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The fact is the moon does have an influence on the earth and its life forms. Its overhead and underfoot positions generate the tides each day and can lift the earth's crust a foot or so. A human baby's time from conception to birth is exactly nine lunar months, and more of us are born during the new or full moon than any other phase. Studies have shown that when shut off from outside stimuli, namely sunlight, many creatures will adjust their daily routine to the lunar day (approximately 24 hours and 50 minutes long).
There have been numerous scientific experiments conducted on the subject, but one of the more convincing was when Dr. Frank A. Brown, a biologist at Northwestern University, had some live oysters plucked from their home off the seashore of Connecticut and flown to his lab near Chicago. Oysters are known to open their shells in tune with each high tide, and Dr. Brown wanted to see if this was due to the change in ocean levels or to a force from the moon itself. He placed the oysters in a shallow pan of water and shut them off from sunlight. For the first week, they continued to open their shells in tune with the high tides in Connecticut. But by the second week, they adjusted their shell-openings to each time the moon was overhead and underfoot Chicago. Dr. Brown theorized that this had to be a direct force from the moon, and that it was probably electromagnetic energy, which interacts with the electromagnetic fields surrounding the oysters.
It's understandable, then, why most anglers and hunters today consult some type of moon table regularly. But there still remain general misconceptions of this mystical orb's role in when fish and game become active. Part of the problem stems from the moon table itself, which, quite frankly, may not be as accurate, complete, or honest as it could be. Whether by accident or design, it can imply that the moon is the end-all-be-all of when to go. Just calling the moon's overhead position "Major" strongly suggests it is to be considered the best time to go that day, regardless of what other influences may exist.
And there most certainly are other influences. True, some are difficult to predict, like the fish's current state of health, appetite, or mind. Others, like the weather or high water, can't be predicted by any calendar, but can be factored in when the time comes.
But there's one other element that is not only just as predictable as the moon, it often has more to do with when fish and game become active than anything. Yet, despite this importance, you won't find it receiving any more than lip service in any moon table.
Some of you more experienced anglers have been keying on the major solar periods since before Patton was a private. You've learned that one of the best times to go bass fishing in July, for example, is during that dawn period, when the overheated shallows are at their coolest and the fish are being stimulated by darkness suddenly turning into light. During cold months you know that the high-noon to dusk period is often the best, because now the chilly shallows are at their warmest of the day.
There is just no denying that dawn starts the bio-engine of most life on earth each day, and dusk shuts it down. Even in the case of nocturnal creatures, these two events provide the primary starting and stopping points.
Then there's the high-noon period, when the sun is at its most direct position overhead. Besides being a half-way point between dawn and dusk (i.e.: lunch time), it's also when the sun's light and heat energy suddenly penetrate very deeply into the water. This can spark plankton blooms at the medium to lower depths, which induces baitfish to move and feed, and in turn can stimulate gamefish to do the same thing. Experienced anglers have found that this high-noon period is often a good time to fish deeper, and this may be why.
High-noon also sees the sun's strongest electromagnetic energy, which theoretically is the same force coming down from the moon. This makes the sun's underfoot position at mid-night also a viable period.
Leaving the sun out of the mix is like listening to the Super Bowl on the radio. Something is missing. Still, these solar patterns have their ups and downs, too. For no apparent reason the fish suddenly stop biting at the prescribed times, and out comes our moon table.
The Solar/Lunar Tandem
It's almost like a tug-of-war between these two celestial objects. On the one side we have the sun, urging fish and game to follow its dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn cycle and the changes in temperatures, winds, and light levels it causes. On the other side is the maverick moon, coming overhead 50 minutes later each day, sending down enough mysterious energy to coax many species off their solar routines and onto a more erratic one. It's hard to say if the bass and walleyes are confused. A lot of people are.
But underneath this apparent discord lies predictable patterns to the moon and sun's influence. In fact, there are times when the two sing together in almost perfect harmony to produce potentially strong fish-feeding, game-moving periods. Not everyone knows about these, and even fewer look for them. You would need a moon table, because the lunar element in the equation is never constant from one day to the next. On the other hand, these exceptional periods are not highlighted in any moon table, because such a forecaster would have to chart the key solar cycles, as well. Yes, some tables use terms like "solunar," implying they do incorporate the sun. But in truth there's only one that does.
Like the better moon tables, PrimeTimes says the best lunar times occur when the moon is passing overhead, then again when its underfoot (the same configuration that causes the two high tides each day). It also agrees that in general the full, new, and half moon phases are the better days of each month. But that's where the similarities end.
