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The "Force" behind Fish and Game Forecasts

by John Uldrich, Director, Vektor Institute, a research center devoted to the study of the "Earth Tide Phenomena--its impact on earth--its inhabitants."

Note to Editors: This material may be used or edited at your discretion. It can be used as a two or three-part story or condensed to fit your publication needs. We would appreciate receiving tear sheets for our files if the material is used whole or in part.

John Uldrich was co-founder of Vexilar Inc., a pioneer in the development of leading-edge technology in the field of sonar and temperature sensing equipment for sport and commercial fishing. He is a member of the Fishing Hall of Fame and was responsible for the creation of the first "Preferred Fish Feeding Temperature Chart" for both fresh and salt water species of game fish in the late sixties and early seventies. His firm was also a pioneer in the development of sonar search and recovery systems for use in law enforcement rescue and recovery operations and archeological field research.
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Fish and game forecasting has been part of the North American scene since 1937 when the first activity table was prepared and syndicated through newspapers and outdoor publications. A Pennsylvania banker, an avid outdoorsman, made a life-long habit of reading, studying and recording information about daily fish and game feeding and migration patterns. He attributed the breakthrough in making meaningful predictions to an old-time "market hunter" from South Georgia who lived by what he could bring down with his punt-mounted "long gun", nets' and traps. This backwoods hunter learned from his father--who learned from his father--that the best hunting and fishing coincided with "moon up" and "moon down".

Simplified, this meant that the best times of the day were tied to those periods when the moon was either directly above -- or directly below a transit line on earth. Later, as the system became better known and understood, four periods during the twenty-four hour and fifty minute Lunar Day were identified; these came to be known as Major and Minor periods. The Major periods were based on "Moon up" and "Moon down". Minor periods were the times of the Lunar Day when the moon was at a 90-degree angle to the right and left of that same transit point.

Improved fishing and hunting appears to be directly tied to the increased gravitational forces occurring when the moon, closest planet to earth and therefore primarily responsible for the creation of this awesome force, is exerting maximum gravitational effects on our planet. Fish and game, like the human body and composed primarily of liquids, are affected, to molecular exact-ness, by these daily forces. Today, it is generally understood that the combined effects of sun and the moon are primarily responsible for the moving forces. Hence, the use of the coined word, "Solunar" stemming from "solar" for sun, "lunar" for moon. The word has now become generic in its use and application.

Long before daily charts were made available, man, going back to the caveman days, had a basic understanding about these om-nipresent force factors and used the empirical information intuitively to meet his needs for sustenance.

The first recorded observation of gravitational forces is attributed to Pliny the Elder, at the beginning of the Christian era. In his work, Historia Naturalis, he noted that at Cadix, near the Temple of Hercules, "....there is a closed source similar to a well which occasionally rises and falls with the ocean, but at other times does the opposite....”

Abel, the early mathematician, in 1824 was the first to show that the earth was influenced by lunar-solar attraction. Studies carried out by d'Abbadie in 1833 near the Gulf of Gascogne, using baths of mercury, correctly linked ocean tides to earth tides for the first time. C.A. Peters, in 1844 published the first correct calculations for predicating such events.

In the U.S. the Coast and Geodetic Survey (now called National Ocean Survey) had been supplying navigators with information by which they could predict their own data since 1844. This was done by including mean high-water luni-tidal intervals (the interval between the moons’s upper or lower transit over the local meridian and the following high water) and tidal ranges on the Survey’s nautical charts.

One published method for improving the crude predictions apparently derived from John Lubbock’s research in England, 1830's, provided corrections for the effects of the phase of the moon and the declination and parallax of the moon and the sun. The correlation between some tidal and lunar parameters as noted above had been used long before the time of Newton.Another related issue is that concerning “rigidity.” Only in recent times has the belief that the globe was not rigid but deformable or "plastic" in nature, begun to be accepted.

Today, with the use of precision measuring technology, including satellites such as LAGEOS and GOBI, (Geophysical Ocean-Bottom Instrument) sensing stations, scientists have determined that these "-electromagnetic forces" cause the earth's outer crust to deform up to 18 inches during the course of the Lunar Day. Small wonder then that these same forces, acting upon objects made primarily of water molecules, and blood cells containing iron atoms, are affected to some degree, by these repetitive and changing geomag-netic forces.

An important consideration for those interested in the distinc-tion between "earth tides" and "ocean tides" is that "earth tides", upon which virtually all forecast systems are based, ignore the final result -- ocean tides. The reason: ocean tides can lag up to 12 hours behind the force itself.

Another way to view these phenomena is to consider the tidal forces in the Bay of Fundy (an inlet of the Atlantic in southeas-tern Canada between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Earth Tide forces create tidal bores reaching 55 feet in height while on some beaches in Tahitian waters in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away, tidal effect is measured in fractions of an inch. Bottom topography and the length of time it takes a massive body of water to react to gravitational forces rhythmically pulsing throughout our solar system are the key force factors in-volved in the daily tides themselves.

In 1877, England's Sir William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin, building on prior research, showed that amplitudes observed at the surface of the earth, for each phenomena deriving from this potential (oceanic tides, and variations in the force of gravity) would be affected by the deformation of the surface.* Today, virtually all calculations for earth or ocean tide predictions are linked to this man's work. In this respect, Lord Kelvin could rightfully be designated "Father of Fish and Game Activity Tables". Lord Kelvin's work was transformed into practical application in the latter part of the 19th century.

Lord Kelvin and George Howard Darwin, in the latter part of the 19th Century, developed the harmonic method of analyzing and predicting tides. The first such machine, an analog device, was created by Lord Kelvin in 1873. It summed 10 constituent forces. William Ferrel of the Coast and Geodetic Survey created one using 19 forces and R.A. Harris and E.G. Fischer of the same office created one using 37 forces in 1910. This unit was in continuous operation until the early 1960's when Univac-designed computers took over the function.

Understanding the “constituent forces” requires the knowledge that any tidal constituent has a frequency equal to an integral sum and/or difference of six fundamental frequencies corresponding to the following periods:

1. 1 day (period of Earth’s rotation relative to the sun)
2. 1 month (period of Moon’s orbital motion around the earth)
3. 1 year (period of Earth-Moon orbital motion around Sun)
4. 8.85 years (period of lunar perigee)
5. 18.61 years (period of regression of lunar nodes)
6. 20,900 years (period of solar perigee)

Today, it is possible, to solve large matrices such as tidal calculations via Fourier analysis and employing large, entrained computer arrays. It is not clear however whether the small improvement gained justifies substituting the response method obtained from the classical harmonic methods pioneered by Lord Kelvin.

Today, in Rockville, Maryland, in the outer lobby of the U.S. Government's Office of Oceanographic Research, is a huge, brass machine weighing thousands of pounds and made up of hundreds of cogged wheels and pin settings. Using Kelvin's tables of "constituent forces" (which incorporate force factors based on the entire solar system), the wheel and pin system was set into motion and, with precision, a tidal prediction could be made for any place on earth! Without being aware of it, these early scientists had created the first "Solunar fish and game forecasting" mechanism. A similar device is at the Smithsonian Institute. In effect, a mechanical analog computer, it functions to some degree like Stonehenge in England which can accurately predict the arrival of the summer and winter solstice.

So much for the past -- the theoretical...how does knowledge of these "Earth Tide Factors" impact the practical-- improve one's hunting and fishing?

A well-known professional fisherman and tackle designer, who also produces fishing shows for television shown world-wide, always schedules his filming against the full or dark moon. Having noted that 70 percent of all world record catches have been made when the moon was a significant factor, he calls the phenomena, the "Lunar Influence" and, one to be reckoned with!

Two U.S. biologists announced in the 1980's, a discovery of a link between a hormone--thyroxin -- and the moon's electromagnetic forces. They had determined that the silver salmon smolt (one prepared to migrate from stream to ocean) reaches prime physiolo-gical readiness within one or two days of a new moon in March or April of each year. Their studies indicated that peak levels of thyroxin in salmon occur within a few days of a new moon and that thyroxin is what triggers the change from a grilse (salmon in pre-smolt stage) to smolt. A new moon occurs when the sun, moon, and earth are lined up and the moon is not seen at night. These scientists believe linking release of hatchery-produced smolt to the correct moon phase can assure a much higher survival rate of young salmon -- a boon to fishermen!

Research conducted in the mid-sixties at the University of Illinois under Dr. F.A. Brown, Jr., provided the most dramatic proof that there was a direct link between tidal forces and earth tides; bivalves, urchins, and sea slugs, transported from the east coast to the mid-western university for lab experiments were put under close observation. Within a matter of days it was noted that the specimens were responding to "eastern" time but after a week in their new home, had all adjusted to the invisible but neverthe-less, powerful "earth tides" pulling at them from their new transit point on the face of earth -- Evanston, Illinois. This casual observation triggered a series of studies on these phenome-na. It was not, however, the first . . .

Preceding the now famous Brown Studies, Ernest Thompson Seton, in his Life Histories of Northern Animals, published in 1909, stated, "A favorite time for (feeding) forays is in the moon-light; and the rising of the moon is, in all much-hunted regions, a signal for the deer to go forth. Many supposed irregularities in their habits will be explained by reference to the lunar calendar...."

More recently, studies conducted on the Welder Wildlife Refuge in Texas, a Ph.D... Dissertation on the "Daily and Seasonal Activity Patterns of White tailed Deer", showed significantly increased movement took place in the new moon phase.

The research data base related to the "Earth Tide Phenomena" continues to grow, and with it, the useful body of knowledge available to man in his pursuit of the simple pleasures. As with many tools available to the fisher and hunter person, bird watcher or wildlife observer, fish and game forecasts are only part of the total matrix. Wind, weather conditions, time-of-day, species sought, and numerous other "constituent factors" here on earth combine with the Solunar forces and must be considered. Fish and game forecasts are just one of the many tools the "compleat" sportsperson has at his or her beck and call.

This was put into its proper perspective through the observation of the noted writer Hilaire Belloc: “When they pontificate on the tides it does no great harm, for the sailorman cares nothing for their theories, but goes by real knowledge.” Substitute “Fisherman” for “sailorman” and you have it all.


*The subject of earth crust deformation is part of the on-going research being conducted here in China. Prone to massive earthquakes, Chinese geologists and earthquake researchers are examining the potential linkage between actual earthtide forces and the onset of an earthquake.

John Uldrich for the Vektor Institute. Selected Bibliography for interested readers:

J. Harker, "Diurnal Rhythms in the Animal Kingdom," Biological Review, XXXIII (1958),.

F. A. Brown, Jr., Biological Clocks, Boston: American Institute of Biological Sciences, 1962.

F. A. Brown, Jr., "The Rhythmic Nature of Animals and Plants," American Scientist, XLVII (1959), No. 2, 164.

Leaton, Malin, and Finch, "The Solar and Luni-Solar Variations of the Geomagnetic Field at Greenwich and Abinger, 1916-1957," Obs. Bull. G.B., LIII (1962), D273-D 318.

Rachel L. Carson, The Sea Around Us, Oxford University Press, 1950.

John D. Palmer, "Biological Clocks of the Tidal Zone" Scientific American (Vol. 232, No. 2, February, 1975).

Cartwright, D., W. Munk and B. Zetler, Pelagic Tidal Measurements, EOS, 50, 7, 472-477, 1969

Ferrel, W., Report of Meteorological Effects on tides from Observations. Report of the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey for the year 1871, 1871

Munk, W. And K. Hasselmann, Super-resolution of Tides. Studies on Oceanography, Hidaka Volume (Tokyo) 339-344, Reprinted, Univ. Of Washington Press, 1965

Munk, W. And D. E. Cartwright, Tidal Spectroscopy and Prediction. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Of London, A. 1105, 259, 533-581, 1966

Zetler, B. D., The Use of Power Spectrum Analysis for Earth tide. Marees Terrestres Bulletin d’Information, 35, 1157-1164, 1964

Zetler, B. D., and D. Cartwright and W. Munk, Tidal Constants Derived From Response Admittances., Sixth International Symposium on Earth Tides, Strasbourg, 175-178, 1969

Boyd W. Walker, "The Timely Grunion" Natural History, (Vol. LXVIII, No. 6, July, 1959.

Arnold L. Lieber, The Lunar Effect, Doubleday/Anchor Press, Garden City N.J., 1978

Brown, Palmer & Hastings, The Biological Clocks, Academic Press, New York, 1970.

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