Is it Better to Fish at High or Low Tide?
To fish at high or low tide, are probably the worst times to fish. When the water level reaches high or low tide, there may be no movement in the water for several minutes or several hours, depending on the tide schedule and the time of the year.
Being in the right place at the right time is perhaps the most important part of a successful fishing foray. If you aren’t where the fish are, you can be assured you will not be catching anything. Water level, water movement, and movement direction all play a vital role in where the fish will be located.
When water isn’t moving, fish are less likely to be feeding. This is because the bait-fish and other small marine animals that fish feed on are not in movement. During this slack period, many burrows into the mud or sand.
Because water is in motion when a tide is changing, these times are the best times to fish. A falling tide occurs when a tide changes from high tide to low tide and is the best time of the day to fish.
The best time to take advantage of a falling tide is two hours before low tide. As the water changes from high tide to low tide, the water slowly begins to push out. The rate at which the water is pushing out increases. The faster the water is moving out, the better the fishing; game fish are used to taking advantage of this time to feed on the smaller bait fish being pushed out to sea.
A rising tide occurs when the tide is changing from low to high tide. Although it may not be nearly as favorable to fish in a rising tide as to fish in a falling tide, fishing is very good thanks to the movement of the water and the feeding activity of the fish.
High and Low Tides
If you’ve ever been to the beach and built a sand castle, then you should at one particular point have witnessed it being washed away when the water came in. In addition, you could have also probably waited for the water to go out again so that you could hunt for seashells.
The periodic rise and fall of the water line along ocean coasts are known as tides. They are very long-period waves that move through the oceans in response to the forces exerted by the moon and sun. Tides originate in the oceans and progress toward the coastlines where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea surface.
Tides are a part of oceans’ water movement throughout the globe. The high tide is the time when the sea is at its highest level because the tide is in. When the tide is out, the sea is usually at its lowest level, known as the low tide. The difference in height between the high tide and the low tide is called the tidal range.
When the tide ebbs from a beach, a high tide is piling up elsewhere. At low tide, the water moves to the antipodes, (the points diametrically opposite to us). So, when the two opposite sides of the globe are experiencing high tide, the sides between them are experiencing low tide.
On the coast, the water may rise up to two meters during high tide, whereas in mid-ocean, the water may rise only to about a meter or so. In most places, high and low tides happen twice a day.
What is Causing the Tides to Appear?
Gravity! Yes! The main reason for the cause of high and low tides is gravity. Gravity is a force that pulls objects together, kind of like a magnet. The Earth has gravity, but so do the Moon and the Sun.
The key to appreciating how the ocean tides occur is understanding the relationship between the Sun and Moon and the motion of our planet. As the Earth rotates on its own axis, the ocean water is kept at equivalent levels around the planet by the gravity of Earth pulling inward and the centrifugal force pushing outward.
Because the Moon is closer to the Earth than the sun, it affects the tides the most as the gravitational forces of the Moon are sufficiently strong to disturb this balance by accelerating the flow of water towards the Moon.
As the earth rotates or turns, the force of the Moon’s gravity pulls on it, but with less strength. In fact, it’s fair enough to say that tides would not occur if there was no gravitational attraction between the Earth and the Moon.
The Moon’s gravitational force is different on different parts of the Earth’s surface, with the effect not seen much on land, but as the Earth rotates, the effect can be seen on the oceans and other major water bodies. It is the gravitational pull of the moon that causes the oceans and other major water bodies to bulge out towards the Moon.
When the gravitational pull is at its highest point, it results in a high tide, which is the highest level of the tide. When the pull is at its lowest point, we see a low tide or the lowest level of the tide.
The effect of the Moon’s gravitational pull on Earth results to the Earth being pulled away from the water on the opposite side of the Earth, making the water on that side bulge as well. Therefore, high tide occurs on both sides of the planet at the same time. We experience tides throughout the day, due to the earth’s constant rotation.
How do Tides Affect Fish?
Tidal movement is a key factor in catching fish as the movement controls various fishing factors. Tidal movements affect where different fish species hang out or congregate, when and how they feed and influence where you can fish and when.
Tides are known to produce current. Current is the movement or flow of water which is affected by tides. Tidal flow or current provides one of the main things all fish need; food. The feeding cycle of fish is directly affected by the movements of the tides.
