Fishing by the Moon: Does Lunar Phase Affect Your Catch?

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Jeff Strang
How the Moon and Tides affect bite times for fish like snapper, trevally and kingfish. From the Digital Fish channel

For generations the influence of the moon on our fishing success has been debated. Yet as with most things fishing, anecdote can be difficult to discern from evidence. Can the moon's lunar phase truly impact the bite?

Lunar Phases and Fishing

The moon goes through eight distinct phases in its lunar cycle: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning crescent. Each phase has its own characteristics, including different levels of visible light and gravitational pull on the Earth.

Anecdotal evidence from anglers often suggests lessened fish activity during the full moon by day but heighted activity at night.

At night, the full moon, with its bright illumination, may trigger night feeding in many species.

The new moon, conversely, is believed to stimulate daytime feeding due to the lack of significant moonlight at night.

Tidal Influence

The moon's gravitational pull affects Earth's tides, creating a palpable connection between lunar phases and the ebb and flow of the sea.

Spring tides, occurring during the full and new moon, are characterised by higher high tides and lower low tides, potentially stirring up more food for fish and making them more active during the expected peak times.

Neap tides, occurring during the first and last quarter, show less tidal range and could result in less active feeding periods.

Fish Behaviour

Different species react differently to lunar phases. For instance, many saltwater species like broadbill swordfish and reel-dwelling snapper are known to feed more vigorously during a night-time the full moon. Conversely, other species may reduce their activity during the brightest nights due to increased visibility to predators.

Solunar tables and fish feeding patterns

One widely accepted theory in the angling world revolves around the concept of Solunar Tables.

Developed in the 1930s by John Alden Knight, these tables combine solar and lunar influences to predict peak wildlife activity times, including fish feeding periods. The underlying belief is that fish are more active and feeding during specific periods of the day that align with the positions of the sun and moon.

Solunar Tables calculate four daily periods of heightened fish activity: two major periods and two minor periods. Major periods correspond to the moon's transit, the time when it's directly overhead, and its underfoot, when it's directly on the opposite side of Earth. These major periods last around two hours each.

The minor periods, shorter in duration, occur when the moon is rising and setting. Despite being shorter and less intense, they can still be a fruitful time to have your line in the water.

Scientific Studies

Scientific exploration into the lunar effect on fishing has yielded mixed results. Some studies suggest a correlation, particularly in saltwater fishing, while others find little to no connection. Often, the challenge lies in accounting for myriad variables such as weather, water temperature, and fish species.

The Māori fishing calendar

The Māori fishing calendar asserts specific lunar days as more fruitful than others. This knowledge or tikanga has been passed down for generations with versions now available on the internet. There are strong correlations between the Māori fishing calendar and aspects of Solunar theory.

Seasonal and Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can interact with lunar influences. For instance, a full moon on a clear winter night may have a different impact than on a summer night, due to temperature and the behaviour of fish species active in different seasons.

Practical Applications

While science may not definitively prove the moon's influence on fishing, the anecdotal and cultural evidence is hard to ignore.

As such, anglers might consider incorporating lunar phases into their fishing strategy, such planning fishing trips in advance around the Solunar tables and Māori fishing calendars.

We advise experimenting with different lunar phases to see what works best for your targeted species and your local conditions.

Remember, however, that the moon is just one piece of the complex puzzle that is fishing. Factors like local knowledge, weather conditions, water temperature, and, most importantly, the angler's skill, also play pivotal roles in determining a day's catch.

And most importantly, any day fishing is better than a day at work, so don’t let the moon phase put you off a trip when the weather is just right.

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