Sealine Expert - Rock and Surf
Beach Fishing 101
Being fishermen we so often over complicate the simple facts to fishing.[size=]
Many anglers, especially in their early days tend to become easily confused by all the jargon so easily rolled off the lips of fellow anglers. Reading the water becomes easy if you manage to get to grips with the basic ‘mechanics of the ocean and its tides. Water is the strongest and sharpest natural cutting force on earth. This underestimated force can literally move tons of sand within a single tide change. Most beaches are constantly changing and features that were fished and produced well can completely disappear within hours or days. Other beaches have natural features such as rock banks, peninsulas and ledges which force the ocean to stay more or less constant in the way water is channelled. All beaches consist of the three sections, shore break (intertidal zone) inner banks and outer banks (ocean). The length and depth of these sections will differ drastically depending on the geography and gradient of the beach. As a rule of thumb, the more beach there is leading onto the water the longer and shallower the distance becomes reaching out to the outer banks.
The tide plays an integral part on the features you will fish and causes features to become more productive at certain times during a change in tides.
Tides are influenced by the moon and sun causing gravitational movement of the ocean. Tides can be broadly classified into three distinct forms, namely, Low, High and Slack (dead calm) tides. Under normal conditions ebb tide occurs twice within a twenty-four hour period. The Low tide is water that pulls backward exposing the intertidal zone for a period of about six and a half hours. Low tide is the opposite of the high tide. The high tide shortens the shore break and beach as it moves inland from the sea. The high tide, under normal conditions also occurs twice within a twenty-four hour period. The period between the low and high tides is known as slack tide. Slack tide results in calm water and is also known a full tide, during this phase there is often very little current or movement in the water. Slack tide occurs four times within a twenty-four hour period, twice on the high tides and twice on the low tides. Under normal conditions the slack tide will last for around half an hour.
In this article I hope to explain the effects both structure and tides have on the feeding, movements and locations of both prey and predator fish. By understanding these simple facts and then putting them into practice should improve the success rate of any novice and experienced angler.
Tides and Fish:
Fish will congregate where there is a supply of food. We all understand that the food chain starts with the smallest organism and works its way up until predation reaches the apex predator. If you start with this knowledge and apply it back to the features you are fishing then you can more or less pinpoint the time (tide) and structure to match your chosen quarry. The tide will not have any influence on where to fish, but rather the effect the tide is having on the feature you have chosen.
Before we have a look at features it’s important to understand how fish react and feed throughout the tides. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to note that fish feed into the current. This means they face their heads into the moving current at all times. Positive movement (feeding) will therefore always move fish against the flow of the current. Fish do this simply to maintain a favorable position which enables them to maintain position and to grab hold of food washed by the current.
As soon as sand is moved in large quantities it can be seen being carried or dumped in the action of the waves and currents. This turbulence disturbs the bottom features, possibly eroding or moving entire sand banks. This erosion will expose the myriad of organisms which in turn become a food source for the smaller species of bank or shoaling fish. Species like mullet, Gorries, Galjoen, White Stump and black Tail would be typical species to take advantage of this supply. Taking advantage of the turbulent waters these fish will feed aggressively until the food source is depleted. It’s also important to note that during the pushing (high tide) and pulling (low tide) tides the currents and wave actions are the strongest. It’s also interesting to know that during these turbulent tides when feeding frenzies occur most shoaling species loose their natural instinct to bundle together as they take advantage of the feast. It’s obvious that predator species take advantage of this fact. They will set up and lie in wait on the fringes of this turbulent water waiting for a frenzied fish to drift over a bank or into a deeper gulley. Larger predators and sharks will again be aware of this activity and will patrol the banks and deeper gullies.
Most fishermen will agree that the best fishing is found either two hours before and two hours after the pushing tide. What’s more amazing is that not many fishermen can tell you why!
Understanding the food chain in the area you fish and knowing where the source originates will always give an angler the upper hand. Watching the direction and depth of currents and wave action will give you an idea of the feature you are fishing on. The old adage of remembering to think like a fish is most important. A little time spent on visualizing the effects of the tide, currents, sand movements, fish feeding and fish waiting in ambush will pay dividends to the thoughtful and imaginative angler. You will never be spot on all of the time, but by getting to grips with what’s actually happening and learning from these efforts you will be amazed at how quickly your catch rate increases. At the very least, it’s better than simply whirling in your baits and leaving things to King Neptune’s grace!
Remember that fish are also creatures of habit, they move between tides because their food chain is constantly moving in accordance with the tidal action. If tidal conditions are right then a food supply will be constant, bait fish will stay in the area and ultimately the predator species will linger until the food source is depleted or conditions change.
High and Low Tides:
If you your are fishing for species such as Gajoen, Bream, Black Tail, Stumps…then these are the most productive tides as a shore angler. Fishing for predators such as Kob, Garrick, Shad, various sharks is less productive unless you have read the features correctly and target areas with pinpoint accuracy. Your baits will also tend to drift in or out of strike zones therefore reducing your success rate. Add the good possibility of having your neatly presented baits stripped within minutes by the very active and abundant small tooth brigade and very quickly you get to understand why this is not the most rewarding time for productive fishing. Although you may still get a few good fish, high and low tides are not the best time in general.
