Even after all these years, no scientific information that I'm aware of has ever indicated a statistically significant connection between solunar periods and increased fishing success in freshwater. We do have on record, however, some curious scientific data suggesting the possibility of increased catches of big fish during certain periods. We'll get into the details of some of that data as we write our magazine issues for this coming year.
For now, as in the past, we're left to believe or not believe, based on the application of our own logic to the question and the results of our own experiments in the field as we note our success, or lack of it, during solunar periods.
I believe. But I also have watched enough over the years, calculated and recalculated enough to know that the effect isn't overwhelming and probably usually means little or nothing at all. Still, from my empirical perspective, get the solunar timing right for the right species on the right body of water, during the right yearly period -- then get the right weather -- and odds increase for big fish. Of course, the angler also must have a seasoned clue about presentation options in order to be successful.
I think I have success tying in solunar effects during late summer and throughout fall, beginning with the first full moon of August -- especially when the full moon occurs later in the month, which is the case this season. I like that full-moon period if I'm to begin fishing at night for walleyes. I also like a late August or early September new moon to begin a serious hunt for large muskies.
I've had little success trying to time my fishing to supposed peaking periods during days when the moon is overhead or directly below. Instead, I heed monthly periods, especially days leading into the new- and full-moon periods. On the fishing calendars and solunar charts we run in each magazine, we focus on the days before and after these moon periods. But I generally haven't seen increased activity on waning moons. Give me the three or four days leading into a new or full moon, for walleyes and muskies. Then give me another few days after the full moon, for walleyes.
The connection for me and walleyes has been fishing during the period coming into the full moon, beginning at and after dark. August can be good, but the best bites are during September and October -- and November (when the weather allows). I've also done well for walleyes on ice during the full moon period in December.
On the other hand, I have done best on the days coming into the dark of the moon for muskies, where my fishing almost always takes place during the day. One might suggest that some of this supposed success for both fish is a matter of light; that walleyes feed best at night when there's more light present, and feed less effectively when much light isn't present; and that when muskies don't have the light required to feed effectively at night, they're likely to feed more heavily during the day.
Other anglers see other things relative to the moon. One of the most practical discourses on fishing at this time of year was suggested by Mille Lacs Lake Area Guide Ivan Burandt some years ago. "I begin fishing for walleyes at night during the August full moon, so long as it doesn't occur during the first part of the month," he says. "I get on the water a couple hours before dark, fish through the sunset bite, then fish until about midnight, for those couple days before and maybe a day or so after the full moon.
"On the night of the full moon, the sun sets just as the moon rises. Then the moon rises about 40 minutes to an hour later each evening following. The moon needs to be up to stimulate good fishing after dark. Two days after the full moon, you have to wait almost two hours after sunset before moonrise. That period has always been a dead time.
"At that point, I begin fishing midnight through sunrise. This lets me get in some night-fishing when the moon's up and also allows me to fish through the most consistent bite period at this time of year, the sunrise period. If I weren't guiding and had only three or four hours to fish on a given night," he continued, "I'd time my fishing to begin with moonrise, get a few hours in, then get enough rest to work the next day. Anytime I could fish through a sunrise period without wasting a lot of dead time waiting on the moon, I'd do it. The sunrise bite is by far the hottest bite this time of year -- mid-August through October.
"The only times I fish during dark-of-moon periods are during a few midnight to sunrise runs. In this case, the bite usually begins just as light barely touches the eastern sky. Oftentimes, a really good bite goes for about two hours."
Across the ages, the sun and moon have been markers for many of our outdoor activities. Sometimes we probably see what we hope to see. Other times, perhaps we can't see what we don't have the willingness to imagine. Observations like Burandt's point to a practical and calculable fishing logic related to some solunar events. My experience is based on countless hours in the field using other solunar events as markers, for what I believe is a potential increase in the overall chance for catching larger fish.