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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 9:26 pm | Fair 55º


Captain’s Log: The Effects of the Moon and Tides on Fishing

Charter captains and others with experience can help put together a successful fishing plan

Charter captains like myself and other experienced fishers carefully consider the moon phase and tidal pattern when we plan a day of successful fishing. To put together a successful fishing plan, consult someone with experience and wisdom — someone who can predict what the moons and tides will do to various fish at various locations — then adapt your desires to match the realities of the day. You will catch more fish.

Bear in mind that it is never an exact science. Even the most experienced among us lack a total understanding of the effects of all factors, but our plans average out to a good day of fishing. Here are some of the ways in which moon and tide phases affect various fish.

Moon phases drive tides, which are strongest during the full and new moon phases. Unfortunately, this is nearly all the solunar tables use to predict good fishing. It is never that simple — I wish it were! — and there are no absolutes. Some fish, especially white seabass (WSB), often want good strong tidal current flow to go on the chew. Not surprisingly, some of the best catches occur near the full and new moon cycles.

That is a good way to plan a WSB trip. Moon phases have an influence on WSB fishing because of visibility — they can see better than most fish in dark or murky water, so in moonlit waters they can see incredibly well, which helps them ambush prey (which hopefully includes your bait).

Tuna can’t afford to allow such factors to dictate their feeding patterns. Their job is to follow a rough migratory route and stay within comfortable water — as best they can — during that migration. They need plenty of groceries to keep those high-energy bodies moving, so they feed opportunistically, rather than according to a predetermined schedule.

Yellowtail are similar, although they can comfortably move inshore around our islands and adapt temporarily to local feeding patterns. So this is a fish you can target at any time of the month or of the day, whether you are paddy-hopping offshore or yo-yoing over structure spots near the islands.

Here is a bit of experience that may earn you some very large steaks: Sharks may not key off of moon phases or tides for feeding; instead, they tend to eat whenever their tummies grumble. However, when a strong tidal current forms up a well-defined current break, hungry sharks will search along the break. That is a dependable source of food for sharkies. Unlike WSB, which rely heavily on eyesight when foraging, sharks use their eyes last, after they already know much about the location and nature of possible prey. Consequently, sharks are very efficient nighttime predators during dark new moon cycles.

Calico bass are kinda funny about moons and currents. It isn’t just the presence of either one, because I’ve caught them feeding on a dark night in still water as well as during a moonlit night with a raging current. Yet given their druthers, calico will happily feed during a full moon with a medium current. Even the direction of the current matters. Many factors push and pull on the currents, aiming them in various directions. Bass most seem to like a current aimed uphill (opposing the wind and waves) but slanted toward the beach. Nobody fully understands calico bass, and they are quite capable of proving us wrong at any given moment.

Halibuteers find their quarry in a favorable mood at high tide during a full moon cycle. Like WSB, halibut like to follow squid spawns, so this is a good time to target them. But halibut will also show a preference for feeding early in the morning light and just before dusk. A morning high tide is when I most like to concentrate on the flat ones.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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