There is no denying that the moon has a powerful pull on our earth. It stabilizes the earth’s wobble as it spins and is the primary source of tidal movements that affect global weather and the lives of most ocean dwellers.
Well, that got me thinking. If the moon has so much influence on our planet, should I be paying more attention to moon phases when I go fishing?
So, is fishing better during a full moon? Most professional anglers agree that fishing is better on the days leading up to and after a full moon. Although, fishing success is not as good on the actual day of a full moon. It also depends on the species of fish you’re after and whether you are fishing in saltwater or freshwater.
But what does all this mean? I think there are a few more things to discuss before you start planning your next fishing adventure.
Understanding moon phases
If you have ever spent time starring at the moon then you probably already understand the basics of the moon cycle. Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let’s do a quick review of the primary moon phases.
Full moon- The moon is positioned on the opposite side of the earth from the sun and appears as a very bright, fully illuminated disk.
New moon- The moon is positioned between the sun and earth and light is not reflected to earth since the back side, which we cannot see, is illuminated.
First and third-quarter moon- The first and third quarter moon marks the mid-way point as the moon transitions from new to full, and back to new again. Often referred to as a “half moon” since it is half dark and half light. During these phases, the moon sits at a 90 degree angle from the sun relative to the earth.
The moon and tides
In the world of deep sea and saltwater angling, the tides are king. With a solid grasp on moon phases, the next step is to look at how they affect the tides.
The full and new moon of each month are responsible for the largest tidal movements, called spring tides. The highs are higher and the lows, lower. These big tidal swings impact fish and their behaviors in various ways.
Neap tides are defined by having the least vertical change in water level between high and low tide. These tides occur during the first and third-quarter moon.
Understanding how tides impact your fishing spot is a critical step to boosting your catch success.
During spring tides, you can expect bait fish and their predators to be on the move. Fish will swim with the flow to conserve energy and to find food, so you shouldn’t fight the current either. Find the spots along structure, like jetties or points, were fish can escape the current and congregate.
A neap tide presents it own challenges. With less dramatic water movement, fish have time to spread out and cruise for food. If you are not catching fish, don’t be afraid to move to new spots.
The moon and freshwater fishing
The moon phase and corresponding tides can also influence your freshwater quarry. A perfect example are the west coast ocean-run salmon that begin to enter rivers in late summer from Alaska down through Oregon
Upstream anglers will see a spike in action shortly after a high tide. As gobs of fish stage at the mouths of rivers where they empty into the ocean, a large incoming spring tides helps push them further upstream with less effort.
In some locations, like the Kenia River in Alaska, it is the neap tide that encourages fish to begin moving upstream. Large spring tides can actually cause too much tidal flow making it hard for the fish to fight the currents.
When planning a salmon fishing trip on a river, pay attention to how tidal movements may affect currents in order to predict when you should go fishing.
For bodies of freshwater that are isolated from ocean tides, the affects of the moon are not as well understood.
While it is not uncommon to hear debate among anglers about their preferred moon phase to fish, one thing is well documented. Bass and other sunfish species have spawning times that correspond with a full moon in the spring months.
Even avid tournament anglers find that targeting nesting sites for largemouth bass on the days leading up too and following a full moon can significantly increase success. With real money on the line, it is unlikely that any tournament angler will ignore this simple fact.
By the light of the moon
It is common knowledge that sunrise and sunset offer the best times to catch actively feeding fish. Yet fewer anglers know that moonrise and moonset may provide another equally good time to fish.
Most of the empirical evidence for this comes from anglers, but it is still worth consideration. For approximately 90 minutes surrounding the moonrise and set, fish are noted to more aggressively feed.
While observing sunrise and sunset is easy, the setting and rising moon are harder to notice since it can occur anytime of day and cloud cover will obscure your view. To experiment with this theory yourself, a good moon tracking or fishing app can help you keep track.
Even less understood is the impact moon light has on feeding fish. Some anglers swear that the day after a full moon on a clear night is worthless for fishing. They state that fish feed all night by the light of the moon and are less hungry the next day.
Very little scientific evidence indicates that this is true, but if there is any truth to it, I would expect night fishing to yield excellent results. Learn more about fishing at night from our other popular article.
Should you keep track
Okay, we learned all about the moon and now you want to go fishing. Should you only go fishing when the moon phases are best? Probably not, but here are a few pointers to make sure all the elements are in your favor, including the moon.
Watch the weather- No matter what the moon is doing, don’t ignore the weather. The first few days of a cold front causes fish to become sluggish and hard to entice with a lure. On the opposite spectrum, a day or two leading up to a warm front or immediately before a storm, will initiate a feeding binge.
Guides know best- If your next deep sea or saltwater fishing trip requires a guide, listen to their advice. Many marine angling guides have a great deal of knowledge about the moon, tides and fish they target. They therefore know when you should book a trip for maximum success. Ask any guide how the moon affects a bite and you will get a different opinion every time. In the end, it is the experience of a guide that matters.
Try a moon app- To help keep track of the moon’s daily and monthly positions, use a mobile phone app. Many fishing apps do more than track solar and lunar data. They can track everything about your catch, including weather, GPS locations, tides and more.
Here are a few all-in-one apps for you to try out.
- FishAngler: Completely free with powerful tracking features and catch logs. You can also connect and share with others in the fishing community.
- Deeper: A free app which can be used with Deeper Sonar devices. If you don’t own the sonar device, that’s okay. It works as a stand alone app and has excellent features to plan and track your fishing adventures.
- Anglr: Another awesome, free app that will help you catch more fish. While it lacks a social network to share your catch with others, it does have everything you would need to log important information about your day on the water.
Sum it all up
There are a lot of variables to figure out in order to catch fish. The moon phase may be one of them, but it is hardly the most important factor in deciding when to fish. The weather, season and local water conditions can very easily over shadow the effect of the moon on fish activity. Your techniques and lure choice can also make or break your success.
What then, should you do? If you have a day to spend on the water, just go fishing. The only way to guarantee you will not catch fish is to not go at all. Have fun keeping a journal or use an app to piece together a pattern of your experience and catches. In the end, don’t let the phase of the moon keep you inside.