish fly patterns.

spring saltwater fishing

Trout fishing is also great in the spring. During spring in Florida, you can catch Trout from the boat that are over 30 inches long. So if you have always dreamed of catching that gator Trout, Spring is the best time.

Snook and small Tarpon start showing up in late spring as well. They can be unpredictable, especially in the Cocoa Beach area, as the can be on one day and go off the next. If you are determined to catch Snook or small Trout in spring, your best bet is in the southern part of the county near Melbourne.

Jacks, Ladyfish and quite a few other saltwater fish species are active in the Florida spring.

Saltwater fishing in the summer

During the summer, the schools of Redfish tend to break up and scatter across the flats. This can be a good season to get out your rod. Also, flats fishing for single Redfish is a great way to test your sight fishing skills. But make sure to bring the best flies for redfish as well. Single reds cruise the saltwater flats looking for that next easy meal and are likely to hit the right lure if it is in the right place.

During the summer, the best time to fish for trout is in the early mornings as the water warms up later in the day. Even at slightly higher temperatures, there are still some good-sized fish to be caught, but it will take you a lot of casting.

This is the perfect opportunity to saltwater fly fishing for Snook and Tarpon. These guys love the warmer weather and will give you a battle like you have never experienced.

Just like in the spring, summer brings no shortage of fish like Jacks or Ladyfish either.

Saltwater fishing in the Fall

Except for Spring, fall must be the best time to go fishing. It is during the fall that the bait fish population explodes. With so many bait fish around every predator is looking to feed.

fall saltwater fishing

Everything wants to put on a few extra pounds for the winter. Even the fish are fishing, especially the Tarpon. Fall is definitely one of the best times for saltwater fly fishing Tarpon.

As fishing times go, the fall is incredible for Snook. The water levels are up from all the late summer rain in the south, and the Snook are in the mangroves and under the docks. If you are fishing Snook, they are right there, waiting to blast a topwater plug.

The Redfish are also bulking up for the winter. Most of the Redfish hang out small groups of 3 to 10 fish and can be found around schools of bait, especially Needle Fish. If you are using a lure, the best fishing is always to mimic the natural prey.

Saltwater Trout fishing improves in the fall for the same reasons. They are trying to put on a few pounds. The best times for fish Trout in the fall are at first light as they are warming up and starting to feed.

Many types of saltwater fish get active in the fall in Florida – Spanish Mackerel, Jacks, Fluke, Ladyfish, Blues are all active getting ready for winter. So fly fishing for flounder would be ideal here.

Saltwater fishing in the winter

Winter can be a great time of the year for fishing if the water doesn’t get too cold. If the temperature stays right, Redfish and Trout remain active. If the water gets cold the fishing Reds and Trout slows down. When this happens the best time to get out after them is late afternoon. You will only catch them feeding as the water hits its warmest.

The best fishing in winter is for Ladyfish and Jacks. These fish are a blast on light tackle with essential saltwater flies. They like to spend a lot of time in the air and you can one with almost every cast. I can be one of the best fishing times if you are starting out.

It is also great if you want to hook into some non-stop fishing action. Winter fly fishing can be a lot of fun no matter your skill level.

What is the best time of year to go saltwater fishing?

best time to go saltwater fishing

Generally speaking, Trout are most active in spring and fall months. Saltwater fishing for Snook and Tarpon is in the summer and fall, and the best time. If its the biggest redfish you are after they are most plentiful in the spring months, but provide the most satisfying sight fishing in the summer when they have broken up into smaller groups.

Do saltwater fish bite after rain?

All fish bite after a rain, not just saltwater fish. Most of the time that calm just after a massive rainstorm in July produces excellent fishing for topwater lures. So fly fishing in rain won’t be a problem.

The rain creates a cool surface layer that brings the bait to the top This bait storm brings the predators out in droves and they feed aggressively. The first 30 minutes after a rain is one of the best fishing times you could hope for, but its a small window and you have to be in the right place.

Rain can also cause a flow of freshwater into the river can also really turn on a feed. Try fishing a culvert or other freshwater outflow just after a good downpour.

