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'Supermoon,' for slamming

3/16/2011

PALATKA, Fla. -- The March 19 "supermoon" will look bigger than other full moons, and it could play big in the March 17-20 Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Johns River.

According to astronomers at earthsky.org, a supermoon is a full moon that falls on the same date as perigee within a lunar month. Perigee is the closest point to Earth in the moon's elliptical orbit. The orbit varies somewhat, so some lunar perigees are closer than others to earth, and the March 19 perigee is one of them.

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Thus the anglers are facing what's sometimes called an "extreme supermoon."

While not a negative, a supermoon is a factor that could play big for some anglers who are sight fishing or who are fishing the tides. The closer the moon is to earth, the greater the force it exerts on tides and on the behavior of wildlife. And, although this does not affect sportfishing, the full moon will appear larger to the human eye.

When they gathered Wednesday afternoon for the event's registration after three days of practice, some Bassmaster Elite Series pros said they had never heard of a supermoon. After all, this is relatively new ground; a supermoon happens only once in a blue ... um, rather, only once in a while.

Peter Thliveros, whose home water is the St. Johns River, had researched the coming phenomenon.

"What we're going to have, apparently, is a real high, high tide, and a real low, low tide," he said. "It's going to affect the fish, and the low-low is going to affect the fisherman, too, in some areas. A lot of guys are going to try to get into places they may not get out of. If you're not watching the tide, you can get stuck for a couple of hours."

Water clarity can be a key to a sight-fishing pattern. If the water is clear enough -- in the area's natural springs, for example -- then a higher tide isn't going to change anything. If a higher-than-normal tide covers the beds with more stained water, then that sight bite could be in trouble.

"We don't have a drastic tide fluctuation here. It rises 18 inches, falls 18 inches, usually not more than that. A supermoon will change that by 6 inches either way," Thliveros said.

Kelly Jordon said that a stronger lunar pull on bass could help bring the big spawners up.

"We'll see," he said. "When it's closer, there is a greater effect. The tides are bigger -- they're always big on a full moon and on a new moon -- but now they're going to be as huge as they can be."

That does not affect all the areas anglers will be fishing, he noted. Rodman Reservoir, a noted spawning area, for example, is not a tidal water.

"If the moon is the influence to bring them (bass) up, and if we have a super moon, it just ought to be super. I hope it's super for me. We'll find out later."

Two notes: The experts at Earthsky.org note that the March 19 supermoon is the moon's closest encounter with Earth since December 2008. The moon won't come this close again until November 2016. And, say the site's astronomers as well as other reputable sources, a supermoon did not cause the Japanese earthquake or tsunami for the simple reason that the supermoon has not yet happened.