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How the Moon and Tides Affect Fishing

rising tides and the moon with waves over the beach
Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated July 30, 2021

Fishing may seem simple, but some factors can affect your catch rate and if you’d get any fish to bite at all. The moon and tides have always been part of the conversation in the fishing community, as it’s known the moon affects sea levels at night.

However, it can also affect fishing, as there are times when fish are the most active. Read on to find out more about how the moon and tides affect fishing and how you can take advantage of this natural phenomenon.

Is It a Myth?

Some fishermen swear by the moon and its gravitational pull, affecting tides and the fish they attempt to catch, such as snappers and bass.

Many people believe there is an increase in activity during high tides, as the fish begin feeding.

However, can it also be a coincidence?

It is a fact that the moon affects the tides, and there are several lunar phases that fisherman follows to ensure more catches.

ocean tides and the moon's gravitational pull infographic

For instance, the moon’s gravitational pull creates tidal forces, effectively pulling the water closest to the moon and the furthest. This results in “bulges” called low tide and high tides. It occurs during the day as the earth rotates.

The solunar theory dates back to the 1920s, where it’s believed wildlife is more active during certain moon phases. Today, solunar fishing exists, where fishing enthusiasts use a calendar to track moon phases during the day and month to ensure their best catches.

Some apps follow a solunar time fishing calendar that thousands of people download a day, citing that moon and tides may affect fishing.

The Daily Lunar Periods for Fishing

In one day, there are four lunar periods categorized into two major and two minor phases.

Major periods last two hours when the moon is directly above called lunar transit. The minor periods last one hour as the moon rise and sets, called opposing lunar transit.

The major periods are the most popular as fish are the most active. While active fish does not guarantee an increase in your capture rate, there are more fish to increase your chances.

Monthly Moon Phases for Fishing

Similar to daily moon periods, there are also monthly moon phases that fishermen watch closely.

The four phases are:

  • New moon
  • First quarter
  • Full moon
  • Third quarter
monthly lunar and solar tides in four periods illustration

It is believed that the tide increases the most during the new moon and full moon phases. The new moon is the most popular for fishing as fishermen believe they catch the most during that time.

During the new moon and full moon, there are spring tides when the strongest tides occur. During the first and third quarter, neap tides occur, which are the weakest. While the full moon may bring the strongest tides, more positive experiences are reported with new moon phases.

However, several people may have differing experiences. Your location, climate, and the type of fish you want to catch may also affect your fishing.

Research Between Fishing, Moon, and Tides

While many avid fishers have different experiences, there may be research to back the solunar theory, where the moon affects wildlife, including fish.

Muskellunge Illustration

One study in 2014 studied the catch records involving the muskellunge, a fish found in various parts of the Midwest, native to North America.  They concluded that the catches were “strongly related” to the lunar cycle. Muskellunge were caught more during the new moon and full moon compared to other times during the day.

Researchers also concluded there was a 5% increase in catches during peak lunar phases. However, the study only obtained data from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Also, larger muskellunge were receptive to moon phases than smaller fish. Lastly, between June and October produced more fishing opportunities and higher latitudes combined with lunar phases.

As a result, lunar phases affect fishing and increase abundance during new moon phases, but other factors may also contribute to its success, such as location and seasons.

Another study used data from commercial fisheries and popular gamefish. The data was pulled from fisheries from the Pacific Ocean, meaning it may not be the same in other parts of the world.

They found that 5 out of 8 gamefish responded to the lunar phases, while two gamefish, such as the blue marlin, tiger shark, striped marlin, did not react differently.

Catch rates for yellowfin tuna, dolphin fish, and shortfin mako shark were the highest during the first quarter, blue shark during the new moon, and black marlin between full moon and last quarter.

Overall, most studies suggest a strong correlation between lunar phases with stronger tides increasing the catch rates of many anglers. However, it is one of the main factors contributing to higher catch rates, as the region and fish type may also impact fishing.

Solunar Charts for Fishing

After it was theorized that wildlife reacts to lunar phases, a solunar chart was born.

Today, solunar tables, graphs, and calendars are available for fishing at peak times. The major and minor phases with specific times are shown, allowing anglers to manage their time accordingly.

There are smartphone apps, such as the Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time to help keep track of daily evolvements.

Websites such as US Prime Times show the best overall time in your area, with different periods, and when the lunar phase.

Conclusion

man in fishing boat during full moon illustration

Now that you’ve learned how the moon and tides affect fishing, the next step is to take action to increase your catch rates.

You can experiment with different times of the day and use a solunar calendar to track major and minor periods. Also, keep track of new and full moons, which create the highest tides.

However, it’s important to be careful of high tides, as it’s also the most dangerous to begin fishing, depending on your vessel. Your region and the fish type may also affect your fishing, and its no guarantee lunar phases alone may increase your catch rates.

In all, fishing is a fun activity that everyone can enjoy, and the best time to fish—is when you can!