Using the Solunar Tables to Catch More Fish!

Illustration of John Alden Knight

Professional anglers will use everything possible to improve their results in a fishing competition. Sometimes a scientific knowledge used by top professionals that has been around for many years gets overlooked by the average angler because it is just hard to believe that something this accurate can be so readily available. All living creatures are more active and feeding during certain specific periods of the day. The research collected for nearly a century spurred John Alden Knight to publish his theories and predictions in 1926 that he appropriately named Solunar Tables. Although the original research included over 30 different contributing factors, Knight's published Solunar Table findings are mainly based on the relationship between the movements of the sun, moon and the tides they create.

John Alden Knight (1890-1966) Angler's Hall of Fame, banker, syndicated writer, fly-tier, hunter, naturalist, casting expert, angling filmmaker and developer of the Solunar Tables. “Jack” Knight as he was known by his friends, helped popularize a simple yellow and red bucktail streamer (a.k.a. “The Assassin”) which he redubbed the “Mickey Finn” because of its ability to knock-out brookies and rainbow trout. His love for hunting and the natural world held him to be an early proponent of catch and release: “one nice thing about fishing – you can always put ’em back.” His greatest legacy was methodically codifying the rhythmic effects of the sun and moon phases on fish (and game) into peaks and troughs by longitude and latitude in his Solunar Tables developed in 1926 and published in 1936 to immediate acclaim (and some scoffing too). In addition to several noted hunting books, he is also remembered for his books The Theory and Technique of Fresh Water Angling, The Complete Book of Fly Casting and Modern Fly Casting.... c/o Wikipedia.

Tidal Movements

Hey, wait just a cotton pickin' minute! Here in Ontario we all fish in lakes and reservoirs so what the heck does tidal movements have to do with our fishing? Believe it or not, all water is affected by the tides which has already been influenced by both the sun and the moon. In the case of lakes or ponds, this tidal movement is so minimal it is not measurable but research has proven that any raising or lowering of water levels, however infinitesimal, affects fish behavior. The overall impact of the tide will also vary by species. For example, some species like bass or pike tend to be ambush feeders, so their internal perception of rising water can trigger an instinct to move shallower and get into a position for attack. Another species like walleye or lake trout may not move nearly as shallow but they will move from very deep home waters to some known basic underwater formations where they are more likely to encounter prey.

The rising or lowering of water level in a lake might be imperceptible to us humans but it is felt by fish simply because it is built into the DNA. Anyone who has tried to catch fish in a reservoir while the dam was being opened to release the runoff water knows it does affect fishing but definitely not in a good way. On the opposite side, during the early spring runoff, bass will flock to those recently flooded areas and be feeding in areas that aren't normally even underwater. Couple the natural tidal movements with other manmade occurrences that will affect fish activity and we anglers should start to see why understanding the Solunar Tables needs to become very important in our planning process.

Spring smallmouth bass

Researching the Human Animals

Yes, we human animals are also being researched continually in relationship to the Solunar Tables. Statistics have shown that more violent crimes are committed during Solunar Periods as well as more police arrests being recorded. More babies are born and more retail sales are being made. In industrial factories, more piece work is getting done and overall the workers are generally a lot more productive during major Solunar Periods. In the forests, more animals are harvested and on the water more fish are being caught. These research statistics have shown scientists that something was happening so John Alden Knight used his theory and research numbers to develop specific tables to prove that the actual specific times were very predictable.

Are the Solunar Tables Perfect?

When it comes to fishing, Solunar Tables are never going to become the perfect predictor of when you will catch fish because there are too many other factors like weather and barometric pressure also involved. These predicted solunar periods are just one single part of our very complicated planets systems. If you don't consider all the elements that are involved in the overall situation, you will probably give up on the Solunar Tables fairly quickly because you aren't getting the miraculous results you were expecting. The Solunar Tables might say that you have a major feeding period between 7am to 9am on your favorite lake so you head to the lake ready for some ggreat fishing results. But you arrive to find the water is extremely muddy from a heavy rain the day before and the lake's water level is falling steadily because the dam is open. As you might imagine, the Solunar Period is correct but other natural elements have already ruined it for you.

