Hunting and Fishing Effects During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will progress its ways across the United States from Oregon's Pacific coastline eastward to South Carolina's Atlantic shores; what will be the effect on game animals and fish as this rare celestial event occurs?

By: Lynn Burkhead, TheSportsmanChannel.com

In case you haven’t noticed, Solar Eclipse Fever is taking hold all across the land.

That’s understandable since this summer’s upcoming total solar eclipse is the kind of event that hasn’t occurred in any part of the nation since 1979. In fact, a total eclipse traversing the entire country hasn’t taken place since June 8, 1918.

Dubbed the Great American Eclipse, the rare event will take place during the late morning and early afternoon hours on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

Starting on the Oregon coastline sometime around 10 a.m. (PDT), the eclipse will traverse its way across the U.S. over the next several hours, making its way over the heartland before finally exiting U.S. shores near Charleston, South Carolina sometime around 3 p.m. (EDT).

In between, the shadow of the moon blocking out the sun’s rays will pass over such spots as Salem, Ore.; near the southern boundary of Yellowstone National Park; Casper, Wyo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Jefferson City, Mo.; Paducah, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Augusta, Ga.; and Columbia, S.C.

On August 21, a similar shadow will be cast upon North America during a total solar eclipse event. (Photo courtesy of nasa.gov)

On August 21, a similar shadow will be cast upon North America during a total solar eclipse event. (Photo courtesy of nasa.gov)

 

As this rare shadowy event unfolds across America, what will the effect be on game fish and big game critters? While no one is completely sure, there are a few educated guesses.

Hunting

Deer hunters and big game hunters have known for eons that the moon and its various cycles can have a pronounced effect on the daily movements, feeding patterns and breeding behavior of animals.

But what about the effects of a total solar eclipse?

Well, let’s just say that in some ways, this is still a great unknown. And since only a few hunting seasons will actually be open across the U.S. when the Great American Eclipse occurs, it may remain that way.

There is certainly anecdotal evidence to suggest that there could be some effect.

“It has been reported during many eclipses that many different animals are startled by totality and change their behavior thinking that twilight has arrived,” says a statement on the NASA website dedicated to the eclipse.

What does that most likely mean? From many accounts I’ve discovered concerning previous solar eclipses, things like livestock returning to the barn, chickens and other poultry going to roost, and other behavior like that.

But what will pronghorn antelope hunters notice in limited portions of Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming? Or black-tailed deer hunters in portions of California? Or cow elk hunters in Nevada and Wyoming? Bear hunters in Utah? A few select sheep hunters in portions of Oregon? Or even some East Coast deer hunters chasing whitetails on some private lands open in South Carolina?

It’s possible – maybe even likely – that big game animals will respond to the mid-day solar eclipse with confusion, perhaps reverting to the same kind of behavior that a hunter might expect to see typically happening at dusk.

Meaning that deer might go to a food resource like they do in the late afternoon and evening hours. Antelope might stream into a waterhole as they might typically do at sundown. And cow elk might move towards a bedding area.

So if you’re one of the few hunters that will be out in the field on Aug. 21, adjust your middle of the day activities by skipping lunch and heading out into the field to employ some late afternoon hunting techniques.

All the while making some careful mental notes and enjoying an exceedingly rare experience in the great American outdoors.

The above idea gets some backing from Chad LaChance, a serious Colorado mule deer and elk hunter who also doubles as the host of the World Fishing Network show Fishful Thinker.

“I think deer and other terrestrial critters will get real spooky during the eclipse,” said LaChance. “But I’m just guessing.”

Fishing

While there will not be too many hunting opportunities across the path of the solar eclipse, there will be ample fishing opportunities.

From salmon and steelhead possibilities on the West Coast to trout fishing in the Rockies to bass across the heartland to redfish in the South Carolina low country, anglers should have plenty of chances to wet a line as the midday sky grows dark.

What effect will the eclipse have on fish? Some top shelf anglers think there will be an effect, some don’t think there will be any, and others aren’t so sure.

Count Michigan bass fishing legend Kevin VanDam in that latter group.

“(I) have no idea,” said KVD, owner of 24 BASS victories, four Bassmaster Classic championships, seven BASS Angler-of-the-Year titles, one FLW Tour AOY title, and two Major League Fishing Summit Cups.

“I doubt it would have much effect being so brief,” added the sport’s GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) who now has some $6.2 million in career earnings.

Kelly Jordon, the East Texas bass pro who is the only man in the sport to ever capture tour level titles in BASS, FLW Tour and Major League Fishing competition, thinks it will have a noticeable impact.

“As far as its effects on bass fishing, I’d guess that it is listed as a very good day to be out afield and on the water, according to solunar tables,” said Jordon, a four-time BASS winner, a one-time FLW Tour winner, and the MLF 2014 Challenge Cup champion.

Jordon notes that in addition to the day’s total solar eclipse, Aug. 21 is also the month’s new moon. And because of that, the rare celestial event has KJ quite intrigued about the day’s potential fishing possibilities.

“The new moon is when the strongest tidal forces are felt on the earth, as the gravitational pull of the sun and moon are combined,” said Jordon. “Naturally, the highest tides of any particular month occur on the new moon as a general rule.”

Jordon may be on to something since the August full moon, which occurs on Aug. 7, is commonly called the Sturgeon Moon.

That might mean that August 2017 will be a dynamite month to fish, no matter where you fish and what you fish for.

That could also be true out west for anglers casting a fly into some of the Rocky Mountain’s most hallowed trout water.

Rhett Bain, who owns and operates Reel Deal Anglers in Jackson, Wyo., is looking forward to casting a dry fly on the rivers that he fishes like the Snake, the Green, and other renowned streams in the area.

“I’ve read that the fish go nuts, so as the darkness starts to set in (during the eclipse, we’ll see,” said Bain. “I (personally) think it’s going to be wild.”

Given that the 2017 solar eclipse will happen in totality near the southern boundary of Yellowstone NP, Bain should be at ground zero for one of the rarest feats in all of fishing.

And if he is indeed able to hook up with a trout as the overhead sky starts to grow dim, he might achieve one of the rarest moments in outdoor sports.

And that’s seeing his fly rod bend double as one of the country’s most intriguing celestial events occurs overhead, something that will be remembered for a lifetime, thanks to the Great American Eclipse, of course.

As long as he remembers to use a fill-flash for the grip-and-grin photo, that is.

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