How the Alignment of Earth, Moon, and Sun Create Powerful Tidal Forces

The science of fishing is closely related to the Moon and tides. The gravitational pull of the Moon on Earth’s oceans creates tidal movements that can impact fish behavior and feeding patterns. Understanding how these movements work can help anglers determine the best time to fish. Aside from current, the moon influences spawning and migration

The gravitational pull of the Moon is the dominant force behind the tides. The Moon’s gravitational force causes the ocean’s water to bulge towards the Moon, leading to high tide on the side of the Earth facing the Moon. Simultaneously, tides are also generated on the opposite side of the Earth, where the gravitational pull of the Moon is weakest, resulting in another high tide. The low points between these two high tides are identified as low tides. 

During these phases, the gravitational forces of the Sun and Moon align to pull the ocean’s water in the same direction, causing a greater difference between high and low tides. Other factors, such as the Sun and the Earth’s rotation, also impact tides. For example, during the solstices, the Sun’s gravitational pull on Earth is at its highest, causing an increase in the tidal range. The tidal cycle is closely tied to the lunar day, so the average length of a tidal cycle is approximately 12 hours and 25 minutes. This means there are usually two high tides and two low tides each day, roughly 6 hours and 12.5 minutes between each high tide and the next low tide.

Since the lunar day is slightly longer than 24 hours, the timing of high and low tides changes by about 50 minutes daily. This means high tide occurs about 50 minutes later each day compared to the previous day. The lunar cycle significantly impacts Earth’s tides due to the Moon’s gravitational pull. This force from the Moon causes the oceans to bulge.  During this time, the Moon goes through a series of phases, including the new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent. The Moon tremendously influences the Earth’s oceans, causing the tides to rise and fall twice daily. 

The Science of Fishing Lunar Cycles-Fish Migrations

The lunar cycle has significantly influenced marine life’s behavior and ecology.  The gravitational pull of the Moon, combined with the Earth’s rotation, generates tidal processes that impact the distribution of food resources, breeding behaviors, and migration patterns of many marine species.

The Science of Fishing

The science of fishing for Mahi Mahi in the Florida Keys. Currently I am studying the migration of mahi mahi. So far in 2023 I have seen more larger fish caught in the Florida Keys during the new moons than years past. On the new moon in July, I used my data to go dolphin fishing and look for larger dolphin. Clients caught 20 mahi mahi and one large slammer bull dolphin within 3 hours of fishing. We did not find any debris, just migrating fish along 1 degree change in temperature break (85  F to 86 F).  I use SATFISH find the offshore temperatures breaks.

One of the most striking examples of the lunar cycle’s influence on marine life is mass spawning events. Many coral reef organisms, including corals, sea urchins, and some fish species, have been shown to spawn during specific lunar phases when tides are high, and there is optimal water flow to disperse eggs and sperm into the surrounding waters. These coordinated mass spawning events are essential for these species’ survival and genetic diversity.

The Best Dolphin Fishing Tips

Northerly Dolphin Migration by Capt. Ryan Van Fleet Multiple tagging programs track the migration patterns of mahi-mahi. One such program conducted by Dolphin Reasearch Program, tagged over 2,300 mahi-mahi in the western central Atlantic between 2012 and 2019. The study found that mahi-mahi migrated predominately to the north along the U.S. East Coast, with some individuals moving as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada, during the summer months. The study also found that mahi-mahi travel in a clockwise migration pattern in the western central Atlantic.  Learn more about how mahi mahi and how they migrate through the Florida Keys here

The lunar cycle also affects feeding behaviors in many marine species. For example, the timing of plankton blooms can be influenced by lunar cycles, with increased availability of zooplankton during certain lunar phases. This can lead to changes in the feeding patterns of fish, marine mammals, and other predators. Moreover, the lunar cycle has been shown to impact the migration patterns of certain marine animals. For instance, some species of sea turtles and pelagic fish(dolphin, tuna, wahoo and blue marlin) use lunar cues to guide their movements during long-distance migrations. In contrast, others, such as some species of sharks and rays, use lunar cycles to navigate during shorter migrations. Overall, the influence of the lunar cycle on marine life is complex and multifaceted, impacting a wide range of behaviors and ecological processes. Understanding these interactions can help fisherman make the most of their time on the water and plan fishing trips.

