What impact does the tide have when fishing

By August 2, 2017Equipment

The tide is one of the most important factors that can influence your fishing. As the old saying goes, no flow no go, it is quite common knowledge that fish are more active and more likely to feed when there is tidal activity present (also, fish finders can be handy here). In this article we will look at how tidal flow affects fish and their feeding habits along with their movements in tidal waters.

Tides play a crucial role in waterways worldwide. Tidal changes allow water to move in and out of waterways bringing with it food sources for a wide range of marine animals from crustaceans to fish. Without tides, fish and other marine species would have to work hard to find their food rather than have it delivered to them via tides. Many fish avoid having to expend energy chasing food, instead opt to wait in the tidal flows for food sources to wash into their paths. Many fish have based their feeding habits around the flow of the tide. This is true for the Flathead, which is an ambush species that like to wait in the gutters and channels of sand or mudflats on the outgoing tide waiting for small baitfish to wash off the shallow flats with the outgoing flow of water. Other species such as pelagics (Mackeral, Tuna, Tailor) will ride the tidal flows hunting down schools of bait fish that get pushed up against reefs or underwater structure.

Reef fish use the incoming tides as an opportunity to move higher into the reef structure that was previously too shallow to venture. This provides the fish with more options for food as baitfish find refuge in the shallows away from hungry predators. As the tide retreats, reef fish will base themselves on the edge of the reefs to ambush the baitfish as they too drift off the shallows by the outgoing tidal flow.

At high tide, bread and butter species such as Whiting and Bream will move onto sandflats chasing food such as worms, small crabs and other crustaceans. This is a great opportunity for anglers to target fish only metres from the shoreline. When targeting species like whiting only a simple fishing setup is required as mentioned in another article recently published {internal link}. These species are most commonly targeted by families and children as they are found in nearly all waterways and rather easy to catch. I have fond memories of my younger years growing up catching whiting with my mum on the Gold Coast, Australia.

The tides can also cause trouble when fishing especially around new or full moons. The tides found around these moon cycles can result in a change of 2 metres in water height between low and high tide, resulting in extremely fast tidal flows which can often make your regular fishing location nearly impossible to fish. When the tides are flowing fast, the only option is to increase the weight of your tackle however this can influence how your baits are presented to the fish and result in a decrease in fishing success. It is often recommended by anglers of old that the best times to fish are 2 hours either side of the high and low tides. This is the time the fish are most active moving in and around their feeding grounds.

Low tides provide fishermen with the opportunity to venture out onto sand and mud flats where a large assortment of marine animals can be found. Mangrove regions provide a great home for mud crabs which with the right experience and knowledge can be hunted by hand in the muddy holes around the base of the mangrove trees. Bait such as yabbies and bloodworms can be extracted from the mudflats using a manual hand pump, or otherwise know as simply a yabbie pump. Yabbies and worms are a great natural bait for a wide variety of fish that also feed on the flats when the tide comes in.

Whether you are in a boat or a kayak, you can definitely use the tides to your own advantage especially when drift fishing. Drift fishing allows you to quietly cover a large expanse of territory without the use of a motor or paddling. The goal is to utilise the flow of the tide to carry your vessel over your desired fishing region. This could be done out in the bay or by drifting up a river. If you time your fishing adventure correctly, you can drift one way with the incoming tide, and then simply drift back to your original location with the change of tide. If you have a fish finder {internal link} with GPS capability, this will allow you to track your drifts with more detail and precision.

So with a general understanding of how tides work, you should be able to base your fishing adventures with this knowledge to increase your chances of catching fish. With 2 high tides and 2 low tides a day, this gives you a range of opportunities to fish different zones of your local waterways targeting different fish at different tides. To learn more about how tides can affect your fishing, please read our article on moon phases and fishing. {internal link}