Solunar Fishing: Can Moon Phases Help Your Catch Rate?

Jun 30, 2021 | 7 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 7 minutes

Solunar fishing calendars have to be one of those polarizing topics in the whole angling community. Walk into your favorite tackle shop and mention fishing by moon phases, and you’ll instantly be best friends with half the room. The other half will either shake their heads or start screaming.

An illustration of a fisherman on a small boat under a large full moon

Many seasoned anglers swear by their moon-centered strategy. They chalk their biggest catches up to the movement of the planet. And it’s pretty common. Major fishing magazines often feature a lunar fishing calendar. There are also dozens of apps available for the same thing. 

Could there really be some truth in the whole solunar thing? Or is it just a case of “horoscopes for fish”? That’s what we’re here to find out.

The Origin of Solunar Theory

The year was 1926, and John Alden Knight came up with a peculiar theory about, well, basically all wildlife.

Knight was an avid outdoorsman and a keen fly fisherman. In his spare time, he also liked to learn about the beliefs and folklore around fishing and hunting. He researched things that were believed to affect the behavior and feeding habits of animals. This turned out to be his life’s work.

a yearly calendar of moon phases for 2021

Knight gathered 33 factors that supposedly influenced fish and game. He examined each theory, and ended up dismissing all but three of them. What he was left with was the sun, the tides, and the moon. He couldn’t see how any single one of them could explain the way fish behaved. But what if you combined them?

A decade later, Knight created the first solunar fishing chart. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lunar Periods: The Best Time to Fish

There are four lunar periods each day – two “major,” two “minor.” Major periods last around two hours. They begin when the moon is directly above our heads (so-called “lunar  transit”), or right below our feet (“opposing lunar transit”). Minor periods last for about an hour while the moon rises and sets. The idea is that fish become more active at these four times of day.

A small fishing boat on the sea at night under a full moon

Now, a boost in activity doesn’t necessarily mean that fish will bite at precisely those times. But since that’s when the fish are meant to be out looking for food, it can only mean one thing for many anglers – fish o’clock. Major periods supposedly have a greater effect on fish than minor ones, so that’s when solunar believers tend to make their casts.

Fishing in a major moon period couldn’t be simpler. You check your solunar table. It tells you when the moon will be in the best position. You catch lots of big fish. However, it’s fairly obvious that not every day ends with a ton of trophies. With that in mind, there’s one more factor you need to consider – choosing the right moon phase.

Moon Phases: The Best Day of the Month to Fish

There are four lunar phases anglers need to think about – new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. Many fishermen swear that 90% of your lifetime catches will come from the full and new moon. 

An infographic explaining how tides work. it shows how the position of the sun and the moon around the earth affects the oceans, especially at new moon and full moon

The idea behind fishing by moon phases is that the bigger the tide, the more active the fish. The strongest tides happen twice a month: during a new moon, when the sun and moon are both pulling in the same direction, and during the full moon, they’re pulling on either side of the planet. 

Of course, this is by no means something that the entire angling community agrees on. As with all things fishing, there are a lot of people who will confidently give you the exact opposite advice. They’ll insist that the first and last quarters are the best lunar phases for fishing.

Others claim that you should only fish the full moon at night. The theory here is that the moon’s light allows the fish to see better. This lets them feed well into the night, so they’re less hungry the following day. By the same logic, you should only fish the new moon by day, as fish are unlikely to be out hunting in complete darkness.

Periods and phases are two halves of a whole. Head out on a fishing trip during a major period and a full moon, and you may want to get your paperwork ready for the new state record.

Problems with Fishing During a Full or New Moon

An man walking at night with a fishing rod in his hand

Regardless of how good the bite is, you should always be careful when fishing during a full or new moon. This is especially true at night, and especially if you’re fishing from rocks or jetties. In some places around the world, tides can reach as high as 40–60 feet, with water levels rising incredibly fast. Don’t put yourself in danger for the chance of a few more hookups.

Even if you’re a strong solunar believer, there’s still a chance your fishing trip will go awry. Other factors like weather and air pressure will have a much stronger effect than whatever the moon’s doing. If a cold front is approaching, even two full moons won’t do you much good. The fish will probably shelter deep down away from the cold and become inactive.

What Science Says about Solunar Fishing Calendars

An illustration of the moon phases and the zodiac set against a patterns of stars
Some people say that solunar theory is pure superstition. Is it?

