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The Moon and Fishing?

Did you know that it effects your fishing?

The moon and the sun have a dramatic effect on the earth due to their combined gravitational force that they place on any body of water. The oceans are the most noticeable. This gravitational force causes the oceans of the world to move resulting in what we refer to as tides. The  moon's influence is more dominant due to it's proximity to the earth.

A complete lunar cycle is usually referred to in one of the following four stages.
1. Full Moon
2. Last Quarter
3. New Moon (also refer to as "the dark of the moon")
4. First Quarter
This cycle will rotate every 29 days approximately

The effect that this lunar cycle has is so powerful that in the United State of America, crime statistics show that there is a link between criminal/violent behavior and the New/Full moon phases.


Believe it or not but the moon effects fishing here in the Gulf of Mexico dramatically. When there is a FULL MOON  the fish actually eat at night as the bait fish are illuminated by the moon.

Following waning crescent is New Moon, beginning a repetition of the complete phase cycle of 29.5 days average duration. The time in days counted from the time of New Moon is called the Moon's "age". Each complete cycle of phases is called a "lunation".

Because the cycle of the phases is shorter than most calendar months, the phase of the Moon at the very beginning of the month usually repeats at the very end of the month. When there are two Full Moons in a month (which occurs, on average, every 2.7 years), the second one is called a "Blue Moon".

Although Full Moon occurs each month at a specific date and time, the Moon's disk may appear to be full for several nights in a row if it is clear. This is because the percentage of the Moon's disk that appears illuminated changes very slowly around the time of Full Moon (also around New Moon, but the Moon is not visible at all then). The Moon may appear 100% illuminated only on the night closest to the time of exact Full Moon, but on the night before and night after will appear 97-99% illuminated; most people would not notice the difference. Even two days from Full Moon the Moon's disk is 93-97% illuminated.

The relationship of the Moon's phase to its angular distance in the sky from the Sun allows us to establish very exact definitions of when the primary phases occur, independent of how they appear. Technically, the phases New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, and Last Quarter are defined to occur when the excess of the apparent ecliptic (celestial) longitude of the Moon over that of the Sun is 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees, respectively. These definitions are used when the dates and times of the phases are computed for almanacs, calendars, etc. Because the difference between the ecliptic longitudes of the Moon and Sun is a monotonically and rapidly increasing quantity, the dates and times of the phases of the Moon computed this way are instantaneous and well defined.

The percent of the Moon's surface illuminated is a more refined, quantitative description of the Moon's appearance than is the phase. Considering the Moon as a circular disk, the ratio of the area illuminated by direct sunlight to its total area is the fraction of the Moon's surface illuminated; multiplied by 100, it is the percent illuminated. At New Moon the percent illuminated is 0; at First and Last Quarters it is 50%; and at Full Moon it is 100%. During the crescent phases the percent illuminated is between 0 and 50% and during gibbous phases it is between 50% and 100%.

For practical purposes, phases of the Moon and the percent of the Moon illuminated are independent of the location on the Earth from where the Moon is observed. That is, all the phases occur at the same time regardless of the observer's position.
New Moon - The Moon's un-illuminated side is facing the Earth. The Moon is not visible (except during a solar eclipse).
Waxing Crescent - The Moon appears to be partly but less than one-half illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is increasing.
First Quarter - One-half of the Moon appears to be illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is increasing.
Waxing Gibbous - The Moon appears to be more than one-half but not fully illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is increasing.
Full Moon - The Moon's illuminated side is facing the Earth. The Moon appears to be completely illuminated by direct sunlight.
Waning Gibbous - The Moon appears to be more than one-half but not fully illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is decreasing.
Last Quarter - One-half of the Moon appears to be illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is decreasing.
Waning Crescent - The Moon appears to be partly but less than one-half illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon's disk that is illuminated is decreasing.


