Monday, December 11, 2006

Fishing the Florida Keys - Moon phases

Now that the winter season is here my fishing reports are going to sound like a broken record until around March. This is the time of the year where colder water temperatures north of us have driven most of the bait and predators down this way. Mackerel, (Spanish, Kings and a few Cero) will be found almost anywhere. Sailfish will be along the reef line and out. Most sails being found in 100 to 300 feet of water. Snapper will be found about anywhere you fish with the occasional keeper Grouper, Hogfish or Mutton. Cobia will be cruising just about anywhere too, though the bay is still your best bet for a couple months. So I think I should add a little something else to keep you entertained.

Most people that come down to the keys on vacation don’t take the time to consider the moon phase before the trip. The moon can affect your fishing, so let’s take a little look at what to expect.

The quarter moons are generally accepted as being the best moons for fishing. These provide the average current flows, so the fish are normally settled down to a normal pattern. So these are great moons to plan your trip around.

New moons have higher tides, so there will be stronger currents. Coming up on a new moon, most fish will bite a little better. They are taking advantage of the stronger currents moving more bait past them. As the new moon passes, the bite will slow a little, but the fish rarely get lockjaw. I’ve never had much trouble finding fish on a new moon unless the tides are exceptionally high or low.

The full moon is the weirdest. As with the new moon the days leading to full normally have an increased bite and the days following a bit of a slow down. But unlike the new moon, following the full, the fish can just shutdown. Most people blame the full moon’s light at night causing the fish to gorge themselves, so they aren’t hungry during the day. There can be a lot of truth in this, but a friend of mine that raised fish gave me a little better theory.

Most fish spawn around the full moon. Depending on the type of fish, the timing of the spawn varies. Pelagic species tend to spawn before the full. This helps insure that their roe gets scatter to the maximum, helping improve survival. Bottom dwellers, tend to spawn just after the full moon so their roe will be spread, but still have the maximum time in normal currents to hatch in the general area of the spawn. This way, grouper and snapper larvae are most likely to end up in a friendly environment and not in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

In the winter, spawning isn’t really on the minds of most fish because the water temperature is too low. But fish really aren’t renown for serious thinking. With everything right for the spawn except for the temperature, some fish will just get confused so to speak. So snapper, which pretty much only know how to eat, procreate and defecate, forget about the first. Because of this, one or two days following the full moon, the Yellowtail bite can just plain suck. Dolphin, a pelagic suffers from the same confusion, and one or two days prior to or the day of the full moon may do the same thing, with a bit of a slow down following the moon.

Tarpon tend to fire up around the full moon. This could indicate that tarpon typically spawn well off the full moon or that they just don’t give a rip. Hogfish, Porgies and Mackerel tend to behave like the Tarpon do and will bite just about anytime.

Fishing around the full moon can be fantastic. Just be a little more flexible on the species you are looking for. I’ve done pretty good fishing for what’s biting instead of what I want. This is called no brainer fishing by some, but it works for me. So don’t worry about the full moon too much, just listen to your guide or captain and go with the flow. Even big time Marlin fishermen that hate the full moon will still fish it. Some of the biggest Marlin hooked up, have bitten on the full moon. And you bill fishermen should remember that sword fishing peaks on the full. So just go with the flow.

Tight lines
Capt. Dallas

No comments:

Post a Comment