I have found mornings as the sun is coming up and evenings as the sun is going down to be very good. I also found the middle of the day to be good. I have never caught them at night, even while trying to target them. The best time of year to catch them is during their spawn which is anytime the water temperatures get over 68 degrees. You will know it is spawning time when you see perfectly circular and deep, dish-sized holes. The males dig the holes and then find female Tilapia and bring them back to the nest where courtship begins. The males become very aggressive at this time. The eggs are actually carried around in the females mouth, so they are not in or near the spawning beds. The male still is protective of the bed even though there are no eggs or fry around. During this time the Tilapia's can actually be caught on small crankbait lures and small crappie jigs. As far as their diet goes, Tilapia feed on plankton and small organisms living in or on bottom. Things like green algae, moss and other plant material. I have caught them on corn, peas, bread balls, moss and small earthworms and maggots.
What I like to do before I fish for Tilapia is buy some canned peas, corn or both. Then for a few days, chum the lake or pond with the canned peas and corn in the area you see the fish. Now go get some frozen peas and corn. Keep them frozen even while you are fishing with them.
Using two rigs, put one piece of frozen corn on a small hook just free-lined (no weight or float), and on the other rig, place one piece of frozen pea on a small hook suspended below a float. You should be fishing in the area you chummed during the prior days. Tilapia stay suspended so keeping the bait in front of them is key. If you see their beds, keep a bait in the bed on the bottom and one suspended in the bed. I also like to move the bait to the edge of the bed or along the drop-off of the bed. Be patient and make sure your shadow does not scare the fish. I also like to fish with 8-lb. fluorocarbon as my line with no leader. Hook sizes should be # 4 or smaller. Sometimes I would use a tiny split-shot along the line in order to cast the corn or pea. Many times I use my fly rod with a pea or piece of corn as my fly. I have also caught Tilapia on a tiny white fly.
Thank you for sending in your question to The Online Fisherman. Send us some photos of your Tilapia catches.
Captain David M Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc.