by David Christian
Changing daylight hours are somewhat obvious and we are all affected by it. The amount of daylight hours is significant to all creatures, it is their internal time clock. As humans we may not notice these conditions due to our homes and offices providing unnatural light conditions, but keep in mind that nature knows exactly what is going on outside.
In late February thru early March there is a time frame of three weeks when the amount of daylight hours increases by fifty minutes, that is 2.25 minutes per day. Most anglers overlook this solar edge. Is one the greatest triggering effects of Mother Nature. This is the true sign that winter has ended and the muskies will start to prepare for their annual spawning rituals. As a southern muskie hunter on Cave Run Lake I wondered if this increase in daylight hours had an effect on the muskie. After almost ten years of fishing it appears that, despite water temps this solar change placed fish very close to the spawning areas. After talking with a number of other anglers that have early open water and learning of the big fish captured, I was convinced this is a pattern!
By mid March the days are longer than the nights. This solar alarm clock is obvious to all species, trees start to bloom, insects start to buzz, and creatures appear from the winter doldrums. These are the creatures we notice and can visually connect with, all the while the underwater species are alive again as well, from lizards, to muskies, to weeds, everything is awake and starting to move about.
By mid May we are reaching a peak in daylight hours, almost fourteen hours of sunshine. This is an edge that starts to move fish into their early summer feeding patterns. By the mid summer peak we are provided with daylight lasting over fourteen hours and these long days continue through June. Metabolic rates are at peak during this period and the muskie action is starting to increase all across the country.
Mid July starts to bring a one minute per day decrease in daylight hours. In five to ten days we lose five to ten minutes, thus triggering a genetically coded response to feed, the days are getting shorter and nature knows summer is coming to an end. This is the period we all try to take advantage of. We notice the falling water temperatures, it is something we can connect with visually (temperature gauges), the shorter days are also contributing to this feeding frenzy.
By late September we are below twelve hours of daylight, now the nights are longer than the days, triggering an even stronger response for muskies to feed. On the southern waters, surface temperatures are still relatively high (mid 70's). This slow but deliberate change in the day's length is luring big muskies onto the shallows to feed. They are following the schools of shad which are also moving up in the water column, these movements are related to water temperature and the length of daylight hours. Deer start the rut because of daylight hours, not air temperatures!
The winter period brings ten-hour days and fourteen-hour nights. This internal clock says it is time to slow down or sleep, combine this with cold water temperatures and we can surely realize why everything has slowed down.
These are the solar edges that determine seasonal patterns and water temperature, they are as important as dawn and dusk. Musky hunters across the nation have been used to closed fishing seasons, therefore these changing conditions have not been studied thoroughly. In the Midwest these changing daylight hours are almost as important as the moon phases. Check your Farmers Almanac to see if a big fish period on your lake coincides with a major change in daylight hours, I'll bet it does and you will have some more data to add to your fishing logs.
We have learned so much more in the past few years about the solar influence of sunrise and sunset. Understanding why this period offers better angling opportunities is not difficult. At sunrise, the sun's tremendous gravitational force begins to affect our area, sunset is the point when this force leaves our area. These forces along with changing light conditions are a time frame that should never be passed up. Solar and lunar influences have a tremendous effect on all types of animals. Big fish that are located during the day can be captured during this solar edge and it has been proven time and time again. The moon phases, either daily or monthly are also "planetary" times when big fish are captured. Learning more about the planetary forces that control habits or our natural responses should become part of our arsenal in the never ending hunt for trophy game. Changing daylight hours determine major seasonal movements in nature and can trigger trophy size results. Something else to study and add to our logbook.