Study: Moon phase cycle affects Muskie angler success

By on June 6, 2014
The moon over Lake Monona in Wisconsin (Credit: benet2006, via Flickr)

Anglers chasing elusive muskie are always looking for a leg up, whether its this year’s hot lure or fishing during the right phase of the lunar cycle. A new study offers some scientific credence to more bites when the moon is right.

The moon’s effect on fish behavior has long been of interest to both biologists and anglers. That’s especially the case with muskie, where long, fishless spans can give anglers plenty of time to ramp up the lore.

“They’re so hard to catch, so people are always trying to find some advantages,” said Mark Vinson, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Lake Superior Biological Station in Wisconsin. “Fishing at a different time is something that muskie fishermen pay attention to more than other fishermen.”

Vinson and U.S. EPA colleague Ted Angradi analyzed more than 340,000 muskie catch records across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario for a statistical analysis that checked for an effect of the lunar cycle. They found the “number caught was strongly related to the 29-day lunar cycle,” according to the study published in published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“It was nice that it did support anecdotal information,” Vinson said. “It supported the lore, the history of the effect of the moon on fishing.”

Past studies have also suggested a link between lunar activity and angler success. The difference between those studies and this one, Vinson said, is the sheer number of catch records that the researchers were able to dig into. That database came from conservation organization Muskies, Inc.

Esox masquinongy (Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Esox masquinongy (Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

The effect wasn’t particularly large: Anglers fishing in the day would catch five percent more muskie during a new or full moon compared with anglers fishing at random days. At night, the effect only showed up under the full moon.

“Expressed another way,” the authors wrote in the study, “[for] anglers [who] ‘fish the moon,’ the ‘Fish of 10,000 Casts’ becomes the fish of about 9,500 casts.”

Though it wasn’t a huge boost, the analysis seems to confirm that it was the result of the muskie’s biological response to the moon and not just a matter of more people fishing during certain phases.

Vinson spoke by phone from Houghton, Mich., where he was docked with the R/V Kiyi in the midst of a Lake Superior fish survey. Vinson is a muskie fishermen himself, though he said he can’t pursue them as often as he’d like because he’s usually on a research boat during the species’ summer season.

“They’re fabulous, because they’re such a beautiful fish and they’re so toothy and aggressive looking,” Vinson said. “It’s a rush to catch one.”

Top image: The moon over Lake Monona in Wisconsin (Credit: benet2006, via Flickr)

About Jeff Gillies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *