Here is an article I wrote about moon phase and surf fishing for bass. I've included a sample chart of moon rise and set. Could not get the chart to display a shaded area in this post. But if you read the times you'll see when you can take advantage of a dark period during bright moons. I've also attached a photo of a few full moon plugs that I use. If anyone wants the article in word format shoot me an email.
Surf Strategies for Bright Moon Bass
By Dennis Zambrotta
It was now just a few days short of Thanksgiving as I made my last cast on the bar. The nearly full moon was now high in the nighttime sky and bright enough to allow me to read the words ?Super Strike? on the yellow needlefish plug I had been casting.
I hadn?t had a strike in two hours despite casting during an optimum tide. ?I?m done fighting this moon?, I muttered to myself. I knew I should have stayed back at the cottage as I almost never do well in the brightness of a big moon. I was back at the cottage by 8:00 PM and set my alarm clock for 2:00 AM, not because the tide was good at that time, but because I knew that tonight?s bright moon would set at 2:30 AM. At that time I?d have three hours of darkness to prowl the shoreline before the sun would begin to rise. After my alarm woke me I ended up back on the same bar where the bass had lockjaw just six hours previous. Once the moon began to set over the western horizon the action became intense and I could hardly keep the bass off that same yellow needlefish.
Perhaps the most difficult and challenging time to try and catch striped bass in the nighttime surf is during the full moon period. Many surfcasters? have long recognized that the brightness of the moon has a direct effect on their success. During a bright moon striped bass often become extremely cautious and may not even venture into the shallow water surf zone. Even if bass are present in the area you?re fishing they can become quite selective during a bright moon and getting them to take artificial lures or natural baits can often be an exercise in futility. This is not to say that bass can?t be caught during a full moon or good scores won?t happen, it?s just that bright conditions are not optimum for consistent success. Because of this various full moon tactics have been developed over time. These tactics come through experience, trial and error, and paying their dues of many dyed in the wool surfcasters. In the next few paragraphs I?ll try and convey a few full moon strategies and techniques that I?ve learned through the years.
For the sake of this discussion we should consider the bright moon period as lasting eleven days. This eleven day period includes the actual date of the full moon and the five days preceding it (waxing phase) and five days after it (waning phase). During this eleven day period the moon?s illumination will be approximately 75 percent or more. With clear skies during nighttime hours this could create adverse conditions for surfcasters. Many surfcasters would just as well stay home on these bright nights but that is not always practical or advisable. Proper planning and special tactics can turn the odds of success in your favor during these bright moon periods.
During the bright moon period surfcasters should look for conditions that provide more cover for the bass. One type of cover is the presence of clouds. Cloud cover can temper the effect of a bright moon, the heavier the cloud cover the better. It is not uncommon to see an upswing in action when clouds roll in and obscure a bright moon. I?ve experienced nights when bass would readily strike our lures while a cloud bank obscured the bright moon but would then refuse our offerings as soon as the clouds moved off revealing the moonlight. Pay attention to the weather forecast ? if cloud cover is predicted on an otherwise clear night - plan on being on the beach at that time.
Areas with deeper water such as inlets and breachways will provide bass with cover by providing a comfort zone based on depth and current. Deeper water allows for less moonlight penetration and bass may often relate to the deeper holes within these breachways. Having ready access to deeper water may also explain why much of the boating fraternity actually prefers bright moon periods when they chase striped bass.
White water produced by a moderate to heavy surf or by onshore winds will also provide cover for shallow water bass. Savvy surfcasters will seek out structure such as sand bars, reefs, and rocky outcroppings that offer favorable white water. Conditions with ample white water have produced my best bright moon success rates.
Another type of cover where a surfcaster can often find success during the bright moon is structure such as lighted bridges, piers, bulkheads and marinas. These areas are most often illuminated by artificial lights and because of this a bright moon will have a negligible effect. The shadow lines that are created by artificial lights and super structure will also provide cover for bass. A surfcaster should concentrate his efforts around the shadow lines as bass wait in these shadows to ambush prey that may get disoriented when swimming from light into darkness. Bass can often be seen prowling these shadows and they?ll appear as a darker shadow within the main shadow. Much can be learned by watching these bass as they feed. A white bucktail jig adorned with white pork rind is a deadly combination for these shadow line bass.
When to fish?:
We?ve all heard the term ?timing is everything? and it surely applies when fishing during bright moon periods. A surfcaster should become familiar with the concept of ?moonrise? and ?moonset? times and plan their outing accordingly. Moonrise and moonset times are not constant and will change each day just like sunrise and sunset times. Moonrise and moonset times also vary according to the latitude and longitude of a particular location.
During the waxing moon period in New England the bright moon will often set during the darkness of the early morning. The time when a bright moon sets during darkness can often be very productive for the surfcaster. Bass which may have been selective or not even present during the previous hours of brightness may then move into the shallows and/or lose their inhibitions once the moon sets and ?the light is turned off?.
As the bright moon phase begins to wane the time of moonrise will come into play. When there is a period of darkness between sunset and moonrise it would behoove a surfcaster to take note of it. The best bite of the night during the waning moon is often early before the moon rises. Once the bright moon comes up 20 degrees over the horizon the bite may die.
The chart below will help you understand the moonrise/moonset event. This chart covers the eleven day bright moon period in September 2008 for the southern New England region. The shaded areas of the chart signify time periods that a surfcaster should note so as to fish the darkest period of an otherwise bright night. From September 10th to 13th there is a dark period after moonset and before sunrise. From September 18th to 20th there is also a dark window of opportunity between sunset and moonrise.