There are some things that we know the moon does. Many saltwater fish synchronize their spawn with the tides so that the tidal currents pull their larvae into safe, shallow estuaries. Currents also stir up nutrients from the seabed. Bait fish feed on these nutrients, and game fish feed on bait fish. We, in turn, catch the game fish. It’s the circle of life.

But what about solunar theory itself. Has any of this stuff actually been proven true? In other words, can it be supported by any sort of legitimate scientific research?

Open Oysters

A rock in shallow water covered in wild oysters

While developing his hypothesis, John Alden Knight tried to systematically analyze the lunar position during 200 catches of both record-sized fish and record number of fish. He found that about 90% of them happened during the new moon. Based on those numbers, he focused a lot of his future research around this part of the tidal calendar.

Another experiment that seemed to support Knight’s theory was conducted by Dr. Frank A. Brown. Brown was a Northwest University biologist. One day, he ordered a large amount of live oysters to be flown to his lab. He wasn’t after a fishy feast, though. Instead, he wanted to examine whether the oysters were affected by the moon’s movements.

Oysters generally open their shells during the high tides, and for the first two weeks, they continued to open in time with the tides back home. However, after two weeks, they adjusted their rhythms to the times that the moon was directly overhead or below their feet – the two major periods of the lunar day.

Conclusive proof? Not quite. As it turns out, a lot of research seems to run against the theory’s main assumptions.

Trophy Bass

A largemouth bass being released into the water after being caught

In 2010, Professor Mike Allen published his research on the effects of lunar activity on Largemouth Bass. He wanted to see if there was any proof that moon phases affect Bass spawning times or catch rates.

Allen enlisted the help of Porter Hall, a trophy Bass fisherman with hundreds of catches in the 10+ pound range. Hall kept a detailed record of every fish he caught. Professor Allen then worked out how his hookups lined up with the lunar calendar. It turns out, not very well.

The bite was pretty much consistent throughout the entire month. Twenty-one percent of the fish were landed under the new moon. Twenty-eight percent during a full moon. In short, around half the fish were caught in half the month, with the first and last quarters serving up the other 49%. 

So, the big hunk of cheese in the sky doesn’t do anything for freshwater fish. That makes sense. There’s a lot less water to move in a pond than a sea. The real nail in the coffin would be similar evidence from ocean-going species.

So Many Marlin

A striped marlin being held next to a boat before being released

A couple of years after Professor Allen published his findings on Bass, Sam Mossman from Marlin Magazine decided to do something similar with big game fish. Specifically, he decided to see if the Striped Marlin bite had anything to do with the moon’s journey around us.

In order to really test this theory, Mossman needed data. Lots of data. He contacted New Zealand’s Bay of Islands Swordfish Club, the second oldest sportfishing club in the world, and asked to have a look at their catch records. Being the nice people that they are, they gave Mossman access to all of their yearbooks, dating all the way back to 1929.

After a long day of photocopying record books and a week of crunching numbers, Mossman had the data he needed. Eighty-four years worth of Marlin, all plotted onto the moon phase they were caught on. So, how did the lunar theory stack up? Not well. 

On average, the best time to go fishing was just before the full moon. The worst time was just after it. These numbers picked up again heading into the first quarter. All in all, though, catches were pretty consistent in every phase of the month. There was decent fishing to be done, whatever was going on in space.

Solunar Fishing: Reality or Myth?

A fisherman casting his line from some rocks at night, with a full moon visible in the sky

It’s obvious that the moon has an effect on fishing. It causes the tides. Even so, other factors like weather and water temperature have a way bigger impact. The fact of the matter is that every moon phase is going to produce some of the best and worst fishing of the month.

But more importantly, most people just aren’t able to plan their life around the moon. We can’t cherry pick the perfect fishing days, whatever they may look like on paper. Similarly, a “bad” moon phase certainly shouldn’t make you rethink your long-awaited fishing trip. 

What’s your experience of fishing by moon phases? Which moon phase was responsible for your best catches? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (30)
  • Hazem

    Oct 5, 2022

    I liked this article .
    Thank you

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  • Jason

    Jul 17, 2022

    The best time to fish is any time that you can go, weather you catch a lot or a little that’s why they call it fishing!

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      Marko

      Jul 18, 2022

      Hi Jason,

      We’re with you on this! It’s all about getting out there and enjoying the experience, catching stuff comes second.

      Hope you enjoyed the article.

      Tight lines!

      Marko

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  • Dmytry

    Jun 12, 2022

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      Tanya

      Jun 13, 2022

      Hi Dmytry,

      Thanks for sharing Florida’s moon calendar with us.
      How often do you practice solunar fishing?

