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Thread: Moon Myths

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Moon Myths

    First let me start by saying I mean no disrespect to the folks who discovered the moon phase link or those who are firm believers. Many of you do what I only dream of. You fish for a living. You guys are awesome.

    That said, letís see what the data has to say.

    If there is one pointer most musky fisherman know itís that fishing moon rise and moon set, particularly around new and full moons are peak periods for boating fish. Popularized by Joe Bucher this theory has been hotly debated but generally accepted by most. Below you will find conclusive evidence that I hope will finally put this debate to rest. To complete this study I examined 1 yearsí worth of musky log catches and laboriously compared them to detailed moon data.

    Before we dive in the statistics letís have a brief discussion about the moon. Most folks would agree the moon could potentially influence fishing either through its gravity or through the light it reflects. If there are other theories of how the moon might influence fish Iíd be interested to hear them (and Iíd also be interested in selling you some magic pixy dust you can dip your bait in. The stuff works great!)

    Gravity: We all know the moon is gravitationally tied to the earth. Ocean tides are the most notable manifestation of this phenomenon. I donít want to take the time to explain how the moon causes tides, but if youíre interested follow this link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide. The important take away for our discussion is that bodies of water have to be VAST (essentially the size of an ocean) to have a notable tide. The largest non-ocean tides occur in the great lakes and at their peak amount to about 2 inches. Scientists consider them non-tidal. Smaller lakes, even the vast LOTW do not have measurable tides. Simply put, when you are musky fishing tides are not a factor. Furthermore, the actual gravitational pull of the moon on a musky is about .0003 Newtons or .00006 lbs. It is an incredibly small force. To put in in perspective your boat has a stronger gravitational pull on a netted musky than the moon does. Remember also that the force of gravity is not substantially stronger when the moon is up than when it is down. It is true that it is slightly stronger when the moon is up than down, but only about 1.5% stronger; thatís .000061 lbs. of force. The largest changes in gravitational pull occur when the moon aligns with the sun (new moon) but even this change is still exceptionally small. So what is the minimum threshold of gravity a musky can feel? Obviously we canít answer this question, but we can say that virtually everything in the fishís environment (waves, air pressure etc...) has a far greater influence on the musky than the exceptionally small gravitational pull of the moon.

    Hypothesis 1: The moons gravity affects fishing. Interestingly the moons orbit is not perfectly round, and as such its distance from the earth varies throughout the year. This allows us to easily check to see if the moons gravity impacts fishing using the gravitational formula F=Gm1*m2/(r^2). We can test this by checking to see if more fish are caught when the moon is close (high gravity) than when it is far (low gravity) or visa versa. If gravity levels play little or no role we should not see much statistical variation between times of high gravity vs. low gravity.

    Light Levels: We all know light levels play a major role in fishing. We all also know the moon can have a significant impact on light levels. Nights are very dark during new moons and much brighter during full moons. How this impacts fishing is difficult to say. Some studies suggest that full moons and their associated light levels actually drive bait fish (and thus predator) fish deeper making them more difficult to catch. Others say the added light makes it easier for predators to locate fish at night and thus improves fishing. In either case, this is a testable relationship.

    Hypothesis 2: The moons light levels impact fishing. This theory is fairly straight forward to test. If the moons light matters fishing should either improve or worsen based on light levels. If more light improves fishing then we should see increased catch rates around full moons. If more light decreases the fishing we should see a drop off in catch rates around full moons. Naturally the inverse of this would also be true for new moons. If light levels play little or no role we should not see much statistical variation between new and full moons.

    Even if gravity and reflected light prove to have no statistical link, perhaps there is something intangible beyond these factors that could affect the fishing. I have no clue what this could be, but letís imagine some kind of magical moon ray. Given this, letís test our base theory that moon rise and moon set impact fishing.