Science of Fishing-New Moon Documented Studies

A growing body of research indicates that the new moon phase can trigger fish migration and feeding behavior. The gravitational pull of the Moon during this phase can affect water movement, as well as the availability and distribution of food sources, influencing fish behavior.

For example, a study published in “Global Ecology and Biogeography” found that new moon phases were associated with increased movements and migration behaviors in coral reef fish. The researchers observed that fish populations tended to migrate toward deeper waters during the new Moon, likely due to the influence of lunar cues on light levels and predator avoidance.

Similarly, a study published in the “Journal of Fish Biology” found that certain freshwater fish species, such as the Nile tilapia, exhibited increased feeding activity during the new moon phase. The researchers noted that this behavior was likely due to changes in available food sources caused by changes in water level or increased zooplankton populations.

Other studies have also found that lunar cycles can impact the abundance and distribution of certain fish species, leading to changes in commercial fisheries. For instance, a study published in the “Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences” found that the abundance of Atlantic cod was significantly influenced by lunar cycles, with higher catch rates occurring during the new moon phase.

The Science of Fishing-Understanding the Lunar cycle is Crucial to Predicting Tidal Patterns 

New Moon

A new moon occurs between the Earth and the Sun, leading to its dark appearance in the sky. This phase happens approximately every 29.5 days and marks the beginning of a new lunar cycle.  This alignment creates exceptionally strong gravitational forces on Earth’s oceans, resulting in larger tidal ranges and higher-high tides, known as spring tides. 

Waxing Cresent

 In the second phase, a sliver of the Moon becomes visible on the right side. During the waxing crescent phase, the Moon moves from the new moon phase towards the first quarter phase. The Moon’s gravitational pull during this phase is not strong enough to cause any significant increase or decrease in tidal range. 

First Quarter Moon

The first quarter moon occurs about a week after the new Moon when the Moon has moved one-quarter of its orbit around the Earth. This phase results in a half-lit Moon, with the right half visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere. During this time, the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun on the Earth is partially aligned, resulting in moderate tidal forces.

Waxing Gibbous

In the fourth phase, more than half but not all of the Moon is visible. The waxing gibbous moon phase is significant because it marks the halfway point between the first quarter and full moon phases. During this phase, the visible portion of the Moon continues to increase as it moves toward the full moon phase. During this phase, the Moon’s gravitational pull on Earth’s oceans is considerable, resulting in moderate to high tides.

Full Moon

The full Moon, which occurs about two weeks after the new Moon, marks the halfway point of the lunar cycle. During this phase, the Moon is directly opposite the Earth from the Sun, leading to its fully illuminated appearance in the sky. The gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon on the Earth is aligned, creating the most significant tidal forces. These tides are known as spring tides, featuring higher high tides and lower low tides than other phases.

Waning Gibbous

More than half but not all of the Moon is visible. In the waning gibbous phase, the Moon has passed its full stage and gradually decreases in illumination as it moves towards the third-quarter phase. During this phase, the Moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth’s oceans is still significant but less intense than during the full or new moon phases. As a result, the tides during the waning gibbous phase are typically weaker than during the full or new moon phases but stronger than during the waxing crescent or first quarter phases.

Third Quarter Moon

The third quarter moon occurs when it has completed three-quarters of its orbit around the Earth, approximately three weeks after the new Moon. During this phase, the Moon appears half-lit, with the left half visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere. The gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon on the Earth is again partially aligned, resulting in moderate tidal forces.

Semidiurnal Tides and Dirunal Tides Explained

Tides can either be diurnal, where there is only one high tide and one low tide per day, or semidiurnal, where there are two high tides and two low tides per day. Semidiurnal tides occur when the Moon is directly over the equator, pulling equally on both sides of the Earth. In areas where the tidal forces are greatly interfered with by continents or other factors, only one complete tidal cycle occurs per day, resulting in diurnal tides. For instance, the East Coast of the United States experiences semidiurnal tides, while the West Coast experiences diurnal tides.   The Florida Keys experience semidiurnal tides, which means two high tides and two low tides occur daily. The exact timing of the tides can vary depending on many factors, including the position of the Moon, the Sun, and the local geography.

