Fishing

The moon matters to fish. Here’s why it matters to those of us who want to catch them

The moon's role in a solar eclipse

NASA explains the solar eclipse that's occurring on Aug. 21, 2017.
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NASA explains the solar eclipse that's occurring on Aug. 21, 2017.

The moon is all the rage these days. With the Great American Eclipse upon us, commemorative t-shirts and viewing glasses are flying off the shelves faster than you can say “path of totality.”

Jordan Rodriguez
Jordan Rodriguez

It’s nice to see the moon finally getting some publicity, even if it’s for a fleeting photo-bombing of the sun. Because the truth is, the moon has a lot more to offer than Neil Armstrong footprints and catchy nursery rhymes. Earth’s largest satellite impacts life on our planet every day, affecting oceanic tides, climate, day length and — most importantly for anglers —animal behavior.

Fishing and the moon have long been interconnected. Studies have been conducted. Old wives’ tales and superstitions abound. Nobody can pinpoint with certainty how or why the moon affects fishing, but pretty much everyone agrees that it does.

So how can we anglers use the moon to our advantage? Here are a few ideas.

This August, the U.S. will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years.

Fish majors and minors: As the moon orbits Earth, four major/minor positions occur from any given latitude. A major happens when the moon is directly above or below your location. Minors occur when the moon is positioned at 90 degrees on either side. According to a study published in In Fisherman magazine, predatory fish — bass, in this case — feed most aggressively in the hour or two immediately after a major or minor. Biologists theorize that the gravitational pull of the moon activates smaller organisms, setting off a domino effect up the food chain.

Fish by moonlight: One thing most anglers agree on is that evening fishing is best during a full moon. This is when tides are at their highest, and the additional illumination provides enough light for fish to hunt (and anglers to see what they are doing) after sundown. Catfish, sturgeon, trout, bass and many marine species are known to increase their nocturnal activity during a full moon. Conversely, daytime fishing often suffers because the fish become fat and happy after a long night of foraging.

Why are eclipses rare? The moon's orbit wobbles. Sometimes the moon's shadow is too high above the Earth. Sometimes it is too low. Other times, it is just right.

Fish by the solunar calendar: There is a scientific name for all this lunar talk. In 1926, John Knight published the Solunar Theory, which hypothesizes about the effects the position of the moon and sun have on fish and animal behavior. Knight’s theory formalized beliefs that hunters and ancient civilizations had held for centuries, while also establishing the Solunar Calendar. This handy table, which is available in many sporting goods stores and online, calculates the best days and times to fish throughout the calendar year based on the lunar phases.

Fish during an eclipse: I’m not entirely making this one up. Animals are keenly aware of lunar and solar activity, so it wouldn’t surprise me if fish go crazy during our once-in-a-lifetime blackout. If you’re lucky enough to have a line in the water while the moon enjoys its moment in the sun, be sure to let me know how you do.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen, which was a long, long time ago. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.

You don't necessarily need fancy equipment to watch one of the sky's most awesome shows: a solar eclipse. With just a few simple supplies, you can make a pinhole camera that allows you to view the event safely and easily.

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