Tides move in 6 hour cycles. In a 24 hour period there will be a high, a low, a high and then a low tide, all approximately 6 hours apart. Various fish species feed more aggressively depending on the tide, the moon and the time of day/night.

When there is a full or new moon the tides are referred to as Spring Tides. Spring Tides are when the water level rises to its highest point for that particular moon (lunar) cycle due to the combined gravitational pull of the sun and moon. Spring tides happen twice per month. In Northern Australia Spring tides can rise over 6 meters (18 feet). The Channel Island of Jersey in the English Channel has tides in the region of 40 feet. Tides of over 20 meters (63 feet) have been recorded in The Straits of Magellan in southern South America and at the top of the Bay of Fundy Nova Scotia, a spring tide can reach an amazing 23 meters (70 feet).

Extra caution must be taken when fishing at these times, especially from rock platforms as the water level can rise with surprising speed. Fishing at night can be even more hazardous and can result in wet/lost tackle or even an unexpected swim for the unwary!

Neap tides are the opposite of Spring tides. They are the lowest low tide for that particular lunar cycle. Neap tides are generally regarded as the worst time to go fishing. You will catch fish during these tides but fish will be more active during a Spring tide.

The world's oceans are in constant flux. Winds and currents move the surface water causing waves. Ocean levels fluctuate daily as the sun, moon and earth interact. As the moon travels around the earth and as they, together, travel around the sun, the combined gravitational forces cause the world's oceans to rise and fall.
Imagine the earth covered completely by water. As the earth spins, this water is balanced evenly on all sides by centrifugal force. The moon has a gravitational pull on this layer of water as it orbits the earth. This pull causes the water to bulge toward the moon. Because the earth is spinning there will be a bulge on the opposite side of the earth as well.

As the earth rotates on its axis, each location on the earth will experience both tidal bulges. The areas of high water levels are high tides and the areas of low levels are low tides.

Since the earth and the moon rotate around the sun, there is an added modifying factor. When the sun and moon are aligned, there are exceptionally strong gravitational forces, causing very high and very low tides which are called spring tides, though they have nothing to do with the season. When the sun and moon are not aligned, the gravitational forces cancel each other out, and the tides are not as dramatically high and low. These are called neap tides.

Tides vary from day to day. As the earth, moon, and sun orbit, their positions constantly shift, causing slightly different gravitational effects. This causes the tides to occur at slightly different times. Tides also vary from place to place. Geographical position determines the level of tide. In Northern California there are two unequal tides each day. In the Gulf of Mexico there is only one high tide and one low tide each day.

How can this help me catch more fish?

Imagine a mouth of a river (estuary) at the time of the full moon when the tide is lowering. There would be tons of water moving rapidly from the estuary spilling into the sea. With all this water movement the river and sea floor is disturbed considerably. Food organism that live in or near the bottom then become part of this mass exodus of water that is moving out to sea. Small fish will feed on these organisms, bigger fish will feed on these fish,  even bigger fish will feed on these fish......and BINGO!!!! you have a healthy food chain.

The feeding habits of the ocean roaming pelagic fish species also vary depending on the phase of the moon. If you asked ten different marlin or tuna fishermen
"when's the best time?" there's a good chance you would receive ten different answers but
from catch records of professionals, recreational anglers and scientific studies these fish are more active for 4 days leading up to the full moon and for 4 days after the new moon. There are many other variables to take into consideration as well, not just the moon phases. Things such as water temperature/color, the presence of baitfish/food items, cloud cover,  bird activity, ocean current speed/direction and how you scratched your nose last week, but one thing you can be 100% sure about,


One way of finding the feeding habits of a species in a certain area is to keep a diary of your fishing outings. This diary should include date, time, moon phase, tide, method used, catch rate and other information (such as bird activity and current speed). After several entries about a location a pattern may form which will be invaluable for future outings. It may take a long time (perhaps years) to discover what the best fishing conditions are for a location but that's the beauty of fishing.

Good anglers don't rely on luck alone!

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