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Best Time of Day to Catch Carp (All Four Seasons Evaluated)

By: Eric Matechak


Carp fishing can be very good year-round but it is important to focus on specific times of day when carp are the most active feeding. While it is true that carp will often times be feeding all hours of the day, each season and condition has its own best time to catch carp.

What is the best time of day to catch carp? Carp will feed all hours of the day, but tend to really prefer nighttime and late afternoon during the summer, early morning and late afternoon during the spring and summer, and midday during the winter. You can catch carp just about any hour of the day except maybe for nighttime during the winter when the water is simply unbearably cold and carp are hunkered trying to stay warm.

In this article, we will discuss the best times of day to catch carp and how to pattern them based on the season and their seasonal behavior. While the time of day is important and I think you need to know the information in this article, what I cover about location in this piece is even more important since carp can be tricky to locate at times. It won’t matter what time of day you fish if you aren’t fishing where carp are, you won’t catch any.

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What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Carp?

Spring: Best Time of Day

The best time of day to catch carp during the springtime is mid-afternoon very early in the spring and then early morning and late afternoon towards the middle and late spring as the water warms up. Carp fishing can actually be the very best time of year to target carp as they will be moving into shallow water bays and lagoons hungry from a leaner winter. In these locations, bank fishermen can have easy access to carp just a few feet from shore often.

Big carp are typically the first carp to venture into the shallows after ice melt or early spring. Progressively smaller fish will leave their winter deep-water hideouts for these shallow water bays where they begin aggressively feeding and packing on size prior to the spawn. As spring moves along, carp will feed more aggressively and can be caught reliably at all times of day by the end of spring.

Summer: Best Time of Day

During the summertime, the best time of day to catch carp is at night, but carp can be caught all times of day as the warm water will encourage feeding activity. Carp love feeding at night and the summer offers carp warm water and an abundance of food sources to chow down on during the dark hours.

Early morning and late evening bites just before sunset can be super exciting too. During the midday hours, carp will often be seen near the surface rolling.

They seem to like basking in the hot so surface baits like floating boilies, bread, and grasshoppers can be dynamite. I do all my carp fishing on the bottom but I still enjoy great success even when fish are on the surface. I attribute this to having great bait and using a pack bait to draw a carp’s attention down to the bottom.

Fall: Best Time of Day

From early to mid-fall, carp fishing is best early morning and late afternoon but later in the season as winter nears, midday carp fishing is typically the best. Carp are still on their summertime way of feeding, minus the nighttime feeding window. They really seem to like the cooler temperatures associated with evening and morning time.

This is often when an abundance of prey can be found. In late fall, carp will start taking on a more “winter-mindset” and begin their march out to deep water. Deepwater is usually where the warmest water in a lake can be found and as the temperatures plummet, this is where carp will head.

When carp head out to deep water, they do a lot of feeding in the midday heat. They will also rise higher in the water column during the hottest parts of the day before retreating back down deep in preparation for the chilly night air.

Winter: Best Time of Day

The best time of day I have found for winter carp fishing is midday when the water temperatures are warmest. Carp feeding activity does not turn off in the winter but it does slow down some. Furthermore, carp hunker down more when it’s cold out and won’t move much. This means winter carp fishing is 100% about location selection.

Look for pockets where warm water can be found. I’m talking about deep holes at the mouth of rivers and reservoir fingers. Another great spot can be shallow bays which is where water temperatures will warm up the most by the winter sun.

I have seen people around me catch winter carp early morning and late afternoon but I have found the best success during the hottest hours of the day as carp become more active in cold water when there are noticeably warmer temperatures.

Are Carp More Active at Night?

During certain times of the year, carp can become most active at night. During the hot summer months, carp often times feed very heavily at night. This is a bit misleading though as carp will feed almost all day long including the midday heat during the summer although the bite can be hottest at night.

As an example of what I’m talking about, oftentimes carp can be seen during the summer up at the surface basking in the sun of the early afternoon while also eating insects at the surface.

Early afternoon and morning carp fishing can be very good during the summer too. I would say in regards to night fishing, it is best during the late spring, summer, and very early fall. Don’t night fish for carp during the winter. You won’t catch much except a cold.

How Can Time of Day Affect Carp Movement in the Water Column?


Carp can be somewhat unpredictable in how they move up and down in the water column on a given day. For example, oftentimes you can find them feeding on the bottom in the morning when it’s cool and then hanging out in the sun on the surface during the early afternoon.

Of course, sometimes it is opposite and carp are feeding heavily on the bottom during the early afternoon, not at the surface. Later, near sunset, these will rise to the surface and gobble up insects near sunset.

Sometimes the best way to figure it out is by simply observing. A 10-pound carp breaching the surface or rolling is easy to spot. The mud kicked up by a carp feeding on the bottom is more difficult to spot but impossible.

Another great way to find a carp feeding on the bottom is a trail of bubbles leading in a specific direction the carp is traveling. It should be noted that even if carp are feeding on the surface, you can still use bottom methods to catch them.

This is especially true if you are fishing in shallow bays as surface carp will still smell and find a good pack bait on the bottom.

Final Thoughts

Carp fishing can be good just about any time of day except nighttime during the winter — avoid fishing then. The best time of day to catch summer carp is either nighttime or early afternoon though morning and evening bites may be good.

For spring and fall carp, stick with morning and evening. Winter carp fishing is typically best when water temperatures are at their daytime heights, which is typically early afternoon.

I wrote another article on carp which I think some anglers can find very helpful. 

This essay is from:


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