First and foremost, PrimeTimes considers the sun in all aspects of its predictions. Secondly, using scientific concepts, precise astrophysical data, and a comprehensive computer program, it analyzes every minute of every day to calculate activity patterns, then relays its information to you via easy-to-follow charts and graphs.
The "Best Days of the Month" chart at the top of each PrimeTimes Wall Calendar page rates each day's overall potential on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 the best and 50 being average). This is because there's more to a "good" day than just the lunar phase. The laws of astrophysics say that the closer the moon is to the earth (its apogee/perigee cycle), the stronger its force. This becomes glaringly evident when you consider the fact that back when life was forming in the sea, the moon was five times closer to the earth than it is now, and as a result, the tides it produced were a mile high!
Also important is how directly overhead the moon comes each day, known as its "high/low cycle." Again, physics demands that the better two objects line up (try this with two bar magnets), the more "pull" there is between their electromagnetic fields. The sun's high/low cycle also plays a part in this. But while it takes the sun 365 days to complete its cycle (summer to winter and back to summer), the moon knocks off its high/low cycle every month.
Consequently, while a typical moon table gives equal billing to the new and full moons every month, PrimeTimes points out that these two phases rarely deserve the same rating. For example, let's say the day of the full moon this month has a rating of 68, while the day of the new moon gets only 55. As we just said, there are number of reasons (cycles) for this, but one of the main ones will be because the new moon is occurring quite closely to a "low" (weaker) moon, while the full moon has the same proximity to the "high" moon, giving it extra power. A few months down the road the new moon will be occurring much closer to the high moon and take its turn at being the stronger of the two phases. (Actually, this game of cat-and-mouse among the different cycles can even have a half moon being stronger than the full or new moon that month.)
The Daily Periods
The length of PrimeTimes' lunar periods are in a constant state of flux, lasting anywhere from approximately one hour to 3 ½ hours, depending on those key solar and lunar cycles mentioned earlier. As a rule of thumb, the shorter periods are associated with that "low" moon, plus somewhat to apogee (when the moon is farthest away). These are the days you could expect the moon to be relatively weak, and may want to focus first on those solar periods of dawn, high-noon, or dusk…whichever that particular season calls for.
But where PrimeTimes really rises above other tables is that it alerts you to those special situations every month that, as we mentioned earlier, few people think about, much less look for. These occur whenever a lunar period overlaps a solar period, creating a double-whammy you may not want to miss. It's more than just a doubling up of the forces that act on fish and game, it's also sudden harmony from a previously out-of-sync rhythm, not unlike Mrs. Hayward's sixth-grade band suddenly playing all the right notes at the right time.
For example, let's say the moon is passing overhead in the predawn hours of 3:11 to 6:21 a.m. Theoretically, the fish in our favorite lake are being urged to feed at this time, with the strongest influence hitting them around 4:30 a.m., when the moon is at its zenith. Unfortunately, it's still dark, so whether they answer the call is hard to say. Then, around 6:00 a.m., just as the moon's influence is waning, dawn breaks, and the fish are again being zapped with a feeding stimulus, this time a solar one. Another tough call. Any that did feed when the moon was in force, may not at dawn, and vice versa.
Ah, but look what starts to happen two days later. Now the moon is passing overhead at dawn. For the next three days our fish are hit with these two feeding stimuli at the same time. The force is doubled and the coordination is great. Not a bad time to be on the water.
It's very easy to see whenever these overlaps occur in PrimeTimes, because one of the lunar humps will be right on top of one of the solar humps. And if that doesn't call your attention to the event, the fish/game symbols directly below that overlap certainly will.
As a footnote, you may find it interesting to know that the only time one of the lunar periods overlaps dawn and/or dusk is during a half-moon phase. And the only times one overlaps the high-noon (sun overhead) and/or mid-night (sun underfoot) solar periods is during the new and full moon phases. Is it coincidental that these are the same lunar phases associated with the best days to go each month?
This PrimeTimes system is not the final word in when to go fishing and hunting. You need to keep its data in perspective, as you also consider the other, less-predictable variables each time out. But it is the best look into the future the outdoor world has to date. By basically adding an accurate "sun table" to an accurate "moon table," then carefully analyzing the ever-changing relationship between these two celestial objects and the earth, we have an excellent indicator of the more important, predictable factors. If you've been following some moon table regularly, your success rate should increase substantially with PrimeTimes. If this is your first attempt with any activity calendar, you couldn't have started at a better time.
This article generally was excerpted from Rick Taylor's book, "How to Know
When to Go (The Art and Science of Predicting the Best Times to Fish and Hunt)."
To find out how to get your own
copy, click here now.