Moon Cycles and Fish Behaviour

Lunar fishing and fish behaviour

As well as playing an important part in the tidal behaviour of the world’s seas and oceans, the phases of the moon are also thought to play an additional part in the behaviour of many of Australia’s most important fish. Whilst it is an indisputable fact that tidal movements can affect the levels of fish stocks in prime fishing locations, there are other beliefs held by anglers and the indigenous population that the moon can have an important effect on the feeding and breeding patterns of fish.

Although some anglers have opined that the moon can affect freshwater fish as well, the most significant changes can be seen on saltwater species, especially for those species of fish which swim closer to the shoreline and those which frequent estuaries or coastal bays.


In terms of fish activity, peak periods tend to occur when the moon is directly overhead and when the moon is directly below (i.e. when it is directly on the other side of the Earth). Minor periods of activity also occur when the moon is half way between these 2 “major” points. Therefore, there tends to be 4 periods of increased activity per day, when the fish tend to be noticeably more active than they are other times of the day. These 4 periods of activity should occur regardless of what phase the moon is in. Many anglers refer to the periods surrounding these spikes in activity as “dead zones”, because of the vast reductions in the numbers of fish which are active during these times.

In terms of the phases of the moon, the number of fish feeding at night (and therefore ready to take your bait) often increases when there is a full moon. Larger fish take advantage of the fact that baitfish are illuminated by the light of the full moon, in order to feed. However, if you choose to fish at night, take extra care, especially if you are out on a boat.

In general, studies (and angler lore) suggest that many species of saltwater fish are the most active on the 4 days leading up to the full moon and the 4 days directly after the full moon. During these few days, fish activity should increase in general, regardless of what time of day it is or whether it is a “major” or “minor” phase in accordance with the position of the moon.

If you regularly fish for the same species, in the same area, you can begin keeping your own notes about fish stock levels, and you can check whether stock levels correlate significantly with moon phases.

If you find that the only day which you have free for fishing is a day which should be a poor one for fish, according to tidal phases and moon cycles, do not despair, because plenty of anglers have reported that they are still able to land an excellent catch against all odds. Finding inventive ways to make your day a success can be half the fun!