Celestial rarity meets game and fish on Monday during the 2017 Solar Eclipse. What’s gonna happen?
Call it an opportunity to be part of a grand wildlife experiment – whether it is or not.
While we know how humans will behave when the first total solar eclipse seen in the U.S. in 38 years arrives Monday — millions filling motels, campgrounds and state parks to be underneath or at least close to the 70-mile-wide “path of totality” crossing the country — we’re not so sure about our game and fish. The last time a total eclipse passed across the U.S. was in 1918.
The eclipse begins at 10:16 a.m. Pacific Time on the Oregon coast and will pass over 14 states (see more state-related info below) before it leaves South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. Eastern Time. You’ll notice changes NASA says around 200 million Americans live within one day’s drive from the path of totality, but most every state in the lower 48 will see at least a partial eclipse.
Check out these online reports from other members of our Outdoors Sportsman Group family
- Hunting and Fishing Effects During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (Sportsman Channel)
- Solar Eclipse Impacts on Fishing (In-Fisherman magazine)
Americans equipped with (hopefully) safe ways to view the rare celestial event will be looking up, hunters and anglers will likely be looking down as many try to meld their outdoors passions with a once-in-a-lifetime event. Events are planned from coast to coast.
There’s even a study planned through the University of Missouri that’s asking anglers to chronicle their fishing experiences while the eclipse passes by, according to Bassmaster.com.
While there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest our wildlife will react — arguably confused by the arrival and departure of “nightfall” in just a few minutes — we’re not exactly sure what will happen.
John Rafferty, an avid hunter and fisherman living in metro Atlanta, says he can’t wait to see what happens. Monday is an off day from work because of the eclipse, and while the Atlanta area is just outside the path of totality, Rafferty expects something, anything, to wow him.
“I can’t wait. I don’t know what will happen, but why not be out there to see?” he said. “It’s gonna be a new moon [phase], so that’s a good start, right?”
Like many sportsmen, Rafferty stays tuned into solunar tables to plan his hunting and fishing trips, and it often makes a difference in his success — though not always.
The Maryland DNR says the gravitational pull from the moon and sun, and their alignment with Earth will create higher-than-normal tides in coastal areas, adding in a news release that biologists have seen fish reacting to the temperature and light changes during total and partial eclipses.
“Fooled into thinking the sun has set, some species have been observed heading to deeper water. For the duration of the eclipse, nocturnal fish may become more active while daytime fish become less active. Similar impact may be found on other wildlife as well.”
During those brief moments — when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for about two minutes — day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. Birds will fly to their nighttime roosts. Nocturnal insects such as cicadas and crickets will buzz and chirp. — NASA’s Eclipse 101 website
A noteworthy question on the topic is whether or not the eclipse’s short duration will be long enough to really make a noticeable difference with hunting and fishing.
Chad LaChance, who hosts the “Fishful Thinker” program on World Fishing Network, wondered the same thing.
“I think that the smallmouth (bass) might briefly shut down and then commence to grubbing again as soon as the sun comes back out while the largies might do the exact opposite,” LaChance told In-Fisherman.com.
14 States in the Dark
The 2017 Solar Eclipse path of totality will pass over these states Monday, Aug. 21. Click on each state’s name to see what’s planned locally.