Tackle and Tactics
Time, tide and weather.
30 April 2009
This page continues the theme of my last Tack-Tics piece on when and where to fish. Of course time and tide are well known to wait for no man. Probably one of the commonest questions I get relating to shore fishing is something like - "Should I be fishing at high water to catch bass, wrasse, mullet, etc.?" Of course the answer is "It all depends!" So, what does it depend on?
The first thing to consider is that each species will have its preferred time of day for feeding. Trying to catch wrasse in the middle of the night would clearly be futile - they are asleep. Dogfish, on the other hand, switch on after dark. To some extent these patterns may be affected by the depth of water (nocturnal fish may feed in daytime in the gloomy depths) or by turbidity (a stir can colour things up and induce activity) conversely clear water and a bright moonlit night may put them off. However, the general idea is clear choose your species according to when you will be fishing.
I suppose if you asked sea anglers what the most important factor to consider when it comes to fishing they would say "The state of the tide!" This is not exactly true. Logic suggests that fish will NOT stop feeding simply because it's a spring tide or a neap tide, a high tide or a low tide. Whatever the tide is doing something, somewhere will be on the feed, all you have to do is find out what and where. Take the bass, a species with which I'm very familiar. I know places in my local area where I can catch bass fairly consistently at high water springs, at low water neaps, on the flood, on the ebb or at more or less any state of the tide. I pick and choose my spots according to the time of day and/or the sea conditions and/or the ease of fishing (cross winds, surf, amount of weed and so on). With so many factors to consider it can be fairly complicated and altogether you can spend a lifetime finding out the combinations (I almost have).
However, the thing to do is start from what you know and gradually fill in the picture. The simple approach (and almost the only one mentioned by most angling authors) is to fish incoming spring tides. This makes some sense because every rising tide covers fresh feeding areas for the fish. Bottom feeding fish such as flounder, wrasse, bass and the like will follow the rising water in search of worms, clams, crabs, shrimps and fish revealed as they resume activity after their enforced low water rest. However, THIS IS FAR FROM BEING THE WHOLE STORY! In some places, the top of the tide may be the taking time. For example in Dorset, where I live, the very biggest spring tides are normally the only ones that reach 'maggot middens' along the shore and attract bass and mullet to feed on the maggots. In other spots the ebbing tide eddies round over rocky ledges and the bass wait to pick up morsels swept over the ledge. Yet other ledges are subject to the full upchannel flow of the tide and the bass sit on top of the ledge to pick off sandeels swept along in the strong flow. The examples are endless and I couldn't tell you everything even if I knew it.
So apart from the ability to think like a fish what information do you need to suss out your local fishing? Firstly you could do with information on tides and hours of daylight. These are readily available on Admiralty Easytide internet sites which show not only tidal charts but also the times of sunrise and sunset. Since the charts refer to specific ports and positions you may have to adjust a wee bit for the precise spot you intend to fish but the information will be there. There are also charts accompanied by wind arrows showing you whether a particular area is likely to be sheltered or exposed to the full force of the gale. For this I use the surfer's information on 'surf-forecast' but there are lots of others. Secondly you need a map to show you which way your available shorelines will be facing. So, arm yourself with Google Earth, the Admiralty tide predictor and the surfer's weather information and your fishing should become much more productive. Of course since our weather is so unpredictable there will be times when you arrange a trip only to find that fishing is impossible but that, as they say, is fishing.
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - firstname.lastname@example.org
Time and tide.