For many years, I was in the ranks of most other anglers that thought that the best time to fish was in the early morning or early evening. The bass experts (and there are many) told us that bass only feed twice a day, during those advertised times. This fact was of course true in terms of nature’s clock which is the clock used by all fish. What was being overlooked however was that bass, like all other fish will also eat at any time that a tempting meal is passed in front of them.
I have found that one huge advantage of keeping a detailed fishing log is my ability to create an interesting argument about life long fishing myths and this is a big one. I recently examined some of my catch data over a period of five years from 2005 through 2010. Using only data from days that I fished complete days so as not to bias the results, I plotted the catches made from more than 2681 different fish of several species. Much of this data was from trips that I had made to locations other then my home waters, trips to Canada and other US lakes and rivers. The results shown left (left image) may shock you but the middle of the day produced better catches than the morning or evening. Obviously my fishing technique was different when the sun was high in the sky, but the results present an interesting argument for not taking a lunch break.
Many of my friends on Lake Norman asked if these results also apply to that reservoir and if there is any difference in the results for different species of fish. I examined my data for Lake Norman, using the same criteria and got the results shown right (right image).
For all of the popular species, the results were the same, the best catch rates were between 10 am and 5 pm. Since my argument about the best times to fish was now getting interesting, I decided to go back and evaluate the data and compare it to the popular Solunar Tables that are published in nearly every outdoor magazine. Using thousands of catches as my data base I could only correlate with the recommended best time published by that source 22% of the time. In other words, I only had good results at the predicted times 22% of the time. Wow, I thought if I flip a coin and call the results I will be right 50% of the time if I flip enough times. That doesn’t place much confidence on the position of the moon relative to the earth when it comes to fish behavior.
I decided to do some more digging to better understand the sources of this solunar material. I have always believed that the tides, which are controlled by the moons position, do indeed affect fish behavior in the oceans. But in fresh water, I am a doubter. My research dug up some interesting facts. The earliest material written on this subject shows that very early work with the moons position involved the use of clams and other shellfish. These shellfish were observed in a tank of saltwater. Their movements and behavior were recorded and compared to the position of the moon. It was concluded that the shellfish opened their shells in a pattern that could be correlated with the moons position relative to the earth. This was the original work that eventually led to creation of the Solunar Tables. There were never any tests run with fish that I could find.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convince any anglers not to fish in the early morning or early evening, because you will get results at those times. What I am suggesting is that you not abandon the midday hours. Instead of taking a two hour lunch break, pack your lunch and fish right through the midday hours. I believe that you will find this practice helps improve your overall catch rate for all species of fish. Based on my findings, you might not want to schedule your fishing vacation based on the published tables, especially if you are fishing in freshwater.
Originally published in the Charlotte Edition of The Angler Magazine.