Ready for Prime Times
O CCASIONALLY, THE POST OFFICE will lose a magazine in its labyrinth of conveyor belts, pneumatic tubes and giant cogwheels. Or, it will drag its feet while making its appointed rounds so that a subscriber doesn’t get their new issue of FISH & GAME on time. When this happens, a frequent comment we hear on the other end of a complaint call one of these service glitches (rightfully) triggers is, “I need my tide tables!”
We get it. Every time somebody’s outdoor plans get compromised by the failure to deliver this valued information to them, whether it’s ultimately our fault or not, we feel terrible. People rely on the charts and times compiled in that section to help determine when to get on the water or out in the field. When free time is precious and difficult to come by, it’s hard to fully enjoy a fishing trip if the prime action happened yesterday… Or four hours before you stepped onto your boat.
Tide predictions and prime time forecasts are a blend of art and science. Centuries of observation and mathematical gymnastics have created systems that accurately predict the times and volumes of tidal movement at any given location on the planet.
Science has also charted the predictable courses of the moon and the sun across the sky (or rather, the course of the earth around the sun, for those who still haven’t bought in to the burgeoning flat-earth gospel). Because the gravitational and luminous effects of these heavenly bodies on fish and wildlife have been thoroughly documented, tracking their positions can be a valuable method of finding the best fishing —and to a smaller degree, hunting—action.
We use SoLunar data, a proprietary source that factors the movements and positions of both the sun and moon (Sol and Luna) in calculating Major and Minor feeding periods in each 24 hour lunar day. When the moon is directly “overhead” at any given point on earth (astronomical types call this the azimuth), its effect on biological creatures is thought to be at its peak. For this reason, these times are seen as the prime, or Major periods. For two hours centered on this Overhead time, wildlife and fish should—by this logic—be more active. A similar, lesser, effect is attributed to when the moon is in the same position but on the other side of the earth from a given point. The moon is said to be “Underfoot” then, approximately twelve hours from the Overhead period. This time is labeled a Minor period.
In our Sportsman’s Notebook, (pages 58-63 in this issue) we present the forecasted times for tides and sun/moon positions, as well as sunrise and sunset. We also produce a graph that tracks the times of the tidal movements, ebb and flow, and shows daylight and darkness periods. Due to space limitations, we can only show this data for a single location and adjustments must be made from a tide correction table and a SoLunar adjustment scale. We’re working on a customizable version on the web.
We also produce a Fishing Score graph, which overlays the tide graph. The Fishing Score graph uses a combination of both the sun/moon data and tidal movements to predict the Prime fishing times for each day. Sometimes these prime times fall within the same periods shown as Major and Minor from the SoLunar data, and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, it’s because in our system tides are the key factor—which anyone who frequently fishes along the Gulf Coast knows.
The best times occur when all of these data—tides and sun/moon positions—line up. And if there is a Major period at the same time tidal movement is at its peak AND there is a Full or New moon AND it’s happening at sunrise or sunset… Drop everything and head for the water.
In theory, at least. Because, while this forecasting apparatus is based on solid Science, there is still a great deal of Art in the interpretation of what it all means. Plus, many factors can change the most accurate tidal forecast—wind and barometric pressure being the main culprits. Still, having a reference guide is better than heading out blind. At least, that’s what many of you have told us over the years.
And if the aforementioned “special treatment” by the Postal Service ever affects you and you don’t get your copy of our Prime Times, call us. We can email you a PDF of the printed pages.
We can’t control the tides or the sun or moon—or the Post Office. But we keep trying.