Alaska Solar Lunar Fishing (when is the best time to fish Alaska?)

View from the beach at Lisianski Inlet Lodge in late April

View from the beach at Lisianski Inlet Lodge in late April

After 20 plus years as a fishing guide in Alaska the question I get most often is, when is the best time to fish?  Specifically everyone want's to know when is the prime week for king salmon and peak season for halibut?

Often I get weeks that are amazing.  Its like everything happens at once, brown bears on the beaches allowing us to get very close, humpback whales breaching over and over again and fish, lots of fish everywhere we go.  It's so easy and I think to myself, "Wow, these people are getting one of the best weeks of the season!".

Then there are the weeks where I can't catch my butt with both hands and the wildlife seems to have all gone in to hiding.  I have had people ask me, "There aren't really any bears, whales, eagles, etc., here area there?"  Invariably during these times at least one person will say in a jovial but irritating tone, "That's why they call it fishing and not catching!"  This kind of week happens once or twice a summer and it's always a bummer.  It's these kinds of weeks that set a fisherman to contemplating the Solar Lunar Theory.

Simply, Solar Lunar Theory refers to the celestial positions of the moon and sun throughout each month.  During the dark of the moon the moon and sun are on the same side of the earth and their combined gravitational pull is at it's strongest.  When the moon is full it is located on the other side of the earth and so counterbalances the gravitational effect of the sun and the Solar Lunar Effect is at it's weakest.

The power of the Solar Lunar Effect has been shown in several experiments.  One of the more famous of these was with oysters conducted by Dr. Frank A. Brown at Northwestern Univeristy near Chicago.  He put the oysters in water and covered them.  The oysters would normally open their shells twice each day on the high tide but after two weeks without the tide rising or falling and without sunlight the oysters began opening their shells when the moon was either directly overhead or underfoot.

I have found the phase of the moon is a good fishing indicator in the commercial squid fishery that I participate in during the winter in southern California.  When the moon is dark new squid moves in to choose spawning ground.  As the moon grows brighter the run of squid increases and there's usually a blow for three or four days immediately after full moon and then slow fishing until the next dark moon.  An old saying for squid fishermen is. "moon to the West, fishing the best, moon to the East, fishing the least".

Now I know what you are thinking!  Grab the moon phase calendar and lets book a trip!  However, it turns out that the Solar Lunar Theory is more complicated than that and localized factors can affect fishing greatly.  There are many variables that make for a great fishing trip and I have found it so hard to predict the very best fishing times that I have sworn off from ever predicting again.  However, if you are planning a fishing trip way ahead of time and have a choice as to when you can go it might not hurt to consider the Solar Lunar Theory.

Denny Corbin operates the Lisianski Inlet Lodge near Pelican in Southeast, Alaska