Tidal Influenece – Does It Matter? John Boon 2017

Is bigger better? Or maybe the smaller ones seem to produce the goods. Before you check the front cover to see if you have picked up the wrong magazine by accident lets dive into which tides seem to get better results and why. Tidal influence is a major factor when looking to launch your next assault out on the briny.

It doesn’t matter what species you’re looking at chasing they can be caught on any tide within reason. It’s up to the angler to figure out where to look for the selected species and position themselves to take advantage throughout different stages of the tide cycle during that particular tide phase. Thinking along the lines of “they won’t be over there or we would be wasting our time looking in that area” needs to be chucked straight out the window. A process of elimination is a far better strategy. Never assume, take the time to prove that your idea is right or not.

“No run no fun”, that’s a quote that gets talked about a lot in the world of fishing. I’m a big believer in this saying for heading offshore. So what happens when the weather looks good for an offshore run but it falls on the neaps? Do you pack the gear away and look to do a bit of lawn maintenance? Hell No!!!! The fish are still out there but they may not be in the usual places that you find them on the spring tides.

With larger tidal run it’s very common to find species like red emperor taking refuge in tight behind bommies, reef edges and isolated structure making them an easy target. Concentrating your drifts on getting those baits into those areas will bring positive results.

I find on the smaller tides reds can still be found in these areas but with the lack of tidal run they tend to wonder right out away from the main structure and the numbers aren’t as concentrated. Very similar to cows grazing in an open paddock. We have seen it time and time again when you go to call “lines up” because the sounder looks lifeless and you are well away from the mark when all of a sudden someone hooks a good fish. They tend to be out foraging as the lack of tidal run lets them wonder for very little effort. Another interesting point is that on the small tides we tend to pull more reds from the fern grounds. Areas of flat low lying soft corals and fern that don’t seem to have any large structure present. It can be frustrating as they tend to spread out over a large area and the best way to target them is doing big long drifts.

Fishing the larger tidal runs around the full and new moons can also be frustrating. You get out to your favourite spot only to find it unfishable because of the large water movement. Pack up and go home right? Wrong. If you’ve sounded the area and there are fish showing then it can turn into the waiting game. As soon as the run slows enough to get a bait down you need to be there waiting. The window of opportunity can close really quick if the tide turns and starts running in the opposite direction. Sometimes you might only have half an hour or an hour of fishing time before it becomes unfishable again but that precious time can be the difference between doing well or doing poorly.

It can be beneficial to keep a diary of which particular spots are influenced by tidal run. It’s very hard to remember all the key points to a trip so noting it down is a good idea. I’ve had times while offshore when in one particular spot it has been washed out, we then moved 30km south away from the main reefs and we were on fishable ground again. Once you have this information you can start to plan trips around the tide phase you are looking at fishing thus giving you more fishing time and being in the right place at the right time is the essence of successful fishing.

So what about the estuaries? Does tidal run affect fish movement in the creeks and rivers? Of course it does. Lets have a look at the neap tides. The neap tides for our area occur around the quarter moons. If you look closely over an entire years tide chart for your area you can pick the best months where tidal run will be at a minimum. So what is the best thing about having small tides? Water clarity. With minimal difference between high and low the water won’t be moving much at all which will decrease sediment that has been stirred up by the larger tidal run around the full and new moons.

So why is water clarity so important? In my experience our best days lure fishing comes from when the water is clean. Not clean as in seeing the bottom but clean as when it starts to go that greeny colour. Fish seem to respond much better to lures in cleaner water. I’m by no means saying that you wont catch fish on lures in dirty water because we have done that plenty of times. What i’m saying is that when we have broken down all our estuary trips it’s one of the observations that keeps popping its head up and its hard to argue with proven facts.

Another tip about water clarity is to find out when the bottom tide of the neaps is. The tide with the least difference between high and low tide. It’s normally only a day or two either side of the quarter moon. So when you go past the the big tides around the full and new moons they will start to decrease in height and get smaller. When those tides are falling just remember it will take a few days of smaller tidal run to start improving water clarity.

Just to throw a can of worms in the mix, your own area will need to be scoped out and recored. We have certain sections of creeks around here on the Capricorn Coast that will only start to clean up on the smallest tides of the year. Other places will be clean as soon as you get near the neaps. You will soon work out where the better places are. Google Earth is a great tool to start searching for cleaner water. It can give you a good indication if a particular water way or section of river’s water clarity will improve.

Snags are a good option on small tides as most people would know. Take that same snag and try and fish it around the full and new moons and you might find it a bit more difficult. Lures get swept away almost instantly with the larger tidal run. There are exceptions to this rule but what i’m talking about is on an average.

So what about the large tides? With the increase in run comes the dirty water. Different tactics will need to be applied if the angler wants to succeed. Regular areas that produce the goods on small tides will be washed out on the big tides. So turning ones attention to the likes of flats and drains can be an advantage. It can be as simple as a bit of trial and error. Definitely keep a record of what has worked and why.

I much prefer to go mud crabbing on the bigger tides as I have found these are when my best results have occurred. Having an extra meter or 2 of water up of the mangrove flats means that we can push our pots right up amongst them where the mud crabs are hiding. Some might say simple physics.

King Salmon is a species that I have put a lot of time into targeting them both on the small and large tides. On the smaller tides we have caught good numbers around snags and rock bars. On the larger tides we turn our attention to drains on the low tide and areas that create pressure points and back eddies once the tide start to build. The finer details and exact spots have been worked out by spending time on the water.

Larger tidal run can also be an advantage for when the size of the tides start to fall and the moon phases move towards the quarter moon. Places of high current and unfishable water will cause erosion on the banks. With the bank erosion falling into the water it can drag with it the mangroves and thus has the potential to create your next fishing hotspot. Sussing these areas out on low tides, recording there position and generating a plan of attack can bring fantastic results.

So does size really matter? Yes it does. Big or small, estuary or offshore tidal influence can dictate the strategy and techniques that an angler needs to apply to come out on top. Every trip is a learning process. Some trips are dedicated specifically to find and figure out pieces of the puzzle to benefit for future trips. Cheers