To the Moon: using moon charts to gauge wildlife

by Dave Reese

      If you're planning on going fishing in the next week, don't bother.
      At least that's what the Maori charts are saying.
      Hundreds of years ago, the Maori people devised a system of hunting and fishing that followed the phases of the moon.
      They found that at certain phases of the moon, they were more successful in their wild-game pursuits, and today the Maori charts are still used by modern-day anglers and hunters. For the next week, while the moon is on the rise, fishing isn't supposed to be that great.
      Now I don't know how the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, had time to chart all this stuff out, without laptops and hand-held GPS units, but their system does seem to work.
      Most hunter-gatherer people I know enjoy the outdoors simply for the fresh air and solitude. So they don't really bother to watch the charts.
      It just so happened that one of the hot times on the Maori charts this month coincided with a weekend when I was going fishing. So how did it go? Awesome.
      We took the kids out on Ashley Lake, a favorite salmon haunt, and could barely keep a lure in the water without a fish taking it. Like a well-struck 3 iron on the golf course, this was one of those days that will keep you coming back.
      Another postulation on solar and lunar positions and how they affect game-feeding activity was set forth by John Alden Knight, who came up with the brilliant term "solunar" tables.
      Knight put together a list of 33 things that might influence feeding behavior of freshwater and saltwater fish. One by one, Knight tossed out the factors that didn't seem to have an effect on fishing, such as temperature or wind.
      Three of his ideas, however, emerged and came to have a profound influence on his fishing success. They were sun, moon and tides.
      Knight first published his Prime Times Tables in 1936. Obviously, this man had too much time on his hands, as he set out to prove his theory by going fishing — a lot. He examined 200 of his fishing trips and found that over 90 percent of his best fishing occurred during the new moon phase — which happened to be when I had my best fishing day of the year this month. (June also happens to be the best month to fish, as the moon and sun are at polar opposites.)
       Under Knight's Prime Times tables and the Maori charts, new moon and the last quarter of a full moon seem to be best times to find active game.
      Like Knight, Flathead angler Charlie Davis has a lot of time to prove fishing theories. A commercial fisherman for Mountain Lake Fisheries, Davis spends more than 250 days a year on the water. This guy is so crazy about fishing that he has a watch with the solunar tables and moon phases on it.
      I asked him if the solunar tables or Maori charts make any sense.
      "I ought to take a hammer to that watch," Davis says. "The dang thing is right too much."

      For more information on solunar tables and Maori charts, here are some Internet addresses that you might want to try. (By the way, the solunar tables show next week as being good, while the Maori charts say stay home. Go figure.)

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