Thursday, September 8, 2016


Timing is everything, especially when it comes to fishing moving water.
By Alberto Knie
If you asked me this critical question some 40 years ago, my answer would have been no because I really didn’t think it was an important factor. Back then, it was mostly a guessing game. I always wondered why I caught fish on certain days, and on other ones I couldn’t buy a bite. I often wound up frustrated and puzzled, consoling myself with the notion that what I was doing was simply validating why we call it fishing and not catching. I soon realized there was much to learn.
Curiosity definitely got the best of me, and as I logged more and more hours on the water, I began to research and evaluate why and when I caught fish. My logbooks were vital in helping to decipher the fish-catching puzzle, and eventually it became evident that the stage of the tide played a pivotal role in my successful days.
FISH SMARTERThis revelation quickly changed the way I fish and eliminated all of the guesswork and non-productive time. These days, I fish much smarter. If you ask me if there is a wrong tide, the answer would be a profound yes. Let’s just say that I depend on a tide chart and it helps me be productive on the water. At this stage of my life, my time is limited and I always plan my days accordingly. In essence, I fish less hours and catch more fish. It may sound contradictory, but once you understand the need to concentrate your efforts on the most productive stages of the tide, it all makes sense. But before I break it down and get into the specifics, you have to ask yourself: How important is fishing the “right” tide?
Prior to writing this article, I asked a few novice fishermen this important question and surprisingly, their responses were all the same. Most people don’t have the time (or the know-how) to understand it, and they simply want to enjoy the outdoors, or just fish whenever their schedule permits. For the most part, they seem to rely on pure luck and just enjoy their day off.
"Once you’ve zeroed in on an ideal tide and it coincides with the presence of baitfish, the probability of encountering good action increases dramatically."
In order to validate my case study, I asked some top-notch surfcasters the same question and their answers invariably fell into step with my own findings. Many of the respondents also commented that they would never go out without knowing the stage of the tide.
Now that I have given you something to think about, I will share my in-depth perspective with you. Keep in mind that fishing is an art and there are other factors to consider, but understanding which tide to fish is the foundation (and first step) to consistency and quality in your fishing.
Those “other factors” I referred to include wind conditions, water clarity, time of year, structure, location, moon phases, water temperature, time of day and migration, to name a few. All of this can be daunting, but it’s all part of the fishing game.
I’ve been told that tides can be extremely difficult to understand, so without dwelling on the scientific aspects of the moon or how the moon affects water movement, I will spare you the headaches and give you the preferable feeding tides. Although many parts of the world have different tide patterns, it’s safe to say the Atlantic Coast’s day is divided by six hours with four tides to each day. In other words, there are two high tides and two low tides within a 24-hour period.
The common and identifiable tides are the “high” and “low” tides. What that really means is that the water is moving at its strongest point (and it happens to be the most difficult time to fish). Please also know that it takes time for the water flow to slow before changing direction. That period is called “slack water” and it’s usually very short lived. Please bear in mind, the prime time to fish is when the water starts to slow down. To simplify matters, let’s just say the best time to fish is the last 90 minutes before and after the slack tide. Hand’s down, that’s the magic hour (and a half) to fish. As the clock ticks closer to the slack period, the current slows and eventually comes to a halt. Subsequently, most gamefish move to other structure or staging areas. Contrary to what many people believe, a lot of big fish are caught during and near the slack phase.
Why do fish prefer feeding during this time? All living things need to eat and fish are no different. Undeniably, there is a preferable time to eat and the ability to identify a prime feeding period is critical to all anglers’ fishing success. For example, most humans are programmed with a general feeding pattern (breakfast, lunch and dinner). People go to a “location” (restaurant or dinner table) to eat.
In essence, fish also have a pre-set pattern but it’s generally dictated by the slower part of the current, where they can maximize their energy by ambushing or chasing down prey around some form of structure. Human feeding patterns are dictated by time, while fish patterns are dictated by tides. The stronger the current, the harder it is for the fish to chase and ambush their prey. Hence, the ideal time to fish is during those slower periods of the current. By understanding a species’ pattern, they become predictable and vulnerable.
SEASONAL TIPS You may still be wondering where to start and how tide is affected by each season. To help you better understand this concept, I’ve included a general guideline that should get you started. Keep in mind that you will also need to factor in the movement and migration patterns of baitfish. Once you’ve zeroed in on an ideal tide and it coincides with the presence of baitfish, the probability of encountering good action increases dramatically.
In the spring, back bays and shallow waters warm more quickly (than the ocean) and the outgoing, or ebb tide is preferred. Both parts of the changing tide are good but it’s also heavily dependent on the presence of bait.
Summer is the time to concentrate your efforts on the oceanfront and deeper water, where water temperatures are cooler and remain more consistent.
As fall arrives, the back bays and shallow areas are now cooler than the ocean water and the incoming or flood tide is ideal. (When old man winter shows up, I review my logbook, do equipment maintenance and take trips to exotic places.)
You should now be on your way to fishing smarter. In due time, your efforts will be rewarded with more consistent catches. This process also eliminates most of the guessing game and ultimately allows you to coordinate your efforts with prime feeding times. Along the way, I’m sure that you’ll raise the eyebrows of your peers, some of whom will simply credit your success as nothing more than luck. In fact, you have developed the ability to set an appointment with the fish of your dreams.

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