How Does Tide Affect Fishing?

January 23, 2023

Knowledge is power; let’s delve in and take a closer look at how tides affect fishing.

In their most basic form, tides are alternatively happening advances and retreats of seawater along a coastline. High tides occur when water advances to its maximum limit on the shoreline. On the other hand, the low tide is nothing but sea water receding to its furthest possible extent.

Usually, two high tides and two low tides happen each lunar day, which is the time it takes the moon to return to a specific position to us. A lunar day lasts 24 hours, 50 minutes, and 28 seconds. Apart from the high and low, tides could also be Spring Tides and Neap Tides.

We must remember that the advance and retreat of seawater, which we have already spoken of, occur by the gravitational pull exerted by primarily the Moon and the Sun to some extent.

Spring tides happen when the Sun and the Moon align with the planet Earth. They have a high tidal coefficient. On the other hand, neap tides come with a lower tidal coefficient and happen during the waxing and waning of moons. It is when the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth form a right angle between them.

It is pertinent to mention here that tidal coefficients are markers of the amplitude of the tide forecast, which is nothing but the difference in height between the consecutive high and low tides in an area.

With this preliminary knowledge of tides and their types, let us proceed into how tides affect fishing.

The Impact of Tides on Fishing

Before delving deeper into the external activity of fishing, let us try to briefly understand how tides impact marine ecosystems.

The Influence of Tides on the Marine Ecosystem

Intertidal zones are areas between the high tide and low tide. Tides influence the marine ecosystems that are to thrive in these zones. These zones are immersed in seawater throughout the day. Therefore, the marine ecosystems that grow here can survive underwater and in open air and sunlight.

Crabs in tide pool
Tide pool crab

Plants and animals that can anchor themselves along the rocks on the shoreline are more prone to grow here. They grow with the evolutionary advantage of knowing how to protect themselves from crashing waves. The marine life prevailing here should also know how to swim in shallow water and dig tunnels for retreat when the waves arrive and depart.

Tides also form tide pools, small pools of water left behind among the rocks at low tide. These pools include a diverse population of tiny plants and animals. Since these marine plants and small creatures serve as fodder for the large ones, these areas host a range of marine life of different sizes, including fish.

Understanding Tidal Current for Fishing

Understanding tidal currents or water movement during tides is vital to a fisherman’s strategy. Fishing becomes much more exciting and rewarding if one understands water flow well and knows how fish react to those movements.

One must remember that the currents differ dramatically in the high sea and along the coastline. On high Seas, they have little speed, while along the coastline, they can gather as much as up to 20 km/hour.

Now the theory or rule to remember while trying to ascertain which way the fish would move with the current is that fishes are always keen to conserve energy. They hardly fight and swim against the current. Fish swim following the water movement both offshore and inshore. Since they hang in eddies or behind structures such as pilings or points, fish are much more abundant in these golden areas and can produce hours of fun for any angler.

As an angler fishing in current, especially in shallow waters, one must always cast their presentation up-current so that it flows naturally. It is crucial to note that neither the small fish, who become prey for the big ones, nor the predators, love to swim against the tide.

When the tides are low, the sight-casters always look for spots that can trap or concentrate bait. Experienced anglers and fishermen are quick to discover these ambush points. Those who want to catch many fish in a relatively short time should look for the specific path on an outgoing tide through which baitfish and shrimp flow.

Game fish wait in these ambush spots, and with the timing right, one can easily catch a bunch of fish in one location alone. We already talked about eddies. They are good spots for fishermen as well.

One can locate eddies quickly if the current and structure are correct. These zones act as a massive blender of food, continually circling and churning around. What happens to the eddies occurs at a larger scale offshore in deeper waters.

We have already discussed Spring Tides and Neap Tides. The way tidal currents impact the activity of fish applies to these two types of tides as well. Anglers can identify spring tides by reading the tidal coefficient. During spring tides, the tidal coefficient is high, while neap tides have a lower tidal coefficient and are of less amplitude.

Fish activity increases during the Spring Tides.

The increase is even more evident when the Spring Tide timings coincide with sunrise or sunset. Contrarily, there is less movement on the seabed during neap tides. These days are considered by anglers and fishermen less favorable for fishing.

Wade fishing shallow, clear water.
Wade fishing shallow, clear water.

Fishing When Water Movement is Less

As we discussed fishing with the tidal currents, we must also look into fishing conditions when it is very little or almost no water movement. Expert anglers and fishermen believe there is a need to change strategies when tides fluctuate very little.

The ideal strategy should be to not focus on good moving-tide spots and concentrate on areas intercutting the islands or underwater weed beds that come with potholes.

Since the water movement is less and the tidal flow lighter, the bait movement is far less. It is crucial to saving time in one area. It is better to keep moving from one spot to another until one hits the bull’s eye – a place holding fish.

The Impact of Tides on Deep Sea Fishing

It is true that on the high seas, the tidal currents become muted. The farther one gets from the shore, the less impact the tide will have on the water. However, it does not imply that deep-sea fishing strategies should not consider tides. With the tide going out, fishes often move to the deeper waters.

Experienced fishermen and anglers know where to intercept this bunch of moving fish going out to the sea. Knowledge comes with experience. For instance, it is possible to ascertain where the current is concentrating the food sources. If such areas are located, it is possible to catch big fish, generally available offshore, near the shoreline.

The general perception often dictates that the food concentration will be against a reef as some currents create eddies or whirlpools out in open water. But it might only sometimes be the case. In the deep sea, the flow of a running tide often makes it challenging to use lures and baits efficiently.

Fishing in Adverse Offshore Conditions

Adverse conditions offshore arise from currents and tides battling each other. Such conflicting water streams create confusion for fishermen, anglers, and boaters. Such difficulties are more evident at the inlets and passes. It is crucial to be sure of which way the water is moving. It is because a powerful wind-aided current can overpower the tidal flow.

As we already discussed, fish tend to conserve energy. Anglers and fishermen who offer presentations that utilize the available water flow are more effective.

The Best Tides for Fishing

Your perfect fishing trip’s success is dependent on many factors. While understanding tides and their impact on the area you are fishing in is vital, the temperature of the water, the time of the fishing trip, the atmospheric pressure, and the wind flow – all play a role. When it comes to tides, the best time for you to fish is when you can.

It would help if you made the most of your efforts when the tide moves from high to low or low to high. As you come nearer to reaching the extreme of the high or low tide, it decelerates and stops moving. Also known as Slack, these conditions can sometimes be optimal to fish just as the water starts moving in or out.

It enhances enthusiasm among many offshore species when the tide flows freely. It is when the offshore species bite. Remember that the running tides – so conducive for fishing – are most substantial in shallow waters, estuaries, bays, harbors, and around islands or reefs.