Every angler would love to be able to pinpoint the exact times during the days when fish are on the chomp. It sure would make things a lot easier, right?
I suspect bite-time theory goes back well beyond the written word, or at least well before John Knight put forth his assertion that animals and fish move in response to lunar activity. His attempt to combine fishing lore with factors such as sun and moon locations became known as “Solunar theory,” and it’s widely used today.
In 1926, Knight compiled a list of 33 factors he thought contributed to the day-to-day behaviors of both freshwater and saltwater fish. This was eventually narrowed down to three main factors: sun, moon and tide.
Since freshwater fish are not really affected by tides, he focused on the positions of the sun and moon; specifically moon up and moon down, which he determined to be the major periods. He found the most activity occurred when the moon was either directly overhead or directly below.
These periods of “major” activity lasted from one to three hours. Additionally, there were “minor-bite” windows during the day.
While some anglers swear by Knight’s theory, others have called it nonsense. These nonbelievers claim weather, especially water temperature, and tides are more important than lunar position.
Most of us will agree that fishing is best at sunrise and sunset, regardless of where the moon is. Personally, I’ve had tough bites during a full moon, but while salmon fishing outside the Golden Gate, I’ve been told that fishing is at its best during a full moon phase.
Tides will certainly turn on the bite in the delta, and periods of “slack tide” are the worst. I’ve had some very good outings right before a storm blows in and lots of folks love to fish in the rain. Everyone I know agrees that the clearing period immediately after a storm is usually very slow.
Two recent trips got me thinking about bite times.
On a trip to Lake Oroville, I had been going in circles for several hours without any hits. The sky was clear with a slight breeze. Suddenly, there was a flurry of mid-day action.
Was it due to the magical “bite time,” or did I just happen to find a school of fish that were hungry?
There was very little boat traffic, although king salmon are not known to be boat shy.
During another trip to Collins Lake, I was out right before a big storm was due. In fact, it sprinkled off and on all day. I landed a few trout here and there, but the bite was slow.
As more boaters gave up and left the water, the bite started to pick up. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, it broke open and I was getting hits all over the lake; in the same areas I had gone over a few hours before.
So again, was it the bite window or the approaching storm; or the fact that there was less traffic scaring the fish?
It’s not a bad idea to check the online solunar tables, but I wouldn’t necessarily arrange my trips according to them. Most of us fish when we get a chance.
I know lots of guys who just flat out catch fish no matter what time of the day it is.