Larry's Fishing Hole

By: Jonn Graham

What makes fish decide to bite? Or not bite? At first glance, you might think the answer is simple – fish feed when they are hungry. While this may be basically true, there has to be some other factors that play a part as well……….right? After fishing for years for multiple species of fish, I feel there are other factors that play at least a small role in causing fish to become active and aggressively search out food. Many of these extraneous factors have been discussed and debated for years. In addition, the list of outside factors seems to grow each year as anglers are always searching for new and inventive excuses or reason why they were not able to fool their quarry. This month I will review and critique a few factors that I feel may, at least some of the time, have a bearing on whether your next fishing trip will be a memorable one or a trip to forget.
What better factor (or excuse) to start with than that of the wind. The correlation between wind direction and fish activity has long been talked about. Who has not heard the saying, “wind out of the east, fish bite the least – wind out of the west, fish bite the best”. Could there be any truth to this? From my experiences I would say “yes”, with a few stipulations. For one thing, fish biting best when the wind is out of the west makes sense. The wind quite often blows from the west, so consequently fish are accustomed to this prevailing wind direction, and thus feed well when the wind is from a “normal” direction. When the winds are out of the east it is quite often not a “normal” weather scenario. Easterly winds usually are signifying a change in the upcoming weather pattern. In other words, something significant is coming your way. Maybe an approaching storm or drop in temperature. Now I know some of you are thinking that an approaching storm can induce incredible fishing. While this is true, I have found that the incredible bite happens before the winds switch to the east. Once those winds kick from the east, the bite has already fizzled and many times is non existent. I have seen an east wind “kill” my fishing more times than I like to recall. I first noticed it as a youngster ice fishing with my dad. Whenever the wind was from the east, ol’ pops and I would have tough fishing on our local ponds that we knew well. We knew the fish were there, but they would refuse to open their mouth. This same pattern has continued throughout my fishing career. I simply HATE AN EAST WIND! Have I ever had a good day with an east wind? Yes, but it is very, very rare. Give me any wind direction other than east and I am good to go!
Next, let’s take a look at the barometric pressure. Once again, I feel this factor does have a bearing on fish activity levels. The barometric pressure is constantly going up and down to some degree each and every day. Weather fronts are the main culprit, that cause the barometer to fluctuate. In my experiences, pressure readings that are high (30.2 or higher) and steady seem to make fishing very difficult. Quite often high pressure readings occur after a big storm front has passed and skies become clear. The term “blue-bird” skies are often a signal for a high barometer. I first noticed the effects of a high barometer when I was a youngster fishing with my dad. Believe it or not, dad and I noticed that a high barometer had the most effect on the fish’s activity level during the ice fishing season. I am not sure exactly why this occurred, but we would absolutely struggle to even get a bite when the pressure was high. Since those early days, I have continued to notice that high pressure readings even make river bass fishing tough. I will say that it does seem that the barometer does not affect river fish as much as their lake brethren.
Now, sometimes, a fluctuating barometer can be your friend. Case in point, the “hot bite” that often occurs right before a storm front hits your area. Any angler that spends a large amount of time on the water can attest that fish will often bite with reckless abandon right before a storm hits. From what I have read, this is a direct result of a quickly falling barometer. Evidently fish can sense the rapidly changing barometer, and this causes them to feed voraciously. These pre-storm times can be some of the best fishing an angler can experience. Many times, it does not matter what type of bait you are throwing. Just get your bait in the water and fish will commit suicide as quickly as they can.
A third, relatively new factor to me, that is worth reviewing is that of the lunar influence. The moon has long been studied and revered by many through the ages. There is no doubt that the moon does have an effect on the earth. One only needs to look at the oceanic tides for proof that the moon is just not some random rock rotating around our planet. A couple of years ago I met a fellow fisherman who held a strong belief that the daily movements of the moon had bearing on fish and when they were most active. His beliefs were backed up by extensive written records of his past fishing trips. Of course, being intrigued by anything that affects fish, I began to pry for more information. Since then, he has become, what I like to call, my moon guru. He explained to me that the moon exerts the most force on the earth at four separate times during a 24 hour period. Those four periods are when the moon rises, sets, and is directly above and below the angler’s present position on earth. Sound a little confusing? Well, it really is quite simple.
The moon moves around the earth each day. Depending on where you live, each day there is a time when the moon will rise above the horizon and set beyond the horizon. In between these rise and set times you have a period when the moon is directly overhead and underfoot (under the earth from where you are standing). These four peak lunar times are said to have the most bearing on fish and game activity levels. The next question is do all four of these time periods have the same affect on the living inhabitants of earth? This answer is debatable. My moon guru believes that the time when the moon is overhead and underfoot are the “major” times, while the rise and set of the moon are “minor” periods. Other moon-watching anglers put stock in the rise and setting times rather than when the moon is overhead or underfoot.
My short amount of experience fishing around lunar peak periods has shown me that it does seem to have a bearing on a fish’s activity level. I have had a couple of experiences where, for no apparent reason, local river smallmouth began to feed quite well for about 90 minutes or so. Then they abruptly shut down. Upon checking the lunar charts later in the day, I found that the feeding time did coincide with a peak lunar period. Now, as you might guess, the moon is not foolproof. Many times the prevailing weather pattern will trump the moon’s affect. In contrast, peak lunar periods coinciding with other accepted peak feeding periods (sunrise and sunset) seem to make those magical few hours unforgettable. I have found that the moon seems to affect the bite in a positive way during the cold water season. My local river smallies, during the winter, do not feed often, but I have found that those 90 minute lunar peaks often are the times when the bass do decide to search for a little food. I must admit that I do check for the lunar peak periods each and every morning I decide to hit the water.
Where do you find those peak lunar times? Well, for me, I have the times right on my wrist. I have a lunar watch from the Casio company. It is actually called a fishing watch and gives me the four peak periods each and every day. In addition, it shows me the phase of the moon and the sunrise and sunset times. It is quite a watch. Of course, all of the information that my watch “spits” out can be found in other places. The local weather reported in your local newspaper will often have these times reported each and every day. No newspaper? Search the internet under the navy’s website and you can find the times for your area. If you search a little harder you can find calendars that have been created for your longitudinal and latitudinal location. The calendar that is hung on my wall is created by my moon guru – Larry Dozard. He and his wife create a calendar for Illinois with not only the peak lunar periods for all 365 days, but also includes money-saving coupons within the calendar. If you are interested, check out
So what does this all really mean? Are these the only extraneous factors that cause fish to become active? Should a guy only fish when the wind is right, the barometer is low, and the moon is at its peak? Of course, the answer to both of these questions is a definite NO! Free time to go fishing is valuable. You fish when you can and take your chances. But, if you sometimes have a choice of hitting the water in the morning or afternoon, you might want to look at the peak moon periods for that day. If the peak is at 2:00 PM, then you might want to hit the water at noon and fish through the lunar peak. If you cannot decide to either fish Monday or Tuesday, and Tuesday’s wind is out of the east, then Monday may give you a slight edge. All of the aforementioned factors are just ideas for anglers to think about. After 30 years of fishing, I am convinced that fish do feed when they are not hungry. Now what makes them do this is still somewhat of a mystery. As far as I know, science has not proven that the moon, wind direction, or barometer has a direct, consistent result on an angler’s success or failure. In my never ending quest to figure out the smallmouth bass, I feel it is important to stay cognizant of every global influence that may play a role in how fish react on a daily basis. Will I ever be able to decidedly prove any of the factors mentioned in this article? Probably not, but it sure will be fun trying.


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