Last Week’s solar eclipse was an amazing experience for people living in North America, and especially so for those in the 14 U.S. states that enjoyed the good fortune of being in the path of totality, where the Moon completely blocked the Sun for less than 3 minutes. It was the experience of a lifetime for many of the estimated 20 million people who witnessed the event. It certainly had an effect on humans, as noted by the record crowds that came out to see it. But how about the animal world; and, in particular for anglers, did it have any effect on fish … and fishing?
We’ve known for a long time now that animals as well as people are influenced by the Sun and the Moon’s relative positions to one another throughout the day. Though I’m not aware of any massive increase in the fish bite or other significant oddities during the eclipse (maybe because it was relatively short in duration), the phenomenon was one the made me think about the relationship between our planet, the Sun and the Moon… and more specifically, how it impacts outdoor sports like hunting and fishing on a daily basis.
In particular, it got me thinking about the influence that the moon phases have on fishing. I’m sure at one time or another we have all likely come across a seasoned fellow angler who is obsessed with the lunar phases – you know, the individual who swears by the Moon’s ability to increase his/her catch when fishing the various phases throughout the year. Many such types don’t even consider casting a line until they have consulted the Solunar Tables to find the best times and dates.
There’s no debating that fact the Moon and moon phases have a great an effect on our planet, our oceans and even bodies of freshwater, particularly the larger ones (e.g. Great Lakes).
More precisely, the Sun and the Moon are known to significantly impact fish activity and feeding behaviour, with dawn and dusk being regarded as major feeding times and the best fishing times of the day.
How the Moon Affects the Tide
Perhaps the most well-known way the Moon influences Earth is the tides in our oceans and other bodies of water in varying degree. A result of the combination of the gravitational pull of the Moon and the force of the Earth’s movements around the Sun, tides are created in the oceans and are observed by us from our shores as that constant ebb and flow of water.
Because the Moon changes positions as it orbits the Earth, the power of its gravitational pull also changes, causing differences in the tides throughout the month. When the Moon, Sun, and Earth are all aligned, the result is a full or new moon (it occurs twice each month), which also results in the highest tides of the month.
Of course, the Moon has several phases as it rotates the Earth (which takes 29.5 days), meaning its influence over the tide varies throughout each phase over the month. Different tides mean different fishing conditions, and many anglers believe it can be used to their advantage for picking the best and avoiding the worst times to fish each month.
Influence on Fish Feeding Behavior
So, how exactly does the Moon impact animals such as fish? It’s widely reported that animal habits are influenced by the phases of the Moon – even early humans were aware that moon phases influenced their lives!
What is clear however, is that the changes in the tides have a massive influence on the feeding habits of fish, which is why so many anglers swear by using the lunar phases to their advantage when fishing.
Tides – and the currents they produce – directly influence the feeding habits of fish by creating favorable feeding conditions. Therefore, the best tidal and current conditions lead to more aggressive feeding as smaller bait fish are concentrated and become disoriented in the moving water, particularly near structure (rocks, troughs, jetties, etc); so by knowing the different cycles of the Moon and how they impact the tides, it’s possible to find not only the best fishing days and times but also the most productive locations.
Best Fishing Days and Times By Moon Phase
While unconfirmed, it’s widely believed that early fishermen understood how lunar phases impacted fishing, using this information to pick the best time to fish. It’s a practice countless of anglers today still use, so it’s certainly possible that the Moon can be used to your advantage – if you know how to use it!
Moonrise and Moonset
Just like sunrise and sunset increase fish activity, the timing of the Moon rising and setting may also heighten fish activity. Typically, it’s thought that fish activity will be at its highest around 45 minutes before and after moonrise and moonset, so when combined with sunrise and sunset, you could be looking at four optimal periods in the day.
Moon Above and Moon Below
Another popular theory relating to the Moon’s influence over fishing is the moon above and moon below. The basic idea behind this theory is that the best time for fishing is when the Moon is directly above or directly below the position of the angler.
This is because the position of the Moon in both these cases produces the strongest tide of the day, allowing anglers a better chance of taking part in heightened feeding and breeding activity during these periods.
Full Moon and New Moon
Fishing around the time of a full moon or new moon is often viewed as the best time to fish during the lunar cycle. While it is hotly debated whether there are any changes to fishing habits during a full or new moon, many are adamant that the fish bite is significantly better when fishing during these moon phases.
One of the main reasons cited for this is the illumination of the Moon. Because the full moon occurs when the Sun and Moon are aligned and the Moon is completely lit by the Sun, providing the Earth with the brightest and fullest view of the moon when it rises.
Many believe this allows for improved fishing conditions as many species are encouraged to feed more given the increased visibility provided by the Moon. For instance, it could result in many non-nocturnal fish thinking that it is daylight, which causes increased feeding and breeding activity.
Another reason during this lunar phase is the power of the Moon’s gravitational pull. During both a new and full Moon, the gravitational pull is at its strongest, resulting in the best tides for fishing of the month.
Stronger tides produce stronger currents, providing the perfect conditions for active baitfish and various other types of prey, so there is plenty of reason to believe that the full moon does increase fish activity.
The new moon and full moon are different stages of the Moon’s phase, with each occurring once during a calendar month, meaning anglers looking to test this theory out have two opportunities each month. Remember, the new moon isn’t illuminated, so this only relies on the changes to the tides by the pull of the Moon.
Oddly enough, you will likely hear many anglers claim that the best fishing times during a full or new Moon month are the days before and after, rather the day of. So, if you’ve had disappointing results during the full Moon, it might be worth trying your luck 4-5 days before or after.
The Solunar Table
As you might have noticed, there are various theories regarding the Moon and how it affects fishing. Putting all of this information into practice is often easier said than done, as you have to consider so many variables relating to the Moon, Sun, tides, and weather.
Thankfully, there are many great resources made available by avid anglers that want to make the most of the Moon’s impact on fish activity. One such resource is the Solunar Table, or lunar fishing table, where the best times and days of the month for fishing are based around tidal movements caused by the positions of the Moon and Sun.
You will find there are lunar fishing tables for virtually every location in the world, so if you’re serious about using the Moon to your advantage for fishing, be sure to check your local moon phase fishing calendar for the optimal time to cast your line each month.