It’s a full moon: fear or fever?

Print Article

Like many anglers, I am always working on that “edge,” where I am in a constant state of anticipation of the next “killer day” of fishing.

Conversely, I am always dreading that next day when you just can’t catch a fish to save your life. Many folks who hire a guide or an outfitter think we can perform a miracle every single time out on the water and don’t understand that there are days when the fish just aren’t active. Many of the same factors that influence whether you might see 30 deer in a day of hunting or are convinced there simply “aren’t any deer left.”

One of those factors is a full moon, which today just happens to be.

As an angler, I dread the full moon when the skies are clear. And not just the full moon, but the two to three days leading up to it. If the skies are clear, that moon acts as a beacon for fish to feed at night: When they look up, they see the baitfish illuminated and have a clear sight picture to feed by. Then, on the day of the full moon, when the moon has the strongest gravitational effect on the earth, if you can’t fish the peak period of the day, you are doubly jinxed, since the fish that have fed all night (for perhaps the last two to three nights) are most impacted by this condition.

Let’s back up a bit. If you have never looked at a solunar chart or table, this may be confusing. There are, arguably, four to six peak periods during the day that affect fish and game movements and behavior. As the earth revolves around the sun and moon, there are periods where the gravitational pull on the earth is strong and when it is weak. When the moon is directly over or directly under the earth, moonrise, moonset and dusk and dawn all have effects on fish and game. Throw in the different moon phases and you have multiple scenarios for how your day might play out. Add in storm activity, barometric pressure, wind, fishing pressure etc. and there are a LOT of things that can impact your success on any given day.

Since today’s column just happens to coincide with a full moon, what better time for this discussion? As I said earlier, I dread a full moon on a clear night, for the abovementioned fact that basically the fish can see and feed all night. Couple that with the fact that a clear sky typically means high pressure, and you already have a couple of strikes against you. If it has been clear for three or four nights, then that only aggravates the situation as continued high pressure usually means slow fishing.

If you have been watching the weather, you have seen that a cold front is moving through the area this week. The pressure will drop a bit as that front moves through, then begin to climb again as the area settles back into warmer, clear weather and a waning full moon. If you have never paid much attention to the solunar tables, perhaps now is a good time to start, and keep a diary of your own experiences. The full moon is only the beginning.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is now collecting public comment for the upcoming ice fishing tournament season. Our region has more ice fishing derbies, contests and tournaments then the rest of the state combined. Please let our fisheries managers know that you enjoy these events, since several have become winter mainstays and new ones pop up regularly. Comment at

I’ll see you on the water!

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at or 257-5214 or by emailing

Print Article

Read More Mike Howe: Howe's Fishing

Lake Superior whitefish

July 17, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Daily Inter Lake They’re baaaack… Lake Superior whitefish that is. This hard fighting, extremely tasty fish that are non-native to Flathead Lake, yet revered by so many, are starting to show up in isolated pockets o...


Read More

Warm weather, hot fishing

May 24, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake In my last column, I was focused on the annual opening of rivers and streams fisheries, and as I predicted, it was pretty much a non-issue. With the high, brown runoff plaguing most of the local w...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy