By Jeff Samsel

I’m a dark-to-dark fisherman. It’s simply the way I’m wired. Over time, that approach has allowed me to observe something that I believe costs many anglers opportunities to enjoy some of winter’s best action. Quite simply, too many anglers call it a day too early.

Almost without exception, I have more company on the water at first light than at last light. Understandably eager to start a day of fishing, folks wake up super early and brave the morning cold. Many seem to run out of steam or start to get distracted with thoughts about evening plans, though, because around mid-afternoon, numbers almost always start dropping. Even on fairly popular lakes and streams, it’s not uncommon for most other anglers (if not all) to be gone with an hour or so of daylight remaining.

From late spring through the end of summer, that approach makes good sense, and through the heart of spring and fall, early and late hours offer about equal virtue. Once water temperatures start really dropping in late autumn, however, most fish don’t feed as actively first thing in the morning. The bite heats up as the sun warms the water, and it only gets better as the day progresses.

Although air temperatures typically begin falling again late in a day, the water temperature response is delayed. What that means from a practical standpoint is that during those final couple of hours of daylight, about the time everyone starts going home, the water is as warm as it will be all day, and the light is diminishing, creating better ambush conditions for predators.

Everyone else packing up early isn’t bad for me. I admittedly enjoy having every spot available when the fish are chomping. In case that’s ever you, though, it only seems right to let you know that you’re probably missing out on the best bite of the day. If you don’t want to fish from daylight to dark, enjoy a little more morning sleep, but stick it out till the end. I believe you’ll be glad you did.