    Hypothesis 3
    : Moon rise and moon set improve fishing. This is also fairly straight forward to test. If this is the case, we would expect to see higher catch rates around moon set and moon rise. An important caveat here relates to new and full moons. New and full moons ALWAYS set and rise very close to actual sun rise and sun set. (Check this for yourself) These are classic low light level times, which naturally produce more fish. Therefore if moon rise and moon set does impact fishing the best way to test this would be during partial moon phases as the rising and setting does not closely correlate to the rising and setting of the sun. In essence we are removing an extra variable to ensure we are just testing our base hypothesis.

    Findings:

    Hypothesis 1: The moons gravity affects fishing. Results: In the portion of the fishing season that the moon had it its peak gravitational impact (closest) 7.3% of all fish were caught. In the portion of the fishing season that the moon had its weakest gravitational impact (farthest) 9.0% of fish were caught. These two means are exceptionally close and are not statistically different. Therefore we cannot say that the moons gravity positively or negatively impacts fishing. We reject our hypothesis.

    Hypothesis 2: The moons light levels affect the fishing. Results: 17% of all fish were caught during full moon periods and 14% of all fish were caught during new moon periods. If light played a real role in catch rates we would expect one light condition (bright or dark) to have dominated. Given these close percentages we can safely say changes in light levels from new or full moons have no discernible impact on catch rates. Youíll catch about as many under a new moon as you will a full moon.

    Hypothesis 3: Moon Rise and Moon set improve fishing. Results: The average catch rate at moon rise and moon set during any given moon phase is about 20%. This means that in any given day about 20% of the fish are caught within 1 hour of moon rise or moon set. Catch rates peak at full moon and new moons at roughly 25-28% respectively. However, remember full and new moons are closely correlated to sun rise and sun set which are known peak fishing periods. When we remove the variable of sun rise and sun set by looking and moon rise and moon sets that occur near the middle of the day we see catch rates near these periods drop off dramatically bottoming out at 13%. This indicates that moon rise and moon set as independent variables offer no predictive value for fishing.

    Conclusion: What does all this mean? In my opinion the facts and the data paint an incredibly clear picture. We've shown that gravity, reflected light levels, and moon set and rise times do not have statistically verifiable impacts on fishing. In my opinion the pervasive myth in musky fishing to the contrary is a prime example of an illusory correlation. Fisherman are wrongly assigning meaning to moon rise and moon set (especially during full and new moons) when the only truly important variable is the lower light levels due to sun rise and sun set that happen to coincide with these time periods.

    Example: Angler, ďI donít care what your statistics say. Last July around sunset I notice the moon was rising and I immediately speed to the best spot on the lake and threw my best bait! Wouldn't you know it I boated a musky! Clearly it was because of the moon rise.Ē

    My Response: ďNo clearly you were fishing the best spot on the lake with a proven bait during a low light period. Thatís why you caught the fish, the moon had nothing to do with it.Ē

    Recommendations: I doubt this study will change many minds. Superstitions are incredibly hard to disprove and many will chose to hang on to comforting myths even if the data shows them to be just that. Am I saying that if I was on a lake by myself and noticed the moon coming up that I wouldn't jump to my best spot? No, I suspect I would. In the words of one Silas Robertson, ďHey Jack, you never know.Ē However, I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if I had a trip planned that didn't coincide with a "favorable" moon phase. In fact that might be the best advice the data offers. To the few of you who have been persuaded, I offer one further suggestion. Donít ignore moon phases. In fact, plan your trips around them, especially new and full moons. Make sure you arrive a few days before the masses do.

    So what do you guys think? Did I sell anybody?

    Kind Regards,

    -Josh

  2. #2
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    Sorry, bit I believe your scientific method is flawed. I have no idea what data you are using and how many fish are represented. The only hypothesis where your data will apply is moon rise/moon set. Even if you use the 13% catch rate for daylight rise/set that's still a significant increase in catch rates as with rise/set occurring every 12 hours you would expect 8% per hour catches. 13-20% is significant. My personal catch rates are higher and represent only 30 minutes either side of rise/set.

