August 21, 2017
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. That's 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.
Atlanta-area angler John Raffterty with his "Eclipse Fish." (Photo by Scott Bernarde)
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.
More than 20 fishing, mostly largemouth bass, were caught during the solar eclipse in Atlanta, Aug. 21. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)
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.
Bass were actively feeding during the 2017 solar eclipse in metro Atlanta. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)
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.