My favorite example of how the Solunar Tables can trick the angler is with walleye. We all know that walleye feed heavily at night and even more heavily during a night's full moon when walleyey have better vision than their prey. Plus the prey is also silhouetted nicely by the moon. Let's say there is also a major Solunar Period with heavy feeding from 1am to 3am. If you want to catch walleye the next say I can tell you from experience, no matter what the next day's Solunar Tables say, it's going to be a really tough fishing day. It will be extra tough if the sun is shining! Why because the walleye went on a feast under perfect feeding conditions the night before. Always look at all the factors involved before you lose confidence in the Solunar Tables.

By contrast, if there was little or no moon the night before the daytime fishing trip, the feeding walleye no longer had a major sight advantage over their prey. Usually you can expect the walleye feeding activity to be more normal or even better that next day. Knowing when to expect the best feeding activity and where you will want to be fishing can save an angler a lot of wasted time.

Location Calculator

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The Best and Worst Problem with Solunar Tables

I personally have been using Solunar Tables off and on for over 50 years! I can tell you without hesitation these tables are extremely accurate. Unfortunately, if not used correctly they can be almost too accurate! They will change your entire approach to fishing and if you are not careful that change will not always be for the better. Don"t let your success using the tables cause you to become too dependant on them. In past trips I have quit fishing for the day simply because the Solunar Periods weren't favorable to it. Mentally I started to feel like I was wasting my time having a fishing rod in my hand and that feeling is never a good thing.

Important Observation: My past experience is that all fish in the lake are NOT controlled by the effects of the Solunar Tables. In fact, it is my personal belief that some of the largest fish in any lake got that big by completely ignoring those imprinted DNA instincts. If I'm correct and you aren't fishing outside the Solunar Periods, you may very well be passing up the opportunity for some of the biggest record breaking fish in the lake. When you only want to catch numbers, fish hard during the Solunar Tables but if it is a trophy size fish you're after keep a line in the water inside and outside the solunar periods.

Developing a Solunar Fishing Strategy

Humminbird AutoChart Image

Once you are convinced of the value of the Solunar Tables, begin to develop a strategy around using these table. I personally will get excited about fishing during the major two hour periods from 7am to 9am no matter what species I want to catch because that is when low light conditions will spur many fish to actively feed anyway. But often the fish biting during those major periods will shut down by around 9am. It's likely going to be another 4-5 hours until the next minor period gets things going again. At that point I have a choice to keep fishing for straggler fish or go into a search mode until that next minor period. Often I have found some very promising potential fishing spots and caught a few good sized roaming fish while in the search mode.

If you are not into mapping, at least use your fishfinder and go searching for features or structure in different areas. There are times of year when you might accidently find massive schools of fish in areas you would never have suspected to find them. Or you might find an interesting underwater island or rock pile that will likely hold fish during the next active feeding period. Drop a waypoint on it and come back later in a feeding period. The point I'm trying to make is to try to develop a strategy that uses any down time productively so that you will still have a chance at finding fish and even catching some.

When Are The Best Solunar Periods?

There are two (two hour) major periods and two (one hour) minor periods every day that are spaced between five and six hours apart. These periods move back about one hour each day. If a two hour major period started at 9am today, it will start at approximately 10am tomorrow. Knowing when a major period starts can dictate where you want to be fishing for the major or minor periods. Usually you will want to be in a reliable spot for the best chance to catch a fish.

If you are new on a lake and not sure where the best areas are, use your best judgment in picking the most likely spots and then be sure to fish them during the promising major periods. If all the weather and water conditions are right and you still didn't catch a fish in a spot, then either the spot isn't going to be productive or there was some other natural force involved that you might have overlooked.

Here is an example of a sample Solunar Table.

Sample Solunar Table

Hopefully by now you can see a strategy in this example. On May 3 from 6:23am to 8:23am (a major solunar period) you will probably want to be already sitting on your best fishing spot by at least 6:15am. At around 8:30am you can normally expect the fishing to slow down. From about 9am until noon you could move into a search mode and go check out new and promising areas. Then at noon you could be fishing in the best potential area that you just located while in search mode.

By the way, in this example there was a bonus that I hope you also noticed. It has two major Solunar Periods (a total of four major feeding hours) during prime daytime low light conditions. On solunar days like this one great memories are made!

Remember that once you purchased the Solunar Tables, whenever you refer to the tables, to get the most accurate times you will need to add or subtract minutes depending on your location. This simple calculation will all be explained fully in the booklet. Order your own copy of John Alden Knight's Original Solunar Tables now.

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