Scenic view of small fishing boat in calm sea water at night and full moon.

There are quite many old wives’ tales surrounding fishing and full moon. Some anglers swear by their hooks that during a full moon, it is impossible to get a good catch, while others have the polar opposite opinion. But the one thing with which every fisherman agrees is that the moon and its different phases do affect your fishing success.

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Now, instead of listening to anecdotal evidence, why not take a look at what science has to say on the matter. It would be far better to base your fishing days on objective understanding rather than mere opinions. Sadly, not enough research has been done on the topic and we lack sufficient data to tip the scale in favor of a full moon when it comes to fishing. 

But what we can do is understand how the full moon affects different fish populations. We can then use this knowledge to get more success during our fishing ventures. With this in mind, we have put together a comprehensive overview of all the key factors on how a full moon will affect your chances of fishing.

So without further ado, let’s get started:

Understanding The Different Moon Phases

First, let’s start by going over the different moon phases. To completely orbit around the Earth, the moon takes around 29 days and 12 hours. During this time period, the entire cycle can be divided into four phases.

To check the phases of the moon, you can use this lunar calendar.

New Moon

This is considered as the beginning of a new lunar cycle with the moon being positioned between the earth and the sun. During this period, the celestial body is not visible from the earth. 

However, because it is positioned in a straight line with the sun, it produces a significant gravitational pull on the earth.

Full Moon

Here again, the sun, the moon, and the earth orient themselves into a straight line with the earth positioned in between the moon and the sun. As a result, light from the sun hits the moon and bounces off the lunar surface such that the entire side facing the earth is completely visible. 

Here also, the three celestial bodies are positioned in a straight line which results in amplified gravitational forces acting on the earth.

The First and The Third Quarter

The first quarter happens when the earth, moon, and sun form a 90-degree angle. Visually, the sun illuminates the side view of the moon and we see only half of it in the night sky. This orientation exerts a less gravitational pull on the earth compared to a full moon or a new moon.

The third quarter is similar to the first quarter, only the moon is on the opposite pole from the first quarter. In terms of visibility, again, we see a half-lit moon and experience lesser gravitational forces.

How Tides Affect Fishing?

As we just saw, different moon phases exert different levels of gravitational forces which in turn influence the intensity of the tides during each lunar phase. And since tides play a crucial role in predicting fishing success, we can see how a full moon may influence your luck with the hook.

Depending on where you are, each day you will experience two high tides and two low tides. Now, when we have a full moon or a new moon, due to the increased gravitational forces, we notice higher high tides and lower low tides. The difference increases even further when the moon is closest to the earth. This phenomenon is called Spring Tides.

Generally, due to the increase in water movement during the high tides, fishes get pushed closer to the shallows which can result in better fishing opportunities. Generally, baitfish and their predators flow with the waves to conserve energy as they search for food. 

As such, you should fight the water current while setting up your fishing spot. Since the fishes are flowing with the water current, it would be wise to position yourself near a structure like a jetty where fishes will generally congregate to escape from the water currents and wait.

You can check the tides online here.

How Freshwater Fishes Are Affected

A full moon will also indirectly affect freshwater fishes. During periods of high tides, schools of fishes tend to gather around the mount of the river that meets the ocean. They are waiting for the incoming spring tides to push them further upstream.

A classic example would be during the late summer when west coast ocean-run salmon head upstream entering into the rivers to travel from Alaska down to Oregon. On the contrary, large spring tides can cause a problem for some species of fish to move while fighting through the current. So they make their journey well before any upcoming spring tide.

Now, with that being said, you will also notice different behaviors depending on the type of fish you are looking for.

For instance, if you are fishing for Bass or any other sunfish, then you can take advantage of the fact that they tend to appear during the full moon in spring. Although there is much debate surrounding the topic, tournament-level anglers are seen to take advantage of this fact. Generally, nesting sites for these fishes during days, immediately before and after a full moon, notice the most activity.

Now, this should shed some light on how fish behave depending on the intensity of the waves. You should always keep an eye on how the tides are affecting the current to understand where fishes might congregate.

The Effect Of Moonlight

Following the above argument, it seems that both the full moon and new moon produces similar results since both phases contribute to spring tides. However, during the full moon, we have access to moonlight compared to a new moon when there is no lunar light at all. So does the moonlight from a full moon affect your fishing?

