Some anglers swear by pattern fishing theories related to the moon, which is sometimes called “solunar fishing.” Others reject it all as urban (urban) myth and mythmaking. Underneath all of it, though, as some basic principles that seem relevant. Can you catch striped bass at full moon?
You can catch striped bass at full moon as long as you have the right bait and lures to offer. There are plenty of anglers who say the moon does not affect at all on bass-catching. There are plenty more who swear by solunar fishing theory that would point to (approximately) new and full moons as the best time to catch bass.
A discussion that’s been raging for as long as this one needs a bit more space to flesh it out. Whether you’re tempted by the scientific logic of the moon’s tidal forces as they play out on striped bass, or believe it’s all coincidence and wishful thinking, here’s a breakdown.
The effects of the moon on Earth
The moon causes the high and low tides on Earth by the gravitational pull that it generates. That’s called the “tidal force.” The tidal force makes Earth’s oceans almost reach out or bulge out (high tide) on the moon-side while retracting (low tide) on the opposite side.
Most coastlines will experience two high tides and two low tides daily. Having said all of that, the moon alone doesn’t determine the extent of tides in any area, just that there will be tides.
The extent of tides — just how high and how low — is a factor of the shape of the land. In some places, the tides are much more dramatic than others.
What makes this have to do with fishing for striped bass? Well, not to sound too silly about it, but anything that affects the levels and movement of water can at least theoretically affect the availability and catchability of fish. Let’s get a closer look at moon forces and phases as they relate to fishing.
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You’ve seen almanacs and old (and new) fishing calendars that spell the moon’s phases out of the belief that those phases affect nature (not just fish).
That solunar theory first arose in 1926. Naturalist John Alden Knight gathered up a whole series of factors that he speculated might affect the natural world, particularly fish and game — 33 factors.
He then investigated each of them to see if they had any actual influence. He ruled out 30 of the 33 factors and was left with three that seemed influential: sun, tides, and moon. Knight’s next big step was to create the “solunar fishing chart.”
Using round figures, the Earth rotates once every 24 hours. The moon moves around the Earth once a month. This combination of spinning objects means several things.
First, it means that there are four lunar periods daily. Two major periods are two hours long when the moon is right above our heads or right below our feet (on the opposite side of the planet).
Then there are two minor periods daily that are about an hour-long while the moon is rising and setting. Knight’s theory was that fish are most active at those four times of the day (the two minor lunar periods and the two major lunar periods).
According to Knight, the most influential periods are the major ones, the two-hour-long blocks when the moon is setting and rising.
Knight did not say, though, that the most influential major periods arose every day. They came upon a regular basis but did not come up daily. When they occur depends on the phases of the moon.
The moon’s phases are essentially what pieces of the moon are visible to Earth at any given time, which is a factor of where the moon is in relation to its monthly route around Earth.
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There are four lunar phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. For anglers who swear by solunar fishing, the peak phases are thought to be the full and new moons.
Those phases are when the strongest tides have the potential of happening, essentially because the sun and moon are both pulling in the corresponding direction (in the case of a new moon) or pulling on opposite sides of the planet (in the case of a full moon).
Big tides mean more active fish, and more likely catches, so the theory goes. (There are versions of the theory that deal with the amount of light in the sky relative to the moon’s phases, but most frequently argued versions relate to the tidal forces at play.)
Based on all of that, the solunar fishing theory would say that you should have your biggest fishing successes at or around the new moon and full moon during the major periods of the day.
There is some scientific logic to these notions. Saltwater fish do sometimes synchronize spawning with tides, indicating some correlation between their life cycle and the tidal force.
Currents associated with tides do rouse up nutrients in the water. Those nutrients are eaten by baitfish, which are eaten by game fish, which are captured by anglers.
Much empirical evidence supports the tempting scientific logic around solunar theory, which is a matter of significant debate.
Exhaustive data-driven attempts to correlate catch rates with lunar phases have led to ambiguous and sometimes conflicting results. None of that deters any angler on either side of the debate.
There are prominent bass fishermen who swear that the best times to catch stripers are on a new and full moon, while others say that those are the worst times.
Which moon phase is best to catch striped bass?
Is there any consensus? Hardly. Having said that, the accumulated tradition of bass fishing seems to suggest — and the very notion will raise the ire of many — that there can be optimal periods for catching striped bass that does seem to correlate to moon phases.
That consensus — if anyone is brave enough to call it that — seems to suggest that the best times to catch striped bass may be in the last day or two before and after a full and new moon.
Many say that the worst time to catch striped bass is on the actual day of a full or new moon. Many others say that none of this matter at all.
The question was, “Can you catch striped bass on a full moon?” Of course, you can. You can catch striped bass during any phase of the moon.
Legend has it that some days and times are better than the day of a full moon (and new moon), but there’s no consensus that you should keep your lines dry during even those worst days.
Solunar fishing is just a version of pattern fishing. Every angler engages in pattern fishing, the exercise where they try to find the combination of time, location, line, bait, weather, cologne, music, etc. that leads to the biggest catches.
Who is to say that there isn’t some pattern out there that is determinative? Some insist that it’s a sun/moon/tide driven pattern. There’s an argument to be made… on both sides of the argument.