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Under the Luck of the Sun and Moon

By Russ Bassdozer

This article could stop a clock! It talks a bit about the sun, the moon, and the influence they may or may not have on fish. A bit about biological clocks too.

Work nine to five, eat lunch at twelve, serve dinner at seven, and catch the game or a movie at eight. For many of us, this kind of rhythm drives our daily lives. Yet there is a different rhythm that surrounds us in the sky every day. One we don't often notice or follow. The big hand on this invisible clock is the sun, and the little hand is the moon. It ticks the rhythm of nature and the outdoor world. Let's talk about this a bit, shall we?

SUNRISE/SUNSET: Surely the sun is the clock watched by most creatures. Whether birds, insects, flowers, fish or whatever living thing, sunrise and sunset are times that trigger major periods of daily activity for most species of life. Dusk and dawn can often be considered "transition times" when predators and prey tend to relocate and reposition themselves from day spots to night spots. Whether a fish species is nocturnal or strictly a daytime type, both types can be active around dusk and dawn. It's indisputable that more biological activity of all sorts will be observed by anglers who are on the water fishing good spots at sunrise and sunset. Even species caught by ice fishing under thick layers of ice have activity periods triggered by sunrise and sunset.

SEASONS OF THE SUN: The sun also plays a major part in controlling seasonal rhythms. It is a popular notion that many critters are somehow dialed into the sun to trigger what time of year they get ready to mate, migrate, fatten up for the winter, or hibernate. Some say fish brains respond to changes in photoperiod (length of day). The photoperiod grows from 9.75 hours in mid-winter to 14.66 hours in mid-summer and shrinks back to 9.75 hours in winter for example in Arizona. Cumulatively, that's a ten hour annual change in photoperiod. One theory goes something like certain body chemicals are produced in daylight, others only at night, and the changing proportion of these chemical's in the body triggers the brain to produce other hormones that prepare their bodies for the changing seasons so they'll mate, hibernate or do whatever's required in season.

LUNAR CYCLES: There are also daily and monthly biorhythms said to be influenced by the moon. Originally popularized and defined about 60 to 75 years ago by John Alden Knight (, many anglers today are familiar with widely-published time tables that incorporate daily moonrise, moonset, and the monthly phases of the moon as predictive components of fish activity. Most charts feature at least two if not four periods of heightened daily activity. Two daily lunar activity periods averaging about two hours when the moon is directly overhead or underfoot, and two more lunar activity periods averaging about one hour when the moon sets and rises. Some accounts say the shorter periods of moonrise and moonset are more intense because activity must happen in less time.

1) MOON RISE: You'll see a short period ("minor") of activity around the time the moon rises.

2) MOON OVERHEAD: A bit over 6 hours later, you'll see a second longer ("major") period of activity around the time the moon is directly overhead.

3) MOON SET: A bit over 6 hours later, you'll see a third minor period of activity around the time the moon sets.

4) MOON UNDERFOOT: A bit over 6 hours later, you'll see a fourth major period of activity around the time the moon is directly underfoot on the opposite side of the world.

Because the lunar day is 25 hours, the next moon rise will occur about one hour later each day, and can therefore rise or set at any hour of the day or night. This means that moonrise and moonset will cycle round every so often to occur about the same times as dawn and dusk. A double whammy of overlapping sun and moon activity periods so to speak! Now it just so happens that a full moon almost always rises around dusk and a full moon sets just about sunrise. A triple doozy of dusk/moonrise or moonset/dawn and full moon pie in the sky all at the same time. Miss Cleo's tarot cards won't ever read any better cosmic mojo than this, and your planets are in line to have fish activity going for you when dawn and dusk coincide with moonset and moonrise on full moon days! There are other days when the sun and moon align, and most charts point out these "best" days for you. Some accounts say new moons can be nearly just as good as full moons. One popular notion is that the "downside" (the few days following) either a new or full moon are big fish medicine, whereas another notion is that the few days "straddling" both before and after the new/full moon are equally potent.

SETTING CLOCKS BY EACH OTHER. In addition to the sun and the moon (and perhaps more important than either), predators and prey set their clocks to one other. A prey species will tend to constantly readjust the times and locations of their daily activities to be places and do things at times when the prevailing predators are NOT there. Predator species are just the opposite, and will constantly readjust their activity clocks to schedule being at locations when the prevailing prey ARE there. It's a never-ending problem of timing, and both predator and prey species clocks and daily activities are set according to each other!

DOWN TO EARTH. We've talked a bit about the luck of the sun and the moon. Do these cosmic alignments really matter? Fact is, we cannot conclusively say they work...nor can we disprove them either! Many anglers have increased confidence at the predicted times. Sometimes it seems my horoscope for the day is uncannily right on target too! Haven't you ever noticed that?

ALL KIDDING ASIDE, just keep in mind that at any given spot at any time -- anything can happen and usually does IF bait, fish and fishermen all meet up there at once. If that meeting happens under the triple whammy of moonset/sunrise or moonrise/sunset on a full moon day, so much the better, and I bet you'll be looking up the tables when you get home for when to plan your next fishing trip

...under the luck of the sun and the moon!

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