John Bartley Features

Moon Magic: The Best Kept Big Fish Secret Of All?

Is the big fish moon a myth or reality? John Bartley’s insights from a decade of profiling big fish using moon phases might just change your mind…


Burghfield Common

Scott Lloyd’s capture of The Burghfield Common on the 12th April 2017 was one day after the full moon. When Nigel Sharp had it back in 2006, the 13th of May at 11.55a.m., that too was bang-on the full moon. We also need to look at the sun’s transition. On all eight captures documented here, the fish gets caught each time so close to the sun transition period that it cannot be coincidence. John also has evidence of another big common that was caught from Kevin Nash’s Church Lake the day before Scott’s capture. This fish was over 50lbs too and had evaded capture for two years prior to that capture.

Nigel Sharp
Date of capture: 13th May 2006
Moon phase: 100%
Sun transit: 12:56p.m.

Darren Day
Date of capture: 5th May 2008
Moon phase: 0%
Sun transit: 12:56p.m.

Terry Hearn
Date of capture: 4th July 2009
Moon phase: 92%
Sun transit: 13:04p.m.

John Hickey
Date of capture: 18th Sep 2010
Moon phase: 80%
Sun transit: 12:53p.m.

Oz Holness
Date of capture: 17th August 2012
Moon phase: 0%
Sun transit: 13:03p.m.

Dave Lane
Date of capture: 6th July 2014
Moon phase: 60%
Sun transit: 13:04p.m.

Scott Lloyd
Date of capture: 12th April 2017
Moon phase: 99%
Sun transit: 13:00p.m.

Tom Stokes:
Date of capture: 6th July 2018
Moon phase: 50%
Sun transit: 13:04p.m.

Another Case Study

The upper-forty mirror known as Baby Black who resides in a Berkshire pit was caught within 25 minutes of the peak time last spring. The year before the wind was a northerly and it was caught at the opposite end of the pit, but this time within 16 minutes of the prime time. Coincidence? In April 2016, the full moon was on the 22nd and on the ultra low stock pit where the Baby Black lives, there were 17 takes in the five days around the full moon - there are only 35-40 carp in the entire pit…

Full moon or new moon?

Through a decade of research and data collection, John has found clusters of big fish captures are centred around the new moon and full moon. Whilst most of the major periods revolve around the moon and its alignment with the earth at any given time, he has also found minor feeding periods are more typically related to the sun transition rather than the moon.

But don’t dismiss other phrases just yet… “The first quarter and last quarter can also be productive,” states John. “Christchurch on the Linch Hill complex fishes its head off on the last quarter of the moon. Differences like this, I sometimes suspect might be to do with the differences in natural food available and how the changes in moon phase affects feeding opportunities. It would make sense… for example, oysters and clams are harvested on the full moon, so if the moon can make shellfish easier to harvest, might it not have the same effect on some of a big carp’s natural feeding behaviour for the same reasons?”

Weather/moon phases relationship

One element which is very much overlooked is the relationship between moon phases and trends in the weather. Often the new moon will bring low pressure systems and strong winds from the south or the west. Fun fact: ask any outdoor photographer what time of the month they are likely to get blue skies and settled, sunny days (generally high pressure) and they will point you to the days around the full moon.

What's the moon's magic?

“There are all sorts of possible elements to it,” states John. “The moon’s effect on gravity and weight, and exerting a pull that dictates the tides of the world’s oceans gives you a stark reminder we are dealing with a powerful force of nature, arguably the most powerful of all. There’s not so much fact but a huge amount of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence when it comes to the moon and behaviour. You read about links between increased criminal activity and the full moon, even increased naughtiness in children around the full moon. The word ‘lunatic’ is derived from lunar - concerning the moon. Poachers used to live by the moon; full moon was often referred to as the ‘crazy moon’ or ‘fighting moon’. Even the female menstrual cycle is strongly linked to the moon - all these things are not coincidental.”

Terry Hearn on moon phases...

“Do I think that the moon has an influence on our fishing? For sure, particularly for the bigger fish. Do I time my trips to suit? To a point, but I’m more likely to be keeping an eye on general weather conditions, which I believe to be more important. If I see that a nice mild low pressure with big wind and rain is forecast in the middle of winter, then that’s when I’m going fishing, even if the moon is ‘off phase’.

“If you only get a night or two to go fishing every so often, and you’re in a position to pick and choose your days, then yes, I’d definitely say it’s worth trying to time those trips to suit the peak periods, but I’d still be keeping a close eye on the weather. It’s also worth remembering that none of us are carp magicians with the ability to just rock up on the night, just before the moon reaches 100% ‘angling efficiency’, with just enough time to chuck out and reel in the big ‘un before shooting off and waiting for the next peak to come round. There’s normally a build up, and often it’s those in-between ‘off moon’ phase trips that keep you in-tune with what’s going on, which in turn helps to put you in the right places on the peaks.”

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