The influence of the tide is strongest in shallow water, particularly estuarine, bay and harbor habitats, and also around islands and reefs which ‘squeeze’ the tide through narrow channels. In addition, tide also affects deep water fishing too, dictating where fish hold in relation to structure and concentrating food in eddies (circular movement of water that causes a small whirlpool) and upwellings (deeper nutrient-rich water pushed to the surface).
Tidal current sweeps or flushes out crustaceans and small marine animals and plants along with it from the marshes and back bays, concentrating them in eddies.
Wherever and whenever a structure like rocks or reefs interrupt the water flow, all kinds of fish know, and take advantage of this, gathering where the food is concentrated as they are now in a feeding mode when the tide starts moving. When small fish and smaller organisms are washed in with the rising tide, the larger fish will follow and feed on them, leaving when the food source is finished.
How to Locate Fish within the Tides?
Determining where fishes group are in relation to the tides is an important factor for the success of fishing when drifting or fishing at anchor. To locate concentrations of the school of fish and bait, be sure to use your fish finder as with this device, you can determine whether the fishes are holding down-tide or low-tide structure or if they are on one side and position the boat so you can fish them.
However, fishes can move away from the structure where the eddy current concentrates the food. When the fish turns and relocate, be always prepared to move with the tide. A fishing spot may be able to produce results at some points in the tide and for this you may consistently catch a fish on a spot during low tide and not during the high tide.
When it comes to backcountry and estuary fishing, a high outgoing tide means fish will be concentrating in the tidal outflow areas and moving to deeper holes in the creeks and rivers.
It is therefore wise to be knowledgeable of numerous creek holes and places on the outside bend of a creek where the water is deeper in many creeks as they hold fish most at any particular time of the year, different species and different seasons. Start far upstream at slack high tide and begin to fish your way back downstream.
Taking note of the tides whenever you go fishing in a particular spot will help you identify the patterns in fishing and eventually, you can discover new spots that you haven’t had an idea to be good spots to fish at high or low tide.
Tide Movement Brings Food
The influence of tidal changes on a fish’s feeding and migrating habits cannot be understated. They move with the tide and feed at locations that provide them either access to food being moved by the tides or the ambush ability at that food.
Both rising and falling tides affect the feeding behavior and cycle of fish. In most parts of the world, fish that cling to coastal areas feed mainly on the flood tide, when tiny micro-organisms are washed with warm water in winter and with cold water in summer.
There are times when the fish feed at the start of the flood tide and the tail end of the ebb tide. This explains the variation in the diet of fish species from one region to another at different times. What may seem indicative of certain fish species eating habits in one place may not be the same anywhere else at a short distance away.
All types of fish benefit from this, gathering where the food is concentrated. When small fish and smaller organisms are washed with the rising tide, the larger fish will follow and feed on them and leave when the food source is finished.
Why it’s Preferred to Have Tide Charts While Fishing?
Tides can move massive water amounts even in a short period of time, thus affecting fish at high and low tides. With this, it can greatly alter the accessibility and depth of the site, especially in areas with the considerable tidal shift. Tides can also create strong currents which can be dangerous for fishermen who have not prepared in advance and are inexperienced.
Even though there are several factors that affect the tidal movements, it’s to your advantage that tides are predictable at specific locations. This, therefore, allows agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the National Ocean Service to create annual tide tables and charts.
The tide tables and chart are formatted differently; however, all the necessary information is always there. In general, the tide charts include information such as the time, date, and height of low and high tides in feet or meter.
Tide heights can differ within a 10 to 15-mile range. It also includes the correction part which allows making adjustments for your specific area. The most important data to note from tide charts include; high tide information, low tide information and the chart datum.
Tide tables help you choose the best time to go fishing. As tide times can vary depending on the spot you are fishing, it’s safest to check real-time data on currents and tides for the selected dates. Tide tables are usually available for the week ahead, but you should check a day or two before getting out. This will let you stay on top of the game.
What is the Rule of Twelves?
If the tide is too high, incidences of closeouts increase, while if the tide’s too low, waves can be mushy or slow-rolling. That is why we must adapt to the tides to get the most out of a fishing session.