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  • Ahmed Sharab

    May 3, 2022

    Very interesting article. Well done Albert and the team!

    I am fishing in the Arabian gulf specifically in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and I have been twice to Oman in the open ocean for big game yellow fin tuna and giant trivially (sadly never been successful in big game so far).

    In my experience, and I go fishing nearly every week in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I see that the study done on the Bass could yield significant difference in results if it is done on different styles of fishing. Namely vertical jigging using tungsten micro jigs and casting using plastic surface lures.

    The primary catch in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is either emperor fish or rocky grouper or king mackerel.

    What jigging does is mimicking the action of a dying bait which entices the target fish to attack in case of emperor and grouper. This was proven to be more successful if compared to fishing with dead bait or soft bait.

    Similarly casting lures on feeding frenzy does the same effect which attracts the targeted mackerel.

    I use live scope sonar and fish fishfinder to see if there is any fishing, rather than wasting time. So what I noticed is that in some days specially fishing on a full moon day time there is fish activity on the sonar and radar but the fish won’t attack. Similarly, no matter what we do the surface mackerel does not attack on casting lures. This evidence matches with the study so far for fishing on full moon day.

    However, in any other day of the month “provided the wind is in favorable condition”, the fish is highly attracted during the high tide time for a couple of hours each time I try. This has made believe that I should plan my trips according to the high tide time of the day each time I go fishing.

    Simply a couple of hours full time fishing is better than long hours of-shore on trial and error that eventually yields the same result.

    Bottom line, at least in my region in the Middle East the best fishing time for jigging and casting both light game and big game, is one hour before high tide time and two hours after the high tide so long it is not a full moon day.

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      Marko

      May 3, 2022

      Dear Ahmed,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on the post. You raise some excellent points, the tides play a huge role in how fish behave and should always be considered when planning a trip. Your words serve as a great addendum to the article. 🙂

      And thank you for giving us a glimpse of how fishing in the Middle East works, it’s always nice hearing some local insight.

      Tight lines,

      Marko

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  • Tj Black

    Sep 26, 2021

    I loved this article, especially like the part about Porter Hall’s journal. I fish backwaters in North Carolina for largemouth, longnose gar, and bowfin. The one thing I can attest to as far as moon phases is that day fishing in the full moon is awful. My theory is it gets so hot here that fish will feed more at night and by morning they are full in their deep spots by the day. I also don’t like nightfishing the full moon because the advantage of the night angler is stealth and low visibility which doesn’t exist under a bright full moon. Generally I look at lunar table fishing the same as astrology, there might be something to it, but weather, water quality, skill of angler beat lunar cycle anytime. I would like to do a similar study as Prof. Allen’s but instead of having a highly skilled angler use recreational “lucky” catches. A skilled bass fisherman can catch bass, I would like to see if the sun-lunar theory gives an amateur a better shot of a new personal best.

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      Rhys

      Sep 27, 2021

      Hi Tj,

      Thanks for reading and for your kind comments, and especially for your top tips! We agree that weather, water, and the angler’s skill level trumps the lunar calendar, but every little helps!

      Tight lines,

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      Rory Hicks

      Dec 30, 2021

      I like the idea that you want to use a not so skilled fisherperson. Because there in lies the rub. The skilled fisherperson is most likely always gonna catch at least one or two fish maybe not trophy sized but at least something but a beginner who is just learning the ropes may not be as lucky. So if the phases of the moon make it better or worse then using a beginner to find that out would be a great idea. And probably more accurate.

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      Lisa

      Jan 3, 2022

      Hi Rory,

      Yes, it does make sense! When I was fishing for the first time, I was so lucky. But, when it was my third or fourth time fishing (I was consider myself to be somewhat experienced) I barely caught anything.

      Lisa

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      Hazem

      Oct 5, 2022

      Luck of the bigginer

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      Joel

      Feb 25, 2022

      Hi sir someone help me what is the best day for fishing..day and time weather also plssss..

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  • Albert Ohayon

    Sep 5, 2021

    Yes moon phases are important to follow, but here is the catch : every specy of fish has its own beheaviour. If you are deep line fishing at 1000 ft and over, during new moon, fish will still be active and bite, unless sea current are too strong to keep your rig on bottom.
    If you are trawling for shrimps, in new moom, you will be wasting your time, but the unfortunate bycatch will be heavy.
    Shrimping is best 4 days before full moon and 4 days after full moon. But even in dark nights, no moon, you can find shrimp if heavy rains have forced them out.
    Snook are not active in full moon but bite in the first and last quarter of the moon.
    Yellow tail snappers are active and bite at any moon size, water depth in this case is where to find them ie 90 to 130 ft.
    In all each specy beheave differently. Dont let the moon size stop you from trying your luck.

