The Lunar Debate

Full Moon…New Moon…No Moon…Does Any Of It Mean Anything Or Is It Something Else Altogether.

FSF Staff February 11, 2011

By now I’m sure you’re fully aware moon phase plays a huge role in favor of and against saltwater anglers. But is the story the same for our landlocked brethren?

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Photo: istock.com/carolinasmith

The lunar debate among the freshwater angling community rages on and is likely the most disputed subject related to freshwater fishing. A number of professionals swear the precise moon phase had a role to play in any successful outing. Others claim the phase of the moon has no measurable effect on the success or failure of any freshwater fishing trip. One thing we know for certain; few fishermen have ever been able to provide concrete evidence either way.

So did they catch their limit because of moon phase or did they simply put the right lure in the right place at the right time?

With widely varying opinions on the subject, how is it that the solunar calendar, which utilizes a number of parameters to predict peak fishing times based on the precise location of the moon, may be the most published piece of fishing information across the country. There must be some validity here, right?

Astronomy taught us the most extreme solunar period is during a new moon when the sun and moon are both positioned on the same side of earth and pull on our planet from the same direction. Many anglers feel this is peak fishing time. To complicate matters, another segment of fishermen swear that big fish are most active during the full moon when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of earth. They recollect catching behemoth bucketmouths just before or after a full moon with stringers of specks practically a sure thing. There are also those who firmly believe moon phase has nowhere near the effect on freshwater as it does in saltwater. Their reasoning is simple; inland bodies of freshwater are not affected by tide or current. The same skeptics swear peak solunar feeding periods do not affect the quantity or quality of freshwater fish caught and that if you follow solunar tables you’re wasting your time.

While the lunar phase debate rages on, all freshwater fishermen agree wind velocity and direction, sunlight, rising or falling barometric pressure, and rising or falling air and water temperatures are deciding factors. If you are fishing a clear, high-pressure morning there are tactics you can employ to increase your odds. When the pressure starts falling and cloud cover rolls in, everyone agrees it’s time to switch it up. Most freshwater anglers do not track peak feeding periods anyway, they’re just out to enjoy a relaxing day on the lake. They know that it’s sunny and relief from the blistering heat may be months away. Most recreational freshwater fishermen stick with proven patterns and while they may vary their presentation, overall they remain with what they know works. You can call it “confidence.”

When the sun is high in the sky, bass fishermen typically move slower. They know the largemouth they are after are probably hunkered down in the thickest cover or deepest part of the lake and won’t move much. They know its time to fish methodically, covering water thoroughly and not venturing off to unfamiliar areas.

Anglers that follow solunar tables tend to switch it up during peak feeding periods. They may continue to concentrate on the same cover, except they change lures and adjust their retrieve for that one-hour when fish are expected to be on. Impressive results often speak for themselves. So did they catch their limit because of moon phase or did they simply put the right lure in the right place at the right time?

Freshwater fishermen agree the most promising time to fish is dawn and dusk. Is this because of the gravitational pull on earth? Or is it because these periods see the greatest baitfish activity in shallow water. Maybe it’s because when the sun rises or falls, predators ambush prey in low-light conditions.

What’s the bottom line? Well, there is none. That’s why it’s a debate. When it comes to the moon and freshwater fishing, my personal opinion is that there certainly has to be something to it. At the very least when coupled with ideal conditions such as falling a barometer and overcast skies, the correct moon phase can be the vanilla ice cream on the warm apple pie. The affect of the moon on freshwater fishing when other important factors are far from ideal also make peak feeding periods worth paying close attention to. Fish need to eat. They can go without feeding aggressively, but eventually they need to eat. The right moon phase may just be the trigger that gets them moving and eating with more aggression, even if for a short period of time. But if you don’t know when these peak feeding periods are, it’s impossible to take advantage of a potentially hot bite. Do us a favor, go ahead and give it a shot for a season. Keep precise records of all of your catches. After the end of the year you may be amazed at what patterns emerge. The best thing that can happen is that you realize all of this moon phase stuff has something to it and you pick up the big bass of the month, of the year, or better yet the big bass of a lifetime.

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