THEORY – Fishing the East Johor Straits Part 4, Solunar Theory

THEORY – Fishing the East Johor Straits Part 4, Solunar Theory

When my cousin James and I were kids, all we wanted to do was to go fishing whenever we could. It didn’t matter when it was. As long as we had a chance to wet a line, to soak a bait, we would go. Often, James’ grandfather, an old sea salt, would mumble that we’d be wasting time fishing, but we disregarded him, went fishing and came back disappointed. We never understood why he “knew” if we would catch fish or not. Some years later, I’d study my precious ABU Tight Lines catalogue, heeding the chart that predicts fishing quality by the number of fish symbols. That was not too bad… Eventually, I heard about Solunar Theory in the late 90s. I did as much research as I could at the infancy of the Internet but never understood a thing. Today, after many years of observing our catches at the East Johor Straits, I’m going to attempt to explain the Solunar Theory as I understand it, and I hope you would find this easier to understand. (Takes a deep breath).

Catch details: 21:30hrs, four hours before high tide, 09 April, 2008. 初三, one hour from moonset. Water was warm, and current was smoothly moving after the turn of tide. There was wind from north ruffling the surface, and many noisy waves beating the shore from shipping traffic when this barra hit the Chartreuse-Green Lucky Craft Gunfish 115.

Remember, I said I never understood a thing… John Alden Knight is credited for coming up with the 3 factors believed to influence the daily behaviour of fish (Both freshwater and sea). He derived his theory after having studied up to 33 factors that was credited to affecting fishing and discarded all except three – the sun, the moon and the tides.

Tides have always been a determining factor of fishing to the saltwater angler. So important are tides that I had devoted the first three parts of the theory in Fishing the East Johor Straits to tides. Although the Sun and Moon play an important role in generating tides, Knight proposed that the actual behavioural stimulus on fish is due to the influence of the sun and moon, than on the tidal stages, because it applies even to non-tidal fish such as freshwater species. So because of their influence, he named his theory after them thus sun (Sol) and moon (Lunar) makes up the name “Solunar”.

He found that the closer the sun or moon are to Earth, the stronger their influence are on fish, with the peak on the day of the full or new moon. His Solunar studies of over 200 catches reveal that 90% were made during the new moon where the Solunar influence is strongest, and were made at the actual times that he predicted. With his analysis, he published his first Solunar table in 1936, which predicts the exact timing of major and minor periods of influence.

The key to his predictions is the accurate calculation of solar and lunar positions in relation to any geographic position on Earth. Knight divided his predictions into Periods. When the moon was rising or setting, he called them Minor Periods and when the moon was overhead or underfoot (at the opposite side of Earth), were Major Periods.

Peak Days
The Sun and Moon are our two greatest sources of astral energies. So the closer they are to Earth, the stronger the influence. The day of the full moon or new moon provide the strongest influence each month, with the new moon having the greater effect.

One must also note that the moon orbits around Earth is an elliptical trajectory and the Earth around the sun too. The moon is at Apogee when it is closest to earth, and at Perigee when it is at its furthest orbit away from Earth.

The dates of Lunar Apsides for 2015 are:


Earth is closest to the sun at Perihelion which happens annually in January and farthest away at Aphelion in July.

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On a full moon, either the sun or moon will be in the sky because they are almost opposite each other. During a new moon both sun and moon are nearly travelling across the sky together, and their forces are combined.

A quick look at the charts above tell us that the greatest influence of sun and moon on Earth this year was between January 4th-9th; and with a full moon on January 5th, it made for a Powerful day for fishing at first and last light when the sun was rising and the moon setting or the moon rising and sun setting respectively. But if only it had not been on a Monday…

Conversely, the least influence of sun and moon will fall between July 5th-6th. And with the moon phase as a Waning Gibbous, the lowest Solunar influence will be felt. But July 5th being a Sunday, it may be an interesting exercise in futility to fish that day just to prove the theory wrong. But even if the theory is proven correct, it’d still be better to go fishing than staying at home and wondering “what if?” wouldn’t you say?

But do not be disappointed with the month of July just because of that. July is also the month this year with the most Solunar peak days, being the month with two full moons, on July 2nd and July 31st.

Peak Times
Fish usually feed at Sunrise and Sunset, thus anglers look forward to the magical first light and last light frenzy where topwater takes are common and spectacular. But fish feed best at a special “hot hour” which is later each day by approximately 50 minutes. That’s because the biological clock of sea creatures are timed by the lunar cycle, which is 24 hours and 53 minutes each day.

If atmospheric and feeding conditions are favourable, the fish will be active for one to two hours. When a Solunar Major period falls within 30 minutes to an hour of sunrise or sunset there will be a burst of fish feeding behaviour; and when a moonrise or moonset (minor period) occurs during that period the feeding activity will be even greater. This activity is at its most intense when these events occur during a full or new moon and Knight’s research reveal that when these conditions exist, fish will bite on anything they see or smell.

The Solunar prediction for Singapore, 1st July 2015 from

How long does the Solunar Effect last?
The time of new moon is the time of maximum fish feeding intensity. Tides reflect this intensity in their magnitude and this maximum will last about three days which coincides with the spring tides or Chinese 初三, the 3rd day of the lunar calendar. Thereafter the intensity of Solunar influence fades away until it is at its minimum during the third (last) quarter phase of the moon, before it builds up again to the full moon and the cycle repeats itself.

Most anglers will believe the good Solunar predictions, but the same group will also disbelieve the days of a poor Solunar prediction. Such are the psyche of us anglers. One however need to take the Solunar predictions with atmospheric conditions, location and techniques into consideration. A spot with no fish will not fish well regardless of prediction. And throwing a huge big popper will not get you anything in a spot with only minnows.

I hope I had helped you understand the relationships of sun, moon and tides better in this lesson. Next one, I’ll be theorising about how atmospheric conditions can affect your fishing.

Till then, Tight lines and I hope to see you at the straits!

God Bless,


Text and Images © Lawrence Lee
All Rights Reserved
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