How long it REALLY takes to catch a fish

The anticipation of waiting for the first fish to bite can make time crawl. You’ll check your watch and wonder, how long is it going to take for my bait to be eaten by a fish? or when will I get to catch my first fish and show my friends?

Of course, there is no perfect amount of time. Luck has a huge role in when a hungry fish happens to swim by your bait. But, you can estimate it based on a few factors that we will get into below. Whether you’re on the lake waiting for a fish, or just want to know how many times you need to go to a fishery to catch one, this will answer everything you need to know!

How long did it take you to catch your first fish?

Of course, this answer is different for everyone, but I know a lot of fishermen and I asked around to get a good idea. I went fishing with a father who taught me the ropes and knew good locations for fish – so I caught fish within a few minutes! But other fishing friends had to go days without catching fish as they learned the basics of when, where, and how to fish. 

So if you’re a beginner too, I recommend reading this article which contains 50 helpful hints I wish I knew when I started my fishing journey. 

Expect if it’s your first time on the lake and you don’t have much fishing experience, you likely won’t catch a fish your first day. Instead, enjoy the peace and quiet – but also look around to learn everything you can like where fish are located, what things are around for the fish to eat, and what other fishermen are doing that seems to work. This will greatly help you move along your journey.

But if you’re sure you have the right locations, baits, and everything else. Then you should be catching fish within the first hour or so. If not, you probably aren’t doing something right!


Once I catch my first fish, does it take longer to catch the rest?

Usually when you catch one fish, the next fish will come in quicker. This is because fish most often swim in schools. So chances are once you’ve caught one, if you get back in the same spot quickly enough, you’ll catch another one that was swimming in that same school!

As many fishermen will tell you, there are many times I can remember sitting for hours waiting for a bite. It seemed like it would never come, and then by miracle I catch a fish! Lo and behold, I throw right back in and catch another! Then another! Within an hour I’ve caught 5 more fish. Just like that!

Also, once you catch one fish you should take notice of everything that made that fish bite. Where you cast, what was happening on the water, weather, time of day, the whole thing. When you start learning those things and know what to look for, it will greatly increase how quickly you catch fish. 

Time to catch a fish by species

If you want to get more specific though or have caught fish and want to know when the next one is coming, one of the major determinants on how long it will take to catch a fish is what type of fish are in the body of water you’re fishing. And, what type of bait you have to attract them. Some fish that are more plentiful are going to be much quicker to bite. If there are fewer of them, then it’ll probably take longer. 

how long to catch fish baitfish in water

So for example, if you’re fishing for a bluegill or a small panfish species that is similar, you probably will catch a fish in the first 5 to 10 minutes if they’re in that area and you have the right baits. If you want to know what types of bait you should use, I’ve written all about it in The 6 Best Bluegill Baits.

But if you’re fishing for something that is in smaller supply, like a largemouth bass, then you’ll be waiting a lot longer. 30 minutes to even an hour can be normal for the right fish to swim by and want your bait. If you fish for very rare species like salmon, you might even be waiting all day for a single bite. 

If you aren’t aware just how many fish of each species are in your fishery, then think about the food chain. There are lots of small fish that feed on bugs and planktons (minnows, perch, bluegill, etc.) and less big fish that feed on smaller fish. Thus, nature keeps its order. So if you want to catch fish more quickly, target those smaller species that are more plentiful. Below is a little list of the most common fish and about how long it takes to catch them:

  • Bluegill/Panfish – 10 Minutes
  • Crappie – 15-20 Minutes
  • Black Bass – 30 Minutes-1 Hour
  • Catfish – 30 Minutes-1 Hour
  • Trout – 1 Hour
  • Carp – 1 Hour
  • Muskie/Pike – 1-2 Hours


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!

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. Read around the links below and you’ll learn a ton more about fishing and hopefully make your next fishing trip even more productive!

Leave a Comment