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Solunar tables


July 19, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

Darrell was fishing next to me and the fish were not cooperating. He told me the previous day the bite had been wide open but today was a different story.

As we speculated about why fishing could be so great one day and the pits the next day, Darrell said he thought it all had to do with solunar tables.

"Do you really believe that stuff?" I asked.

"Well off course I believe it," he said, looking at me like he was talking to an ignoramus. "Don't you?"

Darrell went on to tell me the day before, the tables showed the best fishing occurred at 1 p.m. I had been fishing off the mouth of the Alamo River then and everyone was hooked up with big fish.

"So explain to me," I said smugly, "why were the fish also biting wide open at 8:30 a.m. that morning?"

Giving me that same LOOK, he said, "because that was the minor period."


"Oh," I said, "I knew that."

Of course I didn't know what in the world he was talking about.

"Where'd you get the information?" I questioned.

"It's programmed into my GPS," he replied.

"Oh," I said again, even more confused.

"My GPS must be getting old," I muttered to myself. It only shows sunrise and sunset besides its regular functions that tell where you are in the world and how to get from one place to another.

Darrell left after checking the solunar tables and seeing there were no more major or minor periods that day. For him, further fishing was a waste of time. Wanting to prove him wrong, I moved to Black Rock, where the water looked better, and fished unsuccessfully until I ran out of drinking water. It was getting so hot my dark glasses had frosted up with crystallized sweat and I couldn't see. Maybe Darrell was right.

For years solunar tables have been printed in outdoor publications with the same regularity as horoscopes are printed in newspapers. What I found out after researching the subject is interesting.

In 1926 John Alden Knight, after hearing some Florida folklore, defined and developed a formula to calculate the first solunar table. He developed the word "solunar," from "sol" for sun and "lunar" for moon. Knight first developed 33 factors that influence or control day-to-day behavior of fresh and saltwater fish. He then examined and rejected the different factors until only three remained. They were the sun, moon and tides.

Knight knew tides guided saltwater fishermen to successful fishing. Better fishing occurred as the tides became stronger and had a greater span between the highs and lows. He knew that slack tide, the period when tides reach their highest point or lowest point and start going the other way, always produced the worst fishing. He began to realize the prompting stimulus lay in the influence of the sun and moon, which cause the ocean tides rather than the actual tidal stages or flow.

Knight further found the two best fishing periods occurred daily when the moon was directly overhead or underfoot and he named those major periods. Improving upon his theory, he found that between the two major periods, there were two other periods of slightly less intense activity. He called those minor periods and in 1936 he published his first solunar tables to predict the most active time to fish.

A convincing experiment came about when Frank A. Brown, a biologist at Northwestern University, flew some live oysters to his lab near Chicago. Oysters open their shells during each high tide, and Brown wanted to see if this was due to the change in ocean levels or to a force from the moon itself. He put the oysters in water and removed them from all sunlight. For the first week they continued to open their shells with the high tides from their ocean home. But by the second week, they had adjusted their shell-openings to when the moon was directly overhead or underfoot in Chicago.

To further prove his theory, Knight examined over 200 accounts of major fish catches, including both record catches and large number of fish caught. He found more than 90 percent were made during the most active times according to his solunar tables.

When Knight studied game birds and animals, he found they also responded to the prompting stimulus of the periods.

Today, published solunar tables include peak days, when the sun and moon are closest to each other and exhibit the strongest influence in each month. The published peak times are when a period falls within 30 minutes to an hour of sunrise or sunset when the greatest action is anticipated. The peak month is always June, when activity is the greatest.

With this new wealth of knowledge, will I go fishing during the peak times only? No, I still plan on going when I can, not when some chart tells me to. Of course I don't read my horoscope either.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the internet at

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