How long it REALLY takes to catch a fish

The anticipation of catching your first fish can make time crawl. You’ve set up your rod, you’ve baited the hook, and casted into the water. But where are the fish!?

It can take hours to get a fish to bite, no matter what you do. However, fishermen often change spots if they haven’t caught anything within 20 to 30 minutes. Below are some simple tips which can help you determine if you need to be more patient in your spot or move to find the fish.

Look on the edge to see if there are fish in the area

The easiest way to know if you are in a spot where you can catch fish is to simply look out onto the edge of the water. Often times, you will find small little minnows (often called bait fish) swimming just a foot or two from the bank. Now you may be thinking, “But those fish are too small, I’m looking for something bigger than that!”

how long to catch fish baitfish in water

The reason you’re looking for those small fish is because they are a food source for the bigger fish to eat. Remember, they are called “bait fish” for a reason – they are bait for bigger fish! So chances are if you see some little fish swimming on the edge, just a few feet farther out are bigger fish just waiting for the chance to eat them. Throw your bait in there and wait, and you’ll likely catch one!

If you can’t see bait fish, maybe look for predators that eat them. A Heron doing his own fishing is a sure sign that fish are in the area.

Bugs are actually a great sign you should keep fishing

Normally, people run away from areas with lots of bugs around. After all, they buzz in your ears, bite your skin, and are just a nuisance. But when you’re fishing, bugs are actually a great sign to know that you are in a fishy area. Remember our first sign for to find an area with fish we can catch – bait fish. I told you that these fish are a good sign of bigger fish being in the area waiting to feed on them. But bait fish have to eat too, and what do they eat? BUGS!

So when you sit down your gear and cast out into the water and there are bugs ticking the tops of the water, or small gnats flying around your face, know that means there are likely smaller fish in the water waiting for their chance to get a meal. And where there are small fish, there are bigger fish. In small ponds especially, bugs are a common source of food for all species of fish, large and small. So if you see an area with lots of bugs jumping around the waters surface, know there are likely fish in the area waiting to be caught.

how long to catch a fish water bug

Natural cover that hold fish - what to look for

how long it takes to catch a fish downed tree in water

Sometimes you are not able to look for bugs or see small fish on the edge of the water. In colder months or when spring is just starting, maybe the bugs have not come out and smaller fish aren’t sitting close to the bank. Perhaps it’s raining and you can’t see bugs or the edge. In these cases, your best bet is to see if your fishing spot has natural features which are likely to attract fish.

Many people believe the bottom of any body of water is flat, but this is absolutely not the case. There are depth changes, rocks, fallen trees, weeds, and many things under the water you will never see. Being able to look at the bank and determine where those things are under the water will tell you if fish are in the area. Fish hold on any of these things and anything that is just different.

One of the most overlooked areas that often hold fish are called “transition lines”. This is where there is one type of terrain that immediately stops and turns into another. The most simple kind? A dirt bottom that “transitions” into a rocky bottom. But there are others. Many bottoms have sand, dirt, rock, and even wood or leaves. Fish love to sit on these lines where the transition takes place.

Can’t see the bottom? Look on the bank! If it’s sandy or rocky on the bank, it’s going to continue into the water. Use whatever information you can see above water to your advantage and you’ll become a much better fisherman.

How to know if there are even fish in a lake

Does your spot have all three of the above, and you still aren’t catching fish? If you’ve waited 30 minutes and still haven’t caught anything, it might be tempting to think your body of water only has tiny fish in it.

More than likely, that is untrue. If there are little fish, they will grow into bigger fish. And almost all bodies of water get fish in them naturally over time. Even if they were never stocked! So don’t be discouraged, there may be another spot in the lake which has all of the features above as well where the fish are at that specific time. Don’t be afraid to move around and try new spots to see if you can find a place where the fish are biting.


Ultimately, the fish don’t bite well every day. You could be in the perfect spot, have a great bait right in front of the fish’s nose, and they just don’t want to bite. Be patient. They will bite sooner or later.

Change spots when you feel like you’ve exhausted all possibilities but never stop fishing completely. When you do find that one honey-hole that has fish after fish, it will have made the struggle well worth it. Or if you wait 15 minutes and finally get that right fish, it’s a feeling you’ll never forget!

So be patient and don’t quit a spot just because you haven’t caught a fish in a few minutes. But also feel free to move around if you’ve waited 30 minutes and haven’t caught anything. You can always come back to the spot later and see if the fish have become hungry!

Fishing is ultimately a game of patience. Unlike almost any other pastime, you can’t see when a fish is about to bite. It’s what makes fishing so frustrating, and so rewarding when you do finally catch a fish. Use the tips above to put yourself in the best position to catch a fish and enjoy mother nature waiting for it to happen. And be prepared for when it does! Because once they start biting, you’re in for the time of your life…

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