If the table you are using only expresses final figures, for example, the height during the high and low tides, you can calculate the interim number with the use of the rule of twelves.
The Rule of Twelves is a rule of thumb for estimating the height of the tide at any given time. The rate of flow in a tide increases smoothly to a maximum halfway point between high and low tide, before smoothly decreasing to zero again.
The idea behind the rule of twelves is that the tide can fluctuate over six hours, thus, the range of the tide can be divided into 1/12th units.
This means that in the first hours of a tidal shift, you may notice that the tide might not rise/fall so much, yet the entire process will accelerate through the mid hours. Tide times available on tide charts usually tell you the exact hour and minute of both low and high tide.
The Rule of Twelves applies to the semi-diurnal tide – a tide having two high-waters and two low-waters during a tidal day, which is exactly what happens in most locations. The semi-diurnal tide period lasts for a period of 12 hours and 25.2 minutes from low to high tide and then repeats back to low tide again.
Falling and Rising Tides
Also known as running tides, rising or falling tides are the best to fish since they cause the bait to move and provoke active feeding among coastal fish.
When the tide rises and water moves towards the land, it is then known as the flood tide. When it drops and moves back to the sea it is called the ebb tide. The “slack” tide is the period when the tide moves neither way and is the least desirable time to fish, as the stagnant water is not conducive for feeding.
Outgoing tides, or falling tides, will often carry the bait out into creeks and channels. If you fish an inshore area as the tide is going out, you are likely to see other anglers focusing on the mouth of the estuary. The reason for this is because game fish will often wait at the mouth of an estuary to feed on any baitfish or crustaceans as they are swept along with the outgoing current.
An incoming tide, or rising tide, is considered to be one of the best fishing tide times. As the tide begins to rise and water flows over the saltwater flats, fish begin to patrol these areas in search of food.
It takes about 6 hours for the tide to go from low to high and 6 hours from high to low. Every 24 hours the tides occur approximately 50 minutes later.
Tides also vary in the degrees to which they rise or drop. When the moon and sun are on the same side of the earth in a direct line the combined influence causes the highest tides. These are known as the spring tides and occur during the full moon and new moon periods.
At this time the tides are both higher and lower than usual in a given area. During the first quarter and last quarter phases of the moon, the tides do not rise or fall as much. These are known as the neap tides.
Few tips while fishing at high and low tides
Using the tides to your advantage is a key skill for successful anglers. In many locations the fishing is good on one tide but not the other; i.e., good on the incoming tide but not the outgoing or vice versa. It is therefore important to learn which tide to fish for different locations if you don’t want to spend a lot of time catching nothing. The following tips have proven to be useful;
- Try and time fishing effort for when the tide is running. Fish such as snapper tend to bite most enthusiastically when the tidal flow is at its peak in the middle of the incoming or outgoing phase of the cycle, and the bite often drops off as the tide slows towards the high or low water.
- A good technique to try on an incoming tide is to fish between the deeper water beyond the edge of the flat and cast out to fish that may be moving onto the flat along with the rising tide.
- In summer and autumn especially, it can be effective to drift over mud and sand flats with a making tide, casting lures or baits, or anchor as quietly as possible and cast lightly weighted or unweighted baits down a barley trail in a few meters of water.
- As the tide drops, fish move back into deeper water. In harbors and estuaries, it’s often possible to intercept them as they drop back into the guts and channels that drain the flats by anchoring the boat and fishing where feeder channels enter the main body of water.
- You can always try inshore areas around dock pilings or other structures as predatory game fish can often be found near structures on an outgoing tide. Structures such as pilings or jetties are good places for fish to ambush prey as it is carried out of the estuary on the outgoing tide.
In conclusion, when the tide changes, the water is in movement and this is the best time to fish. Always considering the tide of the water is key to having a successful and meaningful fishing experience. Professionals and beginners would check the tide first to have a safe journey and have a bountiful catch.
The tides can affect fishing because it can move the food of the fishes and when there’s food, there are surely groups of fish. In general, a moving tide is an appropriate tide to fish.
In addition, always remember to factor in more into your fishing equation than just the tide. Always consider the location, phases of the moon, tide stands, base points, the wind, and time of the year to have a good fishing expedition.