Finding Prime Fishing Time

September 2017 Feature Dan Armitage

Most of us go fishing when we can, and feel fortunate to be able to do so. For those of us with full-time jobs and families to rear, simply finding time to wet a line can be a challenge—and a joy when we find ourselves on the water. That haphazard approach to netting angling time may not be enough for those of us who have a real passion to fish. Some of my Type A angling friends who are so afflicted find that they must make time to pursue their sport; they make dates with their buddies and clear the calendar weeks and months ahead and “ink-in” blocks of time dedicated to angling, often going so far as to time their outings based on the species of fish they want to catch, and even the tactics they prefer to employ to fool them.

I approach the sport from a Type B angle. I’m just not that organized, and still consider myself to be an opportunistic angler, fishing when the opportunity arises for whatever species happens to be most active and “catchable” when I am on the water. And despite the shotgun approach to fishing, I find success often enough to satisfy my cravings for a bent rod, the flash of a net and the flavor of a fresh-from-the-water-to-the-frying-pan fillet.

A guest I interviewed on my radio show recently offered an explanation for my frequent “blind hog” fishing success, and convinced me to consider some other-worldly factors the next time I do have the opportunity to plan ahead to wet a line.

John Lehman is the publisher of the Fish & Game Forecaster, a booklet offered annually for 44 years that’s considered the Bible by a segment of hunters and anglers who, through their own experiences, have learned to count on the information it provides.

“The influence of the moon and its gravitational forces on fish and game activity cannot be overstated,” said Lehman. “Fishermen the world over have been factoring in the phase of the moon for eons to help them determine the most productive times to set their nets or cast their lines.”

The Fish & Game Forecaster is based on two axioms: by studying and documenting past wildlife patterns and statistics, we can identify trends which will likely repeat themselves. And there are many predictable factors (sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, etc.) which dictate these patterns of activity.

The Fish & Game Forecaster divides these two influences of wildlife activity information into two categories: long- and short-range. The long-range factors consider the effects of the moon and sun and the availability of natural light. Short-range factors are topped by weather, frontal movements specifically, as well as the presence of oxygen and the temperature.

If you read many outdoor magazines you’ve likely seen the Solunar Tables or Doug Hannon’s Moon Clock, which several periodicals and many newspapers share within their pages. The tables and clock are the offshoot of findings shared by John Alden Knight in 1935, when he explained the fundamental concept of tidal forces and gravity, and a few years later observed their influences on wildlife.

Science has since expanded on that body of knowledge, and technology has been developed to allow more current and accurate methods of measuring the factors—such as moon phase and tidal flows—that allow for more accurate forecasting of activity among fish and game.

The Fish & Game Forecaster shares an example that argues strongly for the reliability of such factors. In researching the 59-year history of the popular Field & Stream magazine national fishing contest, Edward Best discovered that every largemouth bass that weighed more than 17 pounds and every muskellunge that weighed more than 60 pounds were caught during a particular moon phase, when the perigee and New Moon occurred on the same date. Best also found that 41 percent of the 500 record fish entries he selected as his sample were caught during the two-tenths of each month which surround the new moon, which some refer to as the dark of the moon period.

To their credit, the folks at DataSport, who produce the Fish & Game Forecaster and are anglers themselves, offer this caveat:

“Our claims for the Fish & Game Forecaster are sincerely made: we believe in it! However, it is important to understand that it is only one implement to better sport. It will never replace knowledge, experience or good judgment. It is almost certain that you will never catch a bass in one foot of clear water in mid-July even if the graph shows ‘excellent.’ The Forecaster won’t fill your stringer or your game bag, but it will surely make your valuable recreation hours more enjoyable.”

Will I allow the position of the moon and the sun to affect when I get to enjoy those hours on the water? That’s doubtful. But with a copy of the booklet at my fingertips as a resource, I might be influenced to wrap up this column a bit sooner and trade keyboard for fishing rod to be on the water during an upcoming “excellent” activity period.

Dan’s Pick

Lund LX 200 Fish

I got to see one of these new pontoon models from Lund Boats while working a winter boat show, and the rich fishing heritage for which that manufacturer is famous was apparent from the first glance. The aft tackle storage station with combo livewell/baitwell and a compartment custom-built for eight Plano 3600 boxes is classic Lund in its fit and function—as are angling amenities such as the livewell on the bow, the 8-foot rod storage locker to starboard and the helm’s quick-release windscreen to offer more casting and elbow room on the deck. Underfoot you find Seagrass flooring that’s easy to clean with the boat’s standard wash-down hose, an optional third tube and 37-gallon (28 standard) fuel capacity for the long run to and from the fishing grounds when the forecast calls for excellent activity at a distant honey hole. This is a solid fishing ‘toon from a notable fishing boat manufacturer.

Specifications

Length: 21' 1"

Beam: 8' 6"

Maximum Horsepower: 150

Maximum Persons: 9 (11 w/3rd Tube)

Weight Capacity: 1903 lbs (2211 lbs w/3rd tube)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 28 gallons (37 w/Performance Plus Pkg)

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