Well, if you go and ask any fisherman, they will blatantly state that the best time to nab a good bite would be during sunrise and sunset. So clearly light – especially the intensity of the light, plays a role in governing the activity of fishes.

A few examples would be how some tuna and swordfish tend to go deeper underwater because they don’t like the light, especially the strong moonlight coming off a full moon. On the flip side, Billfishes tend to enjoy the pleasant lunar rays and stay closer to the surface making them an easier catch. 

This is also true for Crappies which are most active under a full moon making them the easiest catch during this time. Again, Bluegill species have been noted to lay their eggs during the full moon.

Now, every little research has been done to determine why fish behave differently in the moonlight. It might be a direct cause some fishes don’t like the moonlight whereas others do. Or it might be as a reaction to how the insects, these fishes feed on, react to moonlight – obviously, they will follow their food source.

There are many anglers who have noticed that some fish tend to have a feast in the light of a full moon. This makes it the best time to fish for them. However, don’t expect any activity the following day, as the fishes will be less hungry.

Overall, it all depends on the species of fish you are searching for and some experimentation before you know for sure how particular fishes react to the full moon.

Best Time To Fish During A Full Moon

A full moon will affect fishing chances by increasing water activity and providing more moonlight. As such, you should have ample fishing opportunities both during the day and the night. The only thing to note is that different fish will react differently to these stimuli, so act accordingly.

For example, steady waters near the mouth of the river are perfect places to get some fishing action. However, you will need to position yourself accordingly depending on whether you are looking to catch fishes going upstream or downstream.

Similarly, during a full moon, fishes that hunt during the night time should display more activity, so schedule your time according to that information.

Now, with all that being said, we have seen that the lunar body does have some effect on different kinds of fish making them easier to catch. As such, if you are not looking for any particular species then just get your hook into the water and wait patiently. You should get a bite sooner or later, especially if you are fishing around a full moon. 

However, if you want to improve your chances even further, follow these few golden rules of fishing that holds regardless of the lunar phase.

  • Just an hour before and after a high tide or a low tide – tides send fishes to shallow areas where it becomes easier to catch.
  • At the break of dawn just after the moonset and sunrise.
  • Immediately following a storm.

You can also take the help of a guide if available. Since they have helped a multitude of anglers, they are very experienced and can tell you how the full moon will affect different species of fishes and also recommend favorable spots where you are most likely to land a bite. Yes, it is going to cost you, but it will be good, actionable, professional advice that you can use to increase your success rate.

How To Improve Your Chances Of Catching A Particular Kind Of Fish

This can only be done through research and experimentation.

Go and ask your fellow anglers about the best condition which helped them to catch a species of fish you are looking for. However, this will depend on the location as well. 

So if you are trying the same fishing gear, at the same time, with a full moon high above your head, you might not get the same catching ratio as you are not at the same location. 

This is where experimentation comes into the picture.

For example, let’s say you want to understand how a full moon affects the rate of catching Bass at your local fishing spot.

Well, the first thing you need to do is consistently go fishing at the same time during each full moon and keep a note of your results. You can use a journal where you note down the date, phase of the moon, time of fishing, surrounding conditions, and your success rate. This will help you gather data that you can then compare to see what is the best time for Bass fishing.

You can also take help from a moon app that will keep track of the current lunar positions. Pair this with a dedicated fishing app that will help you record your catching information, current weather, temperature, GPS location, tides, and much more.

You don’t need to do this for several months. Just take 3 trials at a particular location and at a particular time. Then either change the location or time period and carry on with the experiment. This will help you come across a pattern so you can realize the best place and time for catching Bass in your local area.

In Conclusion:

So, as you can see, the full moon does impact your fishing success but whether it is good or bad will depend on the type of fish you are looking to catch. Different fishes react differently to the spring tide and bright moonlight present during a full moon. 

For more articles on fishing take a look here.

Furthermore, the moon is merely one of the many things that factor into your fishing success. In fact, things like the season, weather, as well as current local water conditions are crucial in determining whether you will get a big bite or not. And let’s not forget about your current skill level and the techniques you use to lure in a catch.

However, with all things constant, if you are just comparing whether its good or bad to fish during a full moon compared to other lunar phases, then it does seem to be a preferable time. 

If you are looking to catch some big fish, then days leading to a full moon seems to be ideal. Whereas small fishes like Bass are abundant during a full moon night.