Date % Moon Illuminated Sun Rise Sun Set Moon Rise Moon Set
September 10 74 % (Waxing) 7:04 pm 4:44 pm 1:01 am 6:20 am
September 11 82 % (Waxing) 7:02 pm 5:14 pm 2:05 am 6:21 am
September 12 89 % (Waxing) 7:01 pm 5:41 pm 3:12 am 6:22 am
September 13 95 % (Waxing) 6:59 pm 6:05 pm 4:20 am 6:23 am
September 14 98 % (Waxing) 6:57 pm 6:28 pm 5:29 am 6:24 am
September 15 100 % (Full) 6:55 pm 6:50 pm 6:38 am 6:25 am
September 16 99 % (Waning) 6:54 pm 7:14 pm 7:50 am 6:26 am
September 17 96 % (Waning) 6:52 pm 7:41 pm 9:04 am 6:27 am
September 18 90 % (Waning) 6:50 pm 8:13 pm 10:20 am 6:28 am
September 19 82 % (Waning) 6:48 pm 8:53 pm 11:37 am 6:29 am
September 20 72 % (Waning) 6:47 pm 9:42 pm 12:52 pm 6:30 am
(Times are for Providence, Rhode Island and may have slight variation for other New England areas)
You should also be aware that times of darkness during bright moon phases will vary depending on how much daylight there is during a particular month. Summer months (May-August) will provide shorter dark periods because of late sunsets and earlier sunrises. During the fall months (October-November) the dark periods will last longer because of earlier sunsets and later sunrise.
Moon phase calendars are readily available but many do not include the times of moonrise and moonset. I have yet to find the ?perfect? surf fishing calendar that provides moon phase, moonrise and moonset times, tides, and sunrise and sunset times. I research this information on various sites on the worldwide web such as: http://www.sunrisesunset.com/custom_srss_calendar.asp
I compile a calendar customized for my own use. If you decide to make your own calendar make sure the info you get is for the area you plan to fish.
What to use? (see attached photo)
Author?s most productive bright moon plugs:
Left column - 7 inch Redfin?s in Bone, Baby Striper, and Chrome, Herring Mambo Minnow, 5 inch yellow Redfin.
Right Column: Gags, Super Strike, Gibbs Needlefish, Tattoo Metal Lip, Feather and RedGill Dropper
If a surfcaster must fish during the bright moon all is not lost. There are tricks and methods that can increase your chance of success. So what tactics can the nighttime surfcaster employ to improve their odds during the bright moon period? First you must determine whether bass are indeed present in the area you?re fishing. All the tricks in your bag won?t work if the bass are not home. If you?re getting short strikes or feel ?bumps? on your offerings it is a sure sign that bass are in the area but may be cautious because of the moonlight. My experience has shown that lighter pattern plugs seem to produce more bass than dark or natural colors during a bright moon. Chrome patterns also seem to work well because they produce more flash from the moonlight. The most effective full moon plugs that I use are the C10 series Cotton Cordell Redfins in Chicken Scratch (yellow), Bone, Baby Striper or Chrome patterns. Needlefish such as Super Strike, Gibbs, Gag?s and Habs in fluorescent lime green, yellow, pink, or white are effective. The 7 inch Mambo Minnow?s in the ?Herring? pattern (blue back, pink sides, white belly) have also provided me with some memorable nights. White metal lip swimmers such as the Tattoo and the old standby Atom Junior work well also. Sometimes smaller is better during bright conditions. If bass are just nudging your big plugs try downsizing your offerings ? for example use a five inch C9 series Redfin or make use of small feather or red-gill droppers. These smaller offerings may encourage more aggressive takes. Slow things down - it?s no secret that striped bass prefer slow presentations in most instances but during the bright moon your presentations should be extra slow.
Stripers can also be leader shy ? especially during a bright moon. Another tactic that has been very effective for moonlight bass is ?tying direct?. Tying your plugs directly to your monofilament running line without using a heavy shock leader will allow you to make a more subtle and natural presentation. I?ve experienced many productive nights (while those around me using heavy shock leaders went fishless) by the simple act of tying directly to my 20 pound test mono. As effective as this method has been tying direct seems to have fallen out of popularity with the use of braided line. If you prefer to use braided line consider dropping down your leader strength to 20 pound test during a bright moon.
If plugs don?t produce during the bright moon it may be a good time to try natural baits. Most surfcasters know that live and rigged eels are excellent choices to fool bass any time in the surf but in the moonlight they may be just what you need to tip the odds in your favor. Just as with plugs your eel presentations should be extra slow. If the ?takes? on your eels are subtle or you experience repeated short strikes you should also consider tying your eel hook directly to your mono. This tactic will likely increase the aggressiveness and number of strikes you get which should result in more hook-ups. If you decide to tie direct be aware that you may need to take more care when landing fish as you won?t have the insurance of a heavy shock leader.
Surfcasting has many factors that can separate the success rate of those that chase striped bass. I?ve met many surf casters in my years of casting and the casters that are most consistent in this game are those that take the time and effort to learn every aspect of the sport. Natural changes in our environment such as moon phase affect not only us but our quarry and a surfcaster should be aware of them. Surfcasters should be ready when environmental changes such as moonsets, wind shifts, and tide changes occur as they will often portend the start (or end) of a bite. My advice is to always try and ?be there on a change? and if the change is predictable then all the better. Through constant education you?ll find your success rate and enjoyment of our sport increase. A surfcaster should never stop learning ? I know I haven?t.