Watch the Moon for the Best Times to Catch Bream
The best time to catch bream is when they're biting, but you can narrow down the guesswork with the help of a lunar calendar
On many bream-fishing waters, there’s a saying: the best time to fish for bream such as bluegills and redear sunfish is in spring and early summer, during or near the time when the moon is full.
Something mystical happens then, old timers say. Just a few days earlier, bream would hardly bite, no matter what offerings were dangled before them. But when the moon starts to grow into a shining globe, it’s like someone turned on a big circular sign that says “Eat!” Drop a cricket, worm or other panfish enticement near shallow spawning cover, and you’ll pull out one bream after another.
“I don’t know why it happens,” one long-time bream angler told me. “I just know it does. Due to some influence we still don’t understand, the full moon initiates a feeding frenzy that lasts several days. Visit your favorite bream lake then, and you’ll catch more bream than any other time of the year.”
Some fishermen say the bream bite also is exceptional during the new moon period when our lunar companion is nothing more than a thin sliver in the night sky. Fewer anglers espouse this theory, but they’re numerous enough to merit the attention of died-in-the-wool bream busters.
As far as I can determine, there’s no scientific evidence that moon phases have any direct effects on freshwater fishing, for bream or any other fishes. But after several years of unscientific testing, I’ve come to believe there is a definite correlation between moon phases and the number of bream I catch. Like my old bream fishing buddy, I don’t know why it happens, just that it does.
During one year, for example, my fishing journal indicates I went bream fishing on my favorite lake on May 8, May 19, May 25, June 2, June 9, June 13 and June 23. The new moon fell on May 24 and June 22 that year; the full moon was on May 9 and June 8. Granted, weather and water conditions were slightly different on each day I fished. But there were no substantial differences, other than wind conditions. I fished for approximately the same amount of time each day—4 to 5 hours. My best catch was 157 bluegills and redears on June 9. The number of bream caught on the remaining days was 43 (May 8), 15 (May 19), 57 (May 25), 23 (June 2), 27 (June 13) and 103 (June 23).
In other years when I’ve recorded this information, the results are the same. My catch rate skyrockets when I fish the days near the full or new moon. My best catch of redear sunfish last year (51) was taken on the day of the full moon in April. My best catch of bluegills (166) came two days after the full moon in June. Draw your own conclusions.
In his book, New Techniques That Catch More Bluegill, author Steve Wunderle reports that fisheries researchers in central Florida checked redear spawning dates in Lake Griffin.
Spawned March 14 to 17 - New moon March 18
Spawned April 1 to 5 - Full moon April 2
Spawned April 18 to 22 - New moon April 16
Spawned May 1 to 7 - Full moon May 2
Spawned June 25 to 31 - Full moon June 29
Wunderle quotes fisheries biologist Robert L. Wilbur as saying, “While the above data indicate that moon phases may affect shellcracker spawning, the correlation may be coincidental, and further study is needed.”
Scientists may have no explanations for the apparent correlations, but my Uncle Julius did. When I was a boy, I often fished with my now departed uncle, and we often targeted bream during full moon periods in May and June. He contended the best fishing was always in the week after the full moon, because that’s when the fish were really hungry.
“During the week before the full moon, the male fish are scouting for a spot to make their spawning beds,” he said. “When they find the right spot, it’s their job to go in and fan out the beds. They may spend several days working at this, and during all that time, they’re too busy to eat.
“On the day of the full moon, the females come to the beds the males have prepared,” he continued. “They lay their eggs that night and hang around until the next day. Then they leave, and they don’t come back until the next full moon. The males have to stay to guard the nest, and they’ll be there a week to ten days. That’s when they’ll bite. They haven’t had time to eat since they first started looking for the bed sites, and they’ve gotten hungry as can be. They start gobbling up anything that looks good. So that first week after the full moon is when you’re most likely to catch a mess of big bream.”
It was proven many decades ago that moon phases can have a dramatic influence on saltwater fishing. This is due to moon phases’ influence on tides. The full moon and the new moon bring abnormally high tides. This brings saltwater gamefish inshore to feed, particularly in rich, marshy backwaters they can’t reach during ordinary high tides. Fish on spawning migrations seem to expect these tides, waiting near estuaries for them so they can pass over tidewater obstructions that are otherwise insurmountable. Fish see lures and baits easier during the full moon, and baitfish seem to travel more actively then. All this means that extra-good saltwater fishing can be expected during the high halves of tides when the moon is full and when the moon shows a thin crescent.
There are no tides in our freshwater bream lakes, however. So the effects of the moon must have their basis in a differing set of physical factors, if indeed there is any effect at all.
Perhaps the stories linking blue-ribbon bream fishing and the new and full moons of spring are nothing more than old wives’ tales perpetuated through the years upon hordes of gullible anglers. Perhaps. But thousands of ardent bream anglers will tell you otherwise.
I suggest you find out for yourself. The full moon will be on June 20 this year. The crescent of the new moon will appear June 5. Go fishing then, and fish some other days outside these periods as well. When all is said and done, compare the results. You may not be able to explain it in scientific terms, but I bet you’ll find the number of bream you catch increases significantly around the new and full moons.
If you do figure out some scientific reason for it all ... well, don’t write to let me know. I still like thinking there’s something mystical about it all, something we can’t quite explain. I don’t need to know why it happens, just that it does.