Every morning, Television weather forecasters advise their viewers as to when is the best time to catch a fish. They have oh-so-scientific-looking graphs that tell you that you should go out between 12:52 and 1:47 AM or at 3:30 PM or other such specific times on given days.
Did you ever wonder where this came from? The best times to fish or to for that matter to hunt are calculated from Solunar tables – obviously catfish bite at the same time of day that deer make themselves available for shooting. Sure, lots of fish and game seem to be more active during the twilight hours around dawn and dusk, but that’s not what the solunar tables are all about. They are constructed from astrophysical relationships of the sun, the earth and the moon.
The idea behind this is that humans have been hunting and fishing for hundreds of thousands of years, so surely that wisdom can be subsumed by a scientific approach. In 1926 a fellow by the name of John Alden Knight looked at what he thought were 33 factors which influence the behavior of both fresh and saltwater fish. His studies revealed, he claimed, that only three recurrent factors mattered. They are The positions of the sun and the moon, and the tides. Obviously tides aren’t an issue here in Arkansas, so we are left with the solunar (sol for sun and lunar for moon) effect.
When the original research was done only the approximate time of moon rise and set were used. This was later refined to include intermediate periods of activity that occurred midway between the two major periods. Thus the more evident periods were called major periods and the two intermediate periods, shorter in length, were called minor periods.
That’s it. Fisherman’s tales not withstanding, I find no credible reports with properly controlled studies which support this hypothesis. So why do the use of solunar tables persist? My guess is the old expression “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.” Combine dumb luck with the propensity to remember positive results and forget (or reject) negative results and you have the immutable solunar theory of hunting and fishing.
So what’s the harm? It’s the fact that a weatherperson on a local television station, if trained in meteorology, is about as close to a real scientist as a lot of folks get. I would hope that a scientifically trained person would do a better job of distinguishing between what is real and what is not. As a scientist I try my best to be guided by a definition of science from one of the great minds of the twentieth century, Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman. “Science is what we do to keep from fooling ourselves.”
If you want go fishing, go when the weather is nice, take a beverage of choice, and don’t expect to catch a fish. You will not be disappointed. If you do catch a fish, well that is even better.