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      Vuk

      Sep 6, 2021

      Hi Albert,

      Thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right about every species behaving differently! At the end of the day, the only way to make sure you don’t catch any fish is not to go out on the water at all.

      Tight lines,
      Vuk

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  • John Sickler

    Jun 17, 2021

    I Bass fish Sylvan Lake in Sanford FL.
    The Larger Bass seem to bite 3 days before a full moon and 3 days after. The new moon is very productive as well. They also are very active after an evening rain this time of year but not during the rain.
    Thanks for the article, good topic!!!

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      Katie

      Jun 18, 2021

      Hi John,

      Thanks very much for sharing your insight! We always love hearing from locals 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article, too!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • SaltWarrior

    Mar 1, 2021

    I fish out of Tampa Bay, Florida. There is a head boat out of Johns pass, Hubbards Marina that offers a 44-hour full moon trip. I took this boat out and the nighttime Mangrove snapper bite was intense. Daytime was much slower with no snapper bite at all, but the grouper bite was pretty good. Definitely think its species-specific.

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      Albert

      Mar 2, 2021

      Hi Michael,

      Interesting. Sounds like an amazing trip!

      all the best!

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  • Dmitrij Babic

    Jan 17, 2021

    I live on Tenerife Island, Canaries.
    Mad about fishing local seabass with plugs.
    What I have noticed from my experience is that the best days for fishing are one week (roughly speaking) starting from 4th day after new moon and one week before the full moon. If we can compare the moon to cheese head, then the best and most productive is the week before and week after the moon looks like half of the cheese head.
    And complete new moon and full moon prove to be the worst time for fishing. Usually I get home with zero fish.
    Tight lines to everybody !

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      Albert

      Jan 18, 2021

      Hi Dmitrij,

      Thanks for getting in touch, and for sharing your tips. It really seems to vary with the species.

      All the best!

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  • anisi

    Nov 1, 2020

    Very interesting sharing and very interesting Articles, allow me to share my experience from the Middle of the Pacific Ocean (Tonga) we are doing Deep sea Bottom Line Fishing for Longtail flame Snappers, our best catches is happened 4 nights before full moon and 4 days after new moon and we are confident this is the best time as thier guts are empty nothing at all. this is the type of information that we need to share, to move to a more realistic evidence we must look at their guts what they have eaten i don’t trust that we rely on the Volume there is no realistic ground.

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      Albert

      Nov 2, 2020

      Hi Anisi,

      Thanks for getting in touch. That’s really interesting!

      I guess it makes sense that fish might eat less at certain moon phases. I’m surprised that a bottom-dwelling species like Longtail Red Snapper would be so affected though.

      Tight lines!

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  • Erwin Anthony

    Jul 4, 2020

    Dear writer,
    At my country you will not get any fish during full moon. Both sea nor lake there are “no fish”. For you know, I am proffessional fisherman for 10 years and my hobby is fishing.

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      Albert

      Jul 6, 2020

      Hi Erwin,

      Thanks for getting in touch. That’s very interesting!

      What kinds of species are you fishing for?

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      Oldog

      Aug 9, 2021

      What country ? No fish at all ? Hot sulfur springs is all you have ? Professional fisherman but no fish ?

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  • Donald Davis

    Oct 9, 2016

    My best catch ever has always been during a full moon in the early mornings catching jack fish in the Fort Charles and Great Bay area in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica so I have accepted the moon theory and its effect on fishing. Other than a full and new moon phase, can all that is said be applied in these areas too for better catch ? Don’t only wanna be catching fish on these moon phases.

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  • Abu Man

    Dec 5, 2015

    In regard to the article .. Casting beyond the Moon: Can Solunar Tables and Moon Phases help you Catch more Fish? Posted on August 8, 2014 by Dino

    I am the President of a New Zealand Surfcasting Club and would like permission to publish this article for the benefit of our Club members.

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      Catherine Tyack

      Dec 11, 2015

      Hi Abu,

      Thanks for asking and sorry for the late reply. You’re welcome to use our article but please make sure you link back to the original and reference FishingBooker when you do so.

      Glad you found it interesting! Cat

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  • miamicharter

    Aug 21, 2014

    Great experience with fishing in Moon phases. I usually like to do fishing in Full Moon and third quarter phases.

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