We have all heard that two hours before and two hours after high and low tides seem to be the most productive. This is the time when the tides and resulting currents become less aggressive. If you are fishing over the correct features there will be an abundance of churned up food. Because the currents have weakened smaller fish tend to shoal up again, become less frenzied and a lot pickier. Smaller shoaling fish become scarce and your bait seems to last longer as its not being constantly stripped by the small tooth brigade. Your ambush predators venture further away from features, taking advantage of the shoaling baitfish and calmer water feeding more freely.
Common Beach Features
Rip Banks are formed when water is pushed over the outer banks and into the inner banks. Water will always take the easiest path as it tries to flow back over the inner banks and into the ocean. In most cases the pulling water will run with strong currents and at an angle to the beach. Trapped being the inner bank the flowing water will push against the sand bank. If the bank is weakened water will break through the bank to take the shortest route back to the ocean. Once the bank is broken it resembles a dam or retaining wall giving way to a river of water. The pulling water will rip through the hole created and starts eroding the remaining sand bank. During this process all the food particles and organisms are exposed and a food chain is set in motion. Rips often form on the outer banks and create food chains directly into the ocean if they can be reached by shore anglers they deliver awesome catches.
Gullies are long channels of water which normally run parallel, but at an angle to the shore. They are either caused by permanent features such as rocks or rock banks or by the backward erosion from an original rip bank. Gullies can vary in depth and angle of approach, but as a rule of thumb there is always a drop off and a shallow bank on either side. On both the pushing and pulling tides gullies generate significant currents with strong flows of water running back from the intertidal zone through the inner banks out and back into the outer banks. The erosion of the intertidal and inner banks sand provides a rich supply of food particles and organisms making gullies very productive fishing features. Because of the length and depth of the water the areas often hold an abundance of fish.
Holes are created in the inner banks and are the remains of a silted up rip bank or gulley. After a number of tides variances the outer bank will be repaired leaving behind it a depression on the sea bed. This deeper water fishes well over all tides, but provides exceptional fishing during slack water. Shoaling fish will often congregate in these deep holes between pushing and pulling tides and predator spices take advantage of the calmer water and shoals of baitfish.
Featureless beaches are normally found in areas that have a long beach section with a gradual incline onto a long and shallow shore break, inner bank and outer bank. Featureless beaches also have no rocks or rock banks to affect the tide and currents. The depth of a featureless beach will undulate with slight changes, normally indicated by clear and visible ‘headlands’ on the shore break sand. These headlands are quite uniform and up and down the beach. Between each headland you will notice a slight bay forms. The same feature extends down into the shore break, intertidal zone, inner banks and outer bank. You can easily spot the shallow and deeper features by watching how and where waves break. Waves will break first over shallow ground. Observing a single wave running along the inner bank you will notice that the wave breaks, then curls, and then breaks again further along the beach. The areas between the headlands where the wave does not break will indicate the deeper water. The areas where the waves are breaking is where sand is being eroded and churning up food. This is commonly known as working banks and these areas will hold the feeding fish. Predator fish will move from the deeper water up onto the working banks to ambush prey. Featureless beaches can be fished on any tide, but work well on the pushing and slack tides.
Bay: Rock features cause permanent features along sandy beaches and therefore constantly provide great fishing opportunity. Providing the feature protrudes deep enough, at least into the inner banks, they also provide access to deeper water not normally accessible to most anglers. Depending on the direction of the prevailing outer bank currents the features normally consist of a deep gulley of the current side and a deep bay on the opposite side to the current. These features hold the same patterns of fishing as found in normal gulley and bays. Because of the easy access to deeper water they can be fished on any tide, but will provide better fishing on the slack tide.
Point Breaks are renowned fishing spots and supply constant catches of good fish. Like the rock features on beaches they provide permanent gullies and bays which can be fished according to tides. Another advantage to point brakes is the direct access to the outer banks (ocean) across a large area. Under the right conditions point breaks deliver catches of various game fish and large sharks.
Angling is a constant learning curve, but any angler can improve their success through constant observation, trial and error. Pay meticulous attention to fishing patterns, remember these patters and apply them when faced with similar tides, features and conditions. It is important to think about the effects happening under the water and to adapt your methods to match these possibilities. Don’t be afraid to experiment, by changing your casting location by 100m either side of our chosen spot. Experiment with your distance, rig and baits to establish a pattern of where, on what and how the fish are feeding. The golden rules of fishing are that there are no set rules, but rather guidelines! Remember that a lazy angler will often be a disappointed fisherman.
Nothing substitutes for time spent by the water, but instead of spending ten visits doing the same thing have one day of trying ten different things.
Trophy (aka Brett Harris)
Last edited on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 04:42 am by Trophy