  3. #3
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    My data set is the 2012 Muskies inc. Nearly 500 fish. Meticulously compared to actual moon rise/moon set times. I'll have to cordially disagree Jim. Comparing 13% to 8% would be accurate if all all hours of the day were fished evenly. However daytime hours are fished far more heavily than night time hours. When you adjust for this the 13% is no higher than any other random hour during the day. I wish a correlation were there, but the data says it's not. There are several musky logs out there with huge data sets. The reason I only looked at one year is because the process is cumbersome. That said I'll challenge anyone to take the available data and show a connection. It's just not there. Frankly I'm shocked more of correlation didn't exist. You'd think with all the people out there throwing baits around moon rise and moon set you would see significantly higher catch rates.

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    Jalwine said: "Frankly I'm shocked more of correlation didn't exist. You'd think with all the people out there throwing baits around moon rise and moon set you would see significantly higher catch rates."

    If one truly knew the number of hours fished each of the days you used, it just could be that the "off hours" are actually better than the "prime time" hours! It should be assumed that prime time hours far exceed others in angler participation. Food for thought.

    Muskie regards,
    Larry Ramsell

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    You have to compare catch rates on a per hour basis and the data doesn't provide that so I assumed your lowest number 13% and compared that to a 12 hour day of fishing. Also you have no evidence to separate moon rise/set info from sun info and can't prove a disconnect. Therefore 20% may be a more accurate prediction. I don't have access to an earlier analysis of my moon data but I can tell you that my data shows a statistically significant increase for improved fishing around moon rise/set and I used a smaller time window than you did.

    I did notice from my data there wasn't any statistically significant advantage fishing around the full or new moons.

  6. #6
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    You sold me on the fact that you are great at research....I've never been a research guy. I take my expereinces from real life time on the water and in the woods "stuff". I've fished too many tourney's, leagues and other events and saw many many times when fish went nuts during moon phases. The same thing applies to big buck movement, case in point Oct 26th of this year. I know of a bunch of big bucks that were killed within 30 minutes of a moonrise that day.

    It just happens too much on the water and in a treestand to not put some faith in it. My research hangs on my wall and is in my photo albums.

    StormyK

  7. #7
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    Jalwine, thanks for this whole series of crunching stats. I personally do not plan trips around the moon phases, but if all things are equal and the random choice is moon weekend or not, I choose the moon full or new, why not? That said, I do believe strongly in the local weather front having the bigger influence. Front moving in coinciding with sun/moon up down, I believe might tilt a couple factors in our favor. You'd have to be a really dedicated numbers crunchers to decipher those 2 variables. I fish when I can and the weather/moon/sun come and go and either the fish bite or don't. Thanks again for some good reading and everyone can take away what they want from your data.

  8. #8
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    I happen to agree with you Josh. Well thought out and articulated. We as humans are constantly looking for causalities and correlations when there is often little or nothing to support the data in terms of scientific statistical significance.

    Chris

  9. #9
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    This sounds like the Moneyball argument of Musky fishing. Are you a sabermetrics guy like Jalwine or the traditionalist like Jim? If the musky world can learn anything from the baseball world, one would tend to agree with what Jalwine's numbers say (albeit they do represent a small sample size) but one should not ignore the anecdotal evidence that has been compiled by the true believers out there. As for me, my first trip of the year is scheduled for March 27 - plan to be on the water about an hour before 6:41 am

  10. #10
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    I agree with jim. It's not so much the new or full moon but the rise and set each day. The last few years I've been making sure if I had a nice follow or a favorite spot I made sure I was there about an hour before primetime. Let's just say I beleive in it even more now. Late fall all my catches were within a 30 minute window of said time. Proofs in the pooding! I beleive more in my own stats and numbers than those provided by others. No offense to anyone but we all no some that register catches may mislead just a little.

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