• Dr. Timothy Smith

Get with the Rhythm


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As a little boy, nothing made me happier than fishing except fishing with my grandfather Jack. I loved floating around in a boat on a lake with him, casting my line and reeling it in, hoping for that exciting tug of a fish nibbling at the lure. My grandfather liked fishing in a more general sense of being out on the lake and enjoying the whole experience. He would always tell me to watch the animals around us to know when the fish would be biting. He would say to watch the cows on the shore and the ducks in the water. When you see the cows lying down and the ducks resting, the fish will not be biting. I could not stop fishing whether or not the cows were standing or lying down, but when the cows relaxed, my grandfather would put down his fishing rod, lean back against the outboard motor, smoke his pipe, and occasionally give me pointers on my fishing technique or make other small talk. Later in life, I found out that animals do not forage continuously and that hunters and fisherman used sun and moon positions to predict foraging activity for the best success in hunting and fishing. In 1926, John Alden Knight, after much study, suggested that the relative position of the sun and moon affect animal activity (Solunar.com). He studied over many years fish and other animal activity in light of the location of the sun and moon. Knight suggests that sunrise and sunset, as well as moonrise and moonset prompt animal activity with the most intense activity occurring when the moon sits directly above the head or below the foot with the new moon and full moon producing the most significant action. He called his theory the Solunar Theory (Sol for sun and lunar for moon).

The Solunar Theory remains popular with hunters and fisherman, and many sportsman publications provide tables that predict the best times and days of the month for hunting and angling in various locations. With so many Solunar tables available and the experience of so many sporting enthusiasts, I began to wonder if anyone scientifically tested the assumptions of the Solunar Theory. In the scientific journal PLoS One, Mark Vinson and Ted Angradi published their study of the Solunar Theory in an article titled ” Muskie Lunacy: Does the Lunar Cycle Influence Angler Catch of Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)?” Studying the catch records for 341,959 muskellunge in Wisconsin, the authors concluded that anglers caught the largest and the most fish at the full and new moon as suggested by the Solunar Theory. The authors also showed no difference in the lunar effect between skilled and novice angler, but they showed the lunar effect to be stronger the farther north fishing the fish were caught. In contrast, a study by Erich Ritter, Raid Amin, and Aletheia Zambesi in The Open Fish Science Journal titled “Do Lunar Cycles Influence Shark Attacks?” examined the correlation between lunar cycles and shark attacks. They did not find any correlation between lunar cycles and shark attacks on surfers, challenging the Solunar Theory. Interestingly, a study by F.A. Brown in 1954 called “Persistent activity rhythms in the oyster” demonstrated that not only do oysters demonstrate the most feeding activity when the moon sits directly above head or below foot which correlates with high tide, but he also showed that when the oysters get transported inland that over time they will adjust their feeding to the moon as if the ocean shore moved to their new location (American Journal of Physiology). Another study on the behavior of white-tailed deer by Jeffrey D. Sullivan and others titled “Movement with the Moon: White-tailed Deer Activity and Solunar Events” demonstrated a connection between deer activity suggested a connection between deer activity suggested by the Solunar charts.

Hunters and anglers often consult Solunar charts to predict the best time to go hunting or fishing. The Solunar Theory developed by John Alden Knight back in the 1920s suggests that the best time to hunt or fish occurs at intervals dependent on the position of the sun and the moon with animals most active at the full moon and new moon. Studies in the scientific literature indicate lunar effects on a variety of animals from fish and oysters to deer and horseshoe crabs. Not all the research supports the Solunar Theory, but for the most part, there appears to a real connection between animal activity and the relative position of the sun and moon. Such a relationship suggests that the next time you want to go hunting, fishing or bird watching that you consult a Solunar chart to maximize the success of your outing.

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback here and in kindle format here.