G&F digital editor Scott Bernarde went fishing during the 2017 solar eclipse to see what would happen.
I found a great excuse for playing hooky — not to say I did that.
The next time a total solar eclipse crosses the country (April 2024 and August 2045, according to scientists), you gotta be at the lake fishing.
I did just that during the Great American Eclipse Monday, and without even trying, I checked a bucket-list quality experience off the list.
Curious about the eclipse’s impact on game and fish, I set out Monday afternoon at a private pond north of Atlanta to see for myself. Metro Atlanta is about an hour south of the “path of totality,” but I figured the expected 97% partial eclipse would have to do.
I teamed up with small-lake aficionado John Rafferty and, with permission from the land owner, took to a 6-acre pond with a reputation of holding quality largemouth bass. Our aim was to see if our fishing experience would change once the sun dimmed.
The answer: Yes … and no.
Here’s the deal, fisherman are noted for believing whatever they want, and if you think something — anything — will improve your success rate, you go with it.
Sliding into the pond around noon, we fished through the celestial event for a before-and-after comparison.
Here’s what we noticed:
- Of the more than 20 fish caught, which included crappie willing to bite Rat-L-Traps and Rage Tail Rage Craws, more than a dozen came after eclipse began to dim the light.
- We caught most of the fish the same way — on a weightless Rage Craw skipped to the bank under shoreline bushes — so the eclipse didn’t move the fish.
- We caught three fish, including a hungry crappie on the soft-plastic bait, during the five minutes of the eclipse’s peak. They were called “Eclipse Fish.”
- At peak, the wind seemed to die down and it was became oddly quiet, except for the buzz from expressway traffic within earshot. Birds were chirping again 30 minutes after the peak.
- It was unusually cool to track the eclipse with solar sunglasses in between hauling in several bass in the 2-pound range.
- At its peak, the sun was just a sliver behind the moon, even though the pond looked more like 8 p.m. dusk.
- A duck followed us the entire time, apparently meaning it was more focused on a handout than what was going on above.
Now, the “science” of the fishing experience was anecdotal at best. The fish were still biting when we pulled off the water around 3:30 p.m., and we might have caught 20 more by sundown.
We figured we’d catch ‘em pretty good at that pond; it’s hard not to. And since there’s no real way to repeat the test, we certainly didn’t discover a hot new pattern.
And maybe, just maybe, we were simply looking for an excuse to get out of the office.
But, since it’ll be 2078 the next time a total solar eclipse comes this close to home, I’ll be more than happy to talk about my once-in-a-lifetime experience until then.