The lunar advantage
Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
North Central Florida bass are experiencing their first major spawn of the spring season. In certain shallow-water bays, big females with spawning on their minds and small, hard-working buck bass are easily spotted in clear-water areas.
Gainesville's Ron Klys recently checked the shallows of Rodman Reservoir and spotted some giant bass guarding beds along one sheltered stretch.
It is not an accident that it is coinciding with the first full moon of the season.
From years of both scientific research and on-the-water experience, we know that the gravitational pull of the moon impacts fish location and behavior. That influence is most magnified during the spawning months.
Spring is the season when the moon has its biggest effect on bass activity and movement. Although the experts don't completely understand it, they agree the moon phases — particularly the usual three full and new moons of spring — provide a degree of predictability not usually found in bass fishing.
"The simple fact is that most of the spawning goes on around the full moons," Gainesville pro Shaw Grigsby said. "The two or three days before it they're really going to be moving up, building beds in preparation for actually spawning. And two or three days after they're hanging around protecting the eggs.
"The moon phase gives you almost a calendar that you can go by. On a normal lake the bass are going to spawn over a long period of time in the spring."
Grigsby emphasizes that waves of spawners move shallow around both the full and new moons of the spring months. He has not noted any significant difference in the level of spawning activity when comparing the influence of the new versus full moon.
"It may be a protection thing," Grigsby added. "During the new moon when it's jet-black, nothing can be seen (by egg predators). In the full moon, they can see real well to protect the beds. That tends to be the two times when they really come in heavy to spawn."
Lake Okeechobee guide Chet Douthit claims he can practically set his watch by the dependability of the moon cycle on spawning bass on that lake. Based on the moon's influence, Douthit insists that the heaviest bedding activity occurs with blueprint-like precision three or four days preceding and following a full or new moon. That is when the largest wave of spawners will move shallow.
"On Lake Okeechobee, it's like clockwork in the spring," the eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier said. "Every 28 days, we have a full moon. Then in about two weeks, we have what is called a new moon. You won't see a moon at all, but it pulls fish onto the beds just like the full moon. Watching the moon phases is the key."
Fellow Clewiston guide Walt Reynolds has found such predictability during his springtime travels throughout the eastern and central United States.
"I have found that the male bass will move to the spawning water on the dark of the moon first and that the females will usually follow on the full moon," Reynolds noted. "It also effects them during the full moon as the fish can see better on clear nights and will feed more heavily when it is a bright, full moon."
The timing of the spawning season obviously depends on the geographical location of the lake. All-time BASS tournament winner Roland Martin has long fantasized about enjoying six to eight months of prime spawning action by following the season northward. In Lake Okeechobee, the bass can go on the beds in October and the spawn lasts for about four months. December and January brings the spawn in the central part of the state, and February and March are prime in north Florida.
In the latitude band that runs from Georgia to Texas, the spawning is heavy in March and April, according to Martin. The later part of April and beginning of May provides bedding activity from Missouri across to the Carolinas. And it continues as you travel northward. Spawning season in upper-state New York and Canada takes places in June and July.
Grigsby emphasizes that geographical location dictates the number of full and new moons that impact the spawn.
"In Florida, spawning on Okeechobee may start in late October, and I have found them still spawning in early June there," he said. "That's how long that spawn season is for Okeechobee. In south Florida you can probably take advantage of four moons and maybe even six moons. But generally speaking, there's going to be two or three months that is just prime and you just have to figure it out in your general area.
"Now let's go up to Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis. I've seen it where they have done everything in a three- or four-week period. I mean the spawn is totally done. It just stuns me how fast they get it done. The majority of their spawning is going to happen on a full and a new of one month, and then you'll have spawners scattered here and there.
"The farther north you get, the much shorter that spawning band is — the length of time that they continually spawn. And the farther south you get, the much wider this spawning band is. The temperatures seem to be much more stable, much more (conducive) for them in that region."
Tim Tucker's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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