Is it best to fish on incoming or outgoing tide?

An incoming tide can be the best tide to fish when you are focused on fishing inshore tidal flats. As the rises and flows over the saltwater flats fish begin to search the newly flooded areas in search of food. On an incoming tide, fish toward the deeper water beyond the edge of the flat. Cast your lure out to fish that are moving onto the flat along with the rising tide.

What is the best bait for fishing in saltwater?

99% of the lures on the market are designed to catch fisherman not fish. Keep that in mind next time you are at the tackle shop looking for something new. The rule of thumb is to “match the hatch”. If you fish with lures that look like the bait the fish are feeding on you can’t go wrong.

best bait for saltwater fishing

What colour lure should I use saltwater fishing?

I have heard all sorts of stuff about some fish seeing different colors and some fish only seeing black and white. I say that if a fish can see a mullet and are feeding on them, use something that looks like a mullet. I would not recommend using something bright pink and chartreuse. Use more subdued colors that won’t scare the fish.

Fish hunt more by the action of a lure than they do its color. When fish hunt, they are looking for that bait that looks and acts more like their regular meal. The exception to this rule is that if a fish is very hungry they will eat anything small enough to fit in their mouth. This is one of the reasons you hear of people catching fish on strangely coloured bait.

One exception to this rule is trout. Trout will eat anything. They feed more on movement than they do a particular bait. So, when fishing for saltwater trout, you may want to use the brightest, loudest lure you can find.

But there are also times that the fish wont bit. Here are some of the reasons why are the fish not biting.

Top Water lures for saltwater fishing

Match the lure to the natural baitfish your target is eating. Choose lures that look like mullet or Needlefish. Rip Rollers and Original High Rollers made by High Roller are great for this for a few reasons:

1) These lures catch fish. They have the nicest action of any topwater plug around. The “walk the dog” action of the Original High Roller and the 3.25 High Roller looks more like a bait trying to skip across the water than the typical zigzag of other “walk the dog” plugs.

The Pop and spit of the Rip Roller is the perfect combination when trying to tease Trout, Redfish and Snook to blast the surface.

2) These lures are hand made to last. You may pay a few extra bucks for these lures but I have never seen a lure that would last as long. They do not lose their finish or scratch up just after a few fish.

If you do a lot of topwater plug fishing you will find that they actually save you money in the long run. Take it from someone who spends over $6000 a year on tackle.

Soft plastic fishing lures

Over the years and a few of these have stood out for their saltwater fish catching ability. There are 2 lures I use more than any other. Cotee’s Real Magic and their Shad Grubs.

The Real Magic was introduced to me a few years ago by a friend who swore it was the best lure ever made. When I first saw it I have to admit I gave him a hard time. It was the silliest looking thing I ever saw. It didn’t look to me like it would catch anything.

Then he out fished me with it.

Since that time I have caught Redfish, Trout and Snook on this lure. you can rig them with a jig head weedless with a 5/0 Daiichi Bleeding Copperhead Hook.

Cotee’s swimming Shad is an excellent lure. Grubs may be grubs but I have found that Cotee has one of the largest selections of colors. When rigging these grubs I recommend a red jig head.

These 3 lures make up the bulk of my arsenal. Over the years I have used hundreds of lures and it always comes back to these 3 are the ones that put more fish in the boat.

You can see our post here on how to tie a jig head for a more step by step guide.

saltwater fishing wrap up

Wrap up

As you have seen from the seasons above, there is no ideal time to go fishing. Fish behaviour changes on a seasonal basis and different species become active at different times. The ideal thing to do is decide what you want to catch, do some research or talk to a guide and decide what time of year they are most active.

You really cant go wrong.

Photo of author

Ben Kepka

Hey, I'm Ben, a fly fisherman for over 20 years and also an aspiring blogger. I've been into fly fishing since my graduation from spin fishing when I was 12 years old. I started flyfisherpro.com to help introduce as many people into this amazing sport. Tight lines everyone! You can read more on our about page here.

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