Welcome to the Articles portion of the Fishing the New River Valley blog. Here I will be posting articles which I have written. These will be more based on fishing fact versus the fishing fun of the Stories section. Thanks and Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lunar Calendars: Myth or Magic?

For years, I have heard that fishing with the moon is as important as where you fish.  If you want to catch the biggest of the big you need to be fishing at the right times, not just the right places.  As anglers go, we generally are not ones to pick up odd habits, believe in monikers of good luck, or have good luck rituals that we go through.  And we definitely let our hands stretch just the length of that fish we landed (never a tad extra), and have never let the water account for an additional six inches on that one that got away!

Yeah, ok...SURE....  We are a VERY superstitious lot.  Practically every angler I know has some sort of good luck charm or ritual.  Many, myself included, have more than one so to think that we would ignore years of conjecture about the moon and its phases is purely ludicrous.  OF COURSE we are going to bite on that.... hook, line, and sinker!  So for those of you, who are not as familiar with the "moon phase" and how it applies to fishing, let me explain.

Moon phase is exactly what it sounds like, the phase the moon is in.  Full Moon, quarter moon, half moon, new moon, etc.  However, the thought is that fishing is at its best when the moon is at its two extremes.  Full and New.  So, when you look at a "lunar calendar" you will see that you generally have one full moon and one new moon in each month (28 day cycles roughly).  The rule of thumb is that fishing will be best on or near the full or new moons.  Generally, people indicate that the three days before or after the full or new moon, are the top fishing days.  Usually you will see this listed something similar to Full -2 or New +1 for example.  Full -2 means two days before the full moon, conversely, New + 1 means one day after the new moon.

So, why would the fishing be better?  Well, there is too much debate and speculation for me to give a confident answer to that.  In tidal estuaries, it seems obvious how the moon affects the tides and how that can impact fishing (interestingly there is stong debate about the best fishing being during the "quarters" where tides are concerned); however, the NRV has NO tidal why would it matter here?  Well, some believe it has to do with lighting at night, while others feel there is an impact from changes in gravity and even magnetic forces.  Which ever it is, to me, doesn't matter -- the question becomes more of ... is it real?

So, to that end I decided to do some research.  I took every state record fish in Virginia, and compared their catch date to the moon phase they were in.  My first test was the Largemouth Bass.  This guy is a bruiser, a 16lb 4oz behemoth out of Connor Lake, landed by Richard Tate back on May 20th, 1985.  So, where was the moon?  NEW MOON that DAY!  Yep, first record I check is dead on the new moon.  I was astounded.  Ok, let’s see about that bronze back…  We here in the NRV should be a little more familiar with this guy… the 8lb 1oz monster from the New River, caught, 3-12-2003 by Donald Eaton, Jr.  Moon phase?  Full -6.  A week before the full moon?!  That’s not so magic. 
The next fish I checked was the Spotted Bass claimed in Claytor Lake back on 7-29-1993 checking in at 3 lbs. 10 oz. by Mike Ritter.  Phase? New Moon.  Just like the Largie!  Ok, now I’m really getting puzzled.  I continued on down the list and found that there was definitely a trend out there.  Out of the 28 fish the Virginia DGIF keeps records on, SIX were caught on the NEW or FULL Moon!  Even more interesting, five of those six came from the NEW MOON alone!  I could hardly believe the numbers were so tilted.  Being a bit of a numbers cruncher I started digging in a bit deeper and below is what I found:
New Moon Record Fish:  5
Full Moon Record Fish:  1
Fish caught within the +/- 3 days of full / new moon:  14
All other days combined held the other 14 records.
Fish caught -3, -2, or -1 of a Full or New moon:  3
Fish caught +1, +2 or +3 of a Full or New moon:  5
Specifically -3, -2, -1 of a New moon only: 2
Specifically -3, -2, -1 of a Full moon only: 1
Specifically +1, +2 or +3 of a New moon:  2
Specifically +1, +2 or +3 of a Full moon:  3
-7, -6, -5, -4 of the Full moon:  5
-7, -6, -5, -4 of the New moon:  2
+4, +5, +6, +7 of the Full moon:  6
+4, +5, +6, +7 of the New moon:  1
Top Producing Months:
May:  8 records
April and March:  4 records each
June, July, October:  3 records each
January, February, September and November:  0 records

So, what does all of that mean?  Well, nothing really.  If you can go fishing this Saturday, go fishing this Saturday.  If it’s New Moon --- Good deal, if not, who cares!  You’re still going fishing!  But, if you are trying to go for a record setting fish, there are times that seem to yield the best averages.

The New Moon in May seems to be the most amazing day for our area.  Total records caught on May’s New Moon?  3 (Four if you want to count the April 30th New Moon record for White Perch).  July is the only other month with a New Moon record.  And the full moon record? That was landed on June 1st!  So, again, right on the cusp of May.  In fact if you add one week to either side of May, the total state records go from 8 in the month to an amazing 14 state record fish!  14 of 28 total species have been caught in one six-week span.  So, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that if you are going to really try for some monsters; late spring fishing is going to be your best bet in Virginia. 

Right now, someone is shaking their head no.  That might be fine for Bass and other “warm” fish, but what about the really big guys, Musky, Pike, Cats?  Rest assured guys; I looked at that too…  Musky, June 1st on a FULL MOON.  Pike, middle of July!  (And it happened to be Full +1).  Our biggest record ever?  The 102 lb, 4oz Blue Cat that Tim Wilson surged from the James?  May 20th.  Oh, did I forget about you trout fisherman, I apologize.  Here’s a treat, Mike Perkins gave us a 14 lb, 12 oz Brown Trout out of the South Fork of the Holston, on a new moon….in May!

So, it seems that the myth is really no myth at all… mixing that knowledge with what I am going to call the 6 weeks of “fishing nirvana” in and around May, the NRV should make for some really good fishing this spring.  If you only have one day, try to make it the day of the new moon, or sometime following the full moon.  But most certainly look for your top catches to come this spring. 

Now that I know this, I may be putting in for a day off on … oh I don’t know, May 3rd?  Maybe I’ll see you out on the water…  Till then, keep your lines tight, be safe, and take a kid fishin’.

(Originally written 2011 - David Lively)

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