Does the moon influence trout fishing?

The full moon is a great time to go trout fishing
Trout often hunt under the full moon

The moon’s influence on trout fishing often gets brought up in conversations between fishermen. Trout fishermen are no exception, although they are less concerned about it than sea fishermen.

The influence of the moon on trout fishing can be observed in three primary ways. Firstly, the amount of light during nighttime can impact the behavior of the fish. Secondly, if you reside near a coastal area, the tidal range within the river is significant. Lastly, certain insects tend to be more active during a full moon, leading to an increase in the availability of food for the fish.

To be completely frank, when I head out the door to go fishing, I never take the phase of the moon into consideration. If I have the time available, and if the weather is nice, I fish, but that does not mean the moon does not have an influence on the quality of fishing.

I also will note that outside of any tidal reaches the influence of the moon, is less than the influence of water temperature or the prevailing weather on the day. When the water temperature is getting warm, the trout will be more active at night no matter the moon phrase.

It is well documented that some species of fish are more likely to feed during the full moon. This includes visual hunters like trout, they can see their prey easier so they continue to hunt throughout the night. Small baitfish can better see plankton, and approaching danger so they too are more active.

If the fish have been up all-night feeding. It can be speculated that they less need to feed during the hours of daylight. Spending the energy to grab a mayfly or darting in-line spinner is unnecessary when the trout already ate their fill the night before. So the day after a full moon, the trout can be harder to catch simply because they have been feeding all night.

Moon phrase influence on trout fishing

Trout are known to behave differently depending on the moon phase, which can influence their feeding patterns and overall activity levels. Here are some tips on finding trout during different moon phases:

  • Full Moon: During the full moon, trout are more likely to feed throughout the night and may be less active during the day. Nighttime fishing under the full moon can be the most productive, as the increased visibility can make it easier to see the fish and make accurate casts. Try using big and dark lures and retrieve them high in the water column. When fly fishing I like unweighted streamers such as wooly buggers. When spinning I nearly always use a floating Rapala. If the trout are raising, try using a Caddis imitation fly to imitate the nocturnal hatches.
  • New Moon: During the new moon, the lack of moonlight can make it more difficult to see the fish and make accurate casts. However, the darker conditions can also make the fish feel more secure and willing to venture into shallower waters. When fishing during a dark night, listening for fish movement can be just as important as sight fishing.
  • Waxing and Waning Moon: Nothing exciting really happens during these moon phrases. The brighter the night, the more active the trout will likely be after sunset.

Night fishing under the full moon

Nighttime trout fishing when the moon is full can be the most productive. It offers several advantages over fishing on darker nights. The biggest advantage is the full moon simply makes everything easier to see. Less likely to trip over the boulders walking to the fishing spot.

While fishing it is easier to see the fish, most accurately the ripples and swirls created by trout as they are hunting. Casting is also easier. Once your eyes have adjusted, it should be possible to see your line and lure, allowing for more accurate casts and presentations.

I know of one elderly fly fisherman who only goes night fishing over the full moon.

Even when night fishing, it is still important to match the hatch. Try and figure out what the fish are feeding upon. Trout often surface feed on nocturnal insect hatches. Typically, on moonlit nights, Caddis imitation flies work well. I like something big and obvious, with a white indicator hairs of the back. Simply because it is easier for both myself and the trout to see. For the spin fishermen, a fly and float could be worth a try.

When night fishing, most fishermen use big and dark lures. I agree with that assessment. I like to use floating lures or unweighted streamers. My thinking goes that lures on the surface are easier to see, they contrast against the night sky. When fly-fishing my favorite streamers to use are Wooly Buggers and Rabbit flies.

When spin fishing, I usually start with a floating Rapala, and work is slowly. Sometimes I use a black vivid to make the jerkbait even darker. I rarely start with it, but if the fishing has been slow, I like to try a small popper or flatfish lure. They dance across the surface with plenty of action. Hopefully, enough to attract the attention of a hungry trout.

Do not be afraid to experiment. Painting an in-line spinner black has worked for me before. Despite it running sub-surface. There are tales of fishermen catching large lurkers fishing mouse or frog imitations under the cover of darkness. I like to cast them across deep pools, or along the edge of lakes. A slow steady retrieve seems to work well.

Nymphing during the full moon

The full moon is the best time to try nymphing for trout at night. Yes, trout continue to feed on nymphs even after sunset, their eyesight is that good. Although nymphing at night is not for everyone, and requires a high level of success.

With more light, it is easier to track the drift of the nymph and detect subtle strikes. However, it is important to note that nymphing at night is not for everyone and requires a high level of skill and experience.

When nymphing at night, it is a good idea to use a nymph rig that is easy to cast and control. A tangle at night is no fun. Slightly heavier tippet, and slightly larger flies can also be gotten away with compared with during the day. Using a strike indicator is also important for detecting strikes as the take can be subtle and difficult to detect at night.

In addition to using the right gear, it is crucial to know the river well before starting to fish. For the most part trout feed in the same type of water at night as they do during the day, although they might move more into the shallows.

Tidal impact on trout

I am not going to go into much detail on fishing tidal waters in this topic, I have covered it in a lot more details in these following articles.

The moon creates tides, and the full moon creates the largest tides. Less well known is that tides affect all bodies of water. While in the sea the tidal range can be large, in ponds it is impossible to notice with the naked eye.

Unless you are fishing in the lower tidal zones of the river, the tide is not relevant for trout fishing. Even the Great Lakes have a maximum of two inches of tidal range. That is nothing. The influence from air pressure and wind has a much greater influence on lake levels.

When fishing in the tidal zones. It is worth knowing the trout can turn to face the direction of the flow, during an incoming tide they can be looking inland. There are also baitfish thay run during the full moon (or during the highest tide). Trout like all predators follow the food. So when the baitfish are running, the fish hunting trout will lie in wait hoping for an easy meal.