Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

"Dawn and Dusk."

Getting out of bed seems to be the problem. To tell the truth I’m lucky, I’ve never had much bother with this but many anglers would rather stay up all night than get up at three or four o’clock in the morning. Let’s look at a recent (but typical) fishing session ---

--- The alarm clock went off at twenty-to-four – I’d put it on a table well out of reach of my bed so I had to get up and turn it off. I quickly dressed in the clothes I’d put out before I went to bed. I knocked on Richard’s door and heard him say “OK!”. Within minutes we’d picked up the rods and bag (also prepared the previous evening) and were in the car on our way to the coast.

Fifteen minutes later, as we parked the car, there was just a faint brightening in the eastern sky. We hurried down the cliff path and climbed down to the ledges where we were to fish. Rich picked up the spinning rod armed with an 11cm, shallow diving plug and I had my fly rod with a crudely tied streamer on a razor sharp stainless hook (the hook’s much more important than the fly in my book). We began to fish.

For five minutes nothing happened, then I felt a tug on the rod and was playing a modest, trout-sized, pollack. Richard watched as I landed the fish then laid down his rod, picked up the camera and took a picture of me with the fish. I returned the pollack and we went back to our fishing. The sky was beginning to lighten quite quickly and I was able to see Richard’s plug splash down at the end of a cast. Almost simultaneously his rod bent and he was into a fish. “Mackerel!” he said and wound it splashing and kicking back towards him.

For the next hour he caught mackerel after mackerel. I had one or two on the fly when they came near enough to be taken and Rich had a nice bass that hammered the plug and battled hard all the way to the rocks. By now the sun was creeping up into the sky and it was a pleasant morning. We could possibly have continued catching mackerel but we agreed that we’d had the best of the fishing and might as well return for breakfast. I looked at the watch – it was quarter-to-six.

As I said this is a fairly typical fishing trip for me. Instead of mackerel we could have been catching scad or pollack or bass. I could have been fishing on a tropical beach for tarpon or jacks or barracuda but, whatever my quarry, the general picture is similar. The question is why do I bother to get up so early? I recently read a scientific paper, by Rickel and Genin, that more or less answers the question. They carried out experiments to show how the foraging behaviour of fish changed over 24 hours. Here are the results - in a nutshell.

Many bait fish feed on plankton and other small creatures that they catch by sight in the hours of daylight. At night they stop feeding and take cover from predators. There seems to be a fine line between getting enough to eat and the risk of being eaten. For a brief period, as the light changes, certain predators (bass and pollack for example) having large eyes and efficient vision, gain a bit of an advantage over their prey. Consequently the feeding of predatory fish is often concentrated mainly into short periods at dawn and dusk.

In addition, because the refuge of small baitfish is often in shallow water close to the water's edge (birds can't see them in the dark of course) the predators concentrate their attacks in these areas. That, of course, is where we, the shore anglers, come in.

The scientists point out that the waxing and waning of light at the two ends of a day are more or less exact mirror images (given a clear sky and no cloud). However, the fish respond rather differently at dawn and at dusk. The reason seems to be that the eyes of fish adapt more quickly to it getting light than to it growing dark.

As a result the feeding period at dawn is shorter and a bit before sunrise. At dusk it lasts longer, starts before the sun goes below the horizon and continues for some time after.

Of course it is possible to catch fish throughout the day and night. Yesterday I had a couple of bass on a plug fishing mid-morning. Sometimes it is worth changing baits and methods to make the most of the light conditions. Without doubt there are many other factors including tide, wind and weather that are important in governing feeding of fish. However, anyone who wants to succeed in catching big predators would be silly to ignore 'the taking times'.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


Dawn and dusk.


The red line shows how bait fish come out to feed BEFORE sun-up.


The red line shows how bait fish gradually wind down as the sun drops below the horizon.