FIELD GUIDE: FISHING THE MOON PHASES

Fishing the evening bite near Long Beach in Centerville, MA

Field Guide is a series of blogs written to increase your odds in the surf, written for surfcasters of all experience levels. For those with a passion for fishing and writing who would like to guest blog for The Atlantic Surf, please email andrew@theatlanticsurf.com.

One of the reasons to fall in love with shore fishing is all of the factors that can influence your results. The elements have an ability to make or break your fishing trip and understanding them gives you your best chances at success. One of the most influential factors are the tides, and to fully understand them, you need an understanding of the moon and it's impact on the water.

First, for those who may just be getting into the sport, let's quickly cover off on the basics. The tide is the rising and falling of the sea, usually twice in each lunar day, influenced primarily by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. There is a lot of nomenclature used to describe the tides, different words having different meanings. The "ebb" represents the tide's movement out to sea, and low-tide being the point when the intertidal zone is most exposed. The opposite of the ebb is the "flood" tide, or the rising of the sea level, ultimately reaching high-tide. The "slack" occurs at certain points during high and low tide, when the water ceases to move prior to the tide turning. So what does this all have to do with the moon?

Given the sun and moon's gravity are the two factors influencing the tides, there are certain points in the their cycles which have a lesser, or stronger, impact. Before we get into which phases are best for fishing and why, it's important to understand what the phases actually are. There are 8 phases in total, with 4 "primary" phases you probably have heard more often than the others; the new moon (moon is dark), first quarter (half of the lighted side of the moon), full moon (moon is bright), & last quarter (half of the lighted side of the moon). It is important to understand that when saltwater fishing, the new moon and full moon phases will cause a stronger and more pronounced tidal movement due to the strength of gravity at that time. In general, these are the times where you can experience stronger tides, more movement in the water, and more fish activity. In our busy lives there's only so much planning that can be done for a trip, so for average fishermen like myself, paying attention to the timing of the new and full moon and planning a trip accordingly is a good first step to incorporating the moon phases into your planning. However, for the serious angler, you can take moon phase fishing into account while planning your daily fishing trips by considering 3 key factors; 1.) the distance between the earth and moon, 2.) the location of the moon to earth, and 3.) the monthly phase of the moon. Let's tackle each of these below.

1. The distance between the earth and moon. The angle of the moons rotation around the earth is more of an oval shape than circle. For that reason, there are times when the moon is at its most distant point, and alternatively, times when its closest. At the moon's closest, it's about 20,000 miles closer to earth then at its farthest, and tides have been measured to be as much as 20% stronger at this time. Stronger tides, more fish activity.


2. The second factor is the location of the moon to the earth or "power periods". Every six hours, 4 times per day, the moon is at one of four power periods. The first two, "major" power periods have the strongest impact on gravitational pull, the second two "minor" power periods have less of an impact. These periods are measured based on the geographical location of the angler. So, if you're standing on the rocks at the Cape Cod Canal and the moon is directly above your head, this is a major period. If you're standing at that same spot and the moon is under your feet, this is also a major period. The minor periods are when the moon is 90 degrees to your right or left based on your reference point. The easiest way to estimate when the moon will be directly overhead or underfoot is to find a good weather website. Many of them the information you need to figure this out. Once your on your website of choice and have entered in your location, poke around for "moonrise" and add +6 hours to determine when the moon will be overhead. Find moonset and +6 hours to determine when it will be underfoot. 

There are a number of articles I've found that speak to the different power periods and what time ranges should be fished around each. Generally speaking, they state anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes around each power period will produce the best results. Pair these periods with dawn or dusk, around a new moon or full moon, and the theory is you can improve your odds for finding fish in an active, feeding state. 


3. Lastly, the moon phase is the 3rd determining factor and arguably the most important. Plan your trip around the full or new moon to increase your chances for more fish driven by the stronger tides during these phases. There are many calendars available online (like the one below) that do a great job of laying on the month, date, and time for each of these events. 


I hope that the article above helps get you started with considering the moon phases into your fishing trip planning. I'm by no means an expert, just a simple fisherman whose done some research, doing my best to share some of this knowledge with others. If you have any questions on the material, please don't hesitate to reach out. 


1 comment

  • Great article! Very helpful!

    Jordan

Leave a comment