Florida Keys Spring and Neap Tides Explained

While the Sun has less impact on tides compared to the Moon, its gravitational force can amplify or dampen the effects of the Moon, leading to spring tides (higher high tides and lower low tides) or neap tides (lower high tides and higher low tides). These tidal patterns occur due to the positions of the Moon and Sun relative to the Earth. So let’s look at spring and neap tides, starting with the basics.

Spring Tides Explained

During the complete moon phase, the high tides are higher than usual, and the low tides are lower than average, leading to a more extensive tidal range. This powerful tidal range is spring tides, though the name can be misleading. Contrary to popular belief, spring tides do not refer to the season but instead come from the concept of “springing forth” or increasing. These tides can occur during any season, depending on the lunar cycle.

Spring tides typically occur twice a month during the new and full moons, and they are more pronounced in September, October, and November in the Florida Keys. During these months, the Moon’s and the Sun’s gravitational pull is more robust due to their alignment with the Earth, resulting in higher and lower tides. It is important to note that spring tides can still occur during other months of the year but are less substantial than during the fall months mentioned above.

Neap Tides Explained

Neap tides are a type of tide that occurs twice a month during the Moon’s first and third quarter phases. During these lunar phases, the sun’s and moon’s gravitational pull are at right angles, resulting in a weaker tidal force. As a result, the high tides are lower than average, and the low tides are higher than average. In contrast to spring tides, which occur during full and new moons when the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon is more substantial, neap tides have weaker tidal force. 

Tidal Coefficient Explained

A tidal coefficient is a numerical value representing the amplitude of the tides forecast for a specific location. It indicates the difference in height between consecutive high tides and low tides over a given period. Tidal coefficients vary depending on the spot and range from 20 to 120. The coefficient is calculated based on the gravitational forces of the Sun and Moon and the position of these celestial bodies relative to the Earth.  


It is essential to understand the impact of tidal coefficients as they can be a crucial factor in determining the ideal time and location for targeting pelagic and reef fish, as they can affect water movement, seabed disturbances, and algae growth. For example, a higher tidal coefficient may attract fish in areas with solid tidal movements. Meanwhile, a lower coefficient may be necessary for areas with weaker tides to create enough water movement to attract fish.  Tidal coefficients are calculated based on complex mathematical formulas but are not set in stone. They can fluctuate from day to day based on environmental and oceanic conditions.  If you would like to learn more about tidal coefficients then check out

Solar Lunar Theory and Fishing 

I was first introduced to the solar-lunar theory when I was 12. My parents would find me on my dock at 2 AM casting for Northern Pike. According to the paper book, when they asked me what I was doing, I said the Moon was right. Nothing much has changed; I turned 50 in December 2022 and am still that kid-obsessed solar-lunar theory. 

The solar-lunar theory is a popular and widely-used theory in the fishing industry that suggests that the position of the Sun and Moon can affect fish feeding patterns.In general, the theory suggests that when the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon is at its strongest, fish are more likely to feed during a new or full moon. This period is known as the “major period” and typically occurs about two hours before and after the tide’s peak. During the rest of the month, there are also periods of increased fish activity, although these are less strong than during the significant period. These are known as “minor periods” and occur twice daily, lasting about an hour each. Learn how to apply the solar lunar theory as tool by reading this blog

While the solar-lunar theory may not be 100% reliable, it has been observed to work more often than not by many fishermen and guides, including myself. It is vital to use it as a tool in combination with other factors such as weather conditions, water temperature, and the behavior of individual fish when planning a fishing trip. As a fishing guide, I have seen firsthand how the solar and lunar theory can be used as a valuable tool, especially when fishing conditions are challenging. 

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Do you want more information? Then it’s time to join one of Good Karma Sportfishing’s private fishing clubs. Our private fishing clubs offer exclusive access to some of the best fishing tips in Florida. I am passionate about sharing our knowledge and experience with our members and helping them improve their skills and catch more fish. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner, The Good Karma Sportfishing private fishing clubs have something to offer everyone. So why wait? Sign up for the Good Karma Sportfishing private fishing clubs today and take your fishing game to the next level.