The best fishing is usually 1hr before slack tide to 2hrs following slack tide, so access to tide tables is critical for fishing. Tidal predictions will tell when the highs and lows will occur, as well as give the indication of the magnitude of the change. Anglers can time their fishing efforts to target the peak fishing times, and target movements from salmon grounds to halibut grounds, shore lunches, or setting of prawn or crab traps, for periods outside the peak fishing window.
In addition to the tide data, some databses give the rise and set times for the sun and for the moon. This information is useful for planning fishing trips to get an idea if there is either a high or a low first thing in the morning. Many fish species are active at first light, Chinook salmon in particular (morning bite) and if the first light corresponds with the period of 1hr before slack to 2hrs after slack, the angler can expect a larger fish activity. This kind of analysis based on the timing of the tide, sun, and moon is commonly discussed in terms of solunar calculations.
Tidal predictions will also inform the angler about spring tides – the extreme tidal ranges that generally occur when there is either a full moon or a new moon. During a spring tide the sun or moon is at its largest in the sky and closest to the earth, and exhibits the greatest tidal pull on the oceans, causing large tides (extremely low lows followed by extremely high highs). The greatest of all spring tides typically occurs in late June or early July of each year. It is important for anglers to consider the spring tides when planning trips. Extreme tides can expose rocks normally safe to pass over, and can make for difficult or impossible launch conditions at some boat launches.
Extreme tide ranges also means that much more water must enter, and exit, during the tidal period (tidal period is the timeframe between high slack, and low slack, and normally approximately 6hrs) and this has a major effect on the currents experienced when fishing. As an example, in northern BC and southern Alaska, a normal high tide may be 15ft and a normal low may be 4ft with a tidal range of 11ft. During a spring tide the extreme high may be 22ft and extreme low may be zero, or even negative tide, for a difference of 22ft. The magnitude of the tide change is important because it affects the amount of current. From the example, with a normal tide change of 11ft, currents may run around 3mph, while at the peak of the 22ft tide, currents may run 6 or more mph.
This water speed is significant for fishing it makes it difficult or impossible to troll for salmon, and difficult to fish the deep water for bottomfish. The extreme currents will cause trolling gear on one one side of the boat to cross over during a turn and is more likely to get tangled with the gear fishing on the other side of the boat. Too tight of a turn may even put the lines or downrigger cable into the motor.
High tides and high currents put extreme strains on kelp beds and when combined with storm events tend to wreak havoc causing a ton of floating kelp and debris. This is an extreme pain for salmon fishing with the gear constantly getting weeds.
When navigating, large tides can cause extreme dangerous conditions which many anglers do not even realize exist. If the tidal current is running fast and strong and is opposing the direction of the wind and waves, this will cause the waves to stack up high and tight close together causeing dangerous conditions.
If anglers face a lengthy run back to port they are wise to evaluate the direction of wind vs direction of tide and try to avoid a scenario when the wind and the waves directed against the flow of the tide. It might only be an hour or two until slack tide and waiting this out could make a significant difference in the safety of the run back to the dock. If anglers must travel in big seas good idea to understand every aspect of your boats handling. General tips are to trim the bow up slightly when running with following seas, and trim flat when running and climbing into oncoming waves. Additional currents caused by large rivers or general ocean currents can even further influence the equation.
FishinBC uses different prediction software that is available free on the internet. The first is a program called wxtide32 which is available for free download on the internet. With the program installed on a laptop it can be set to any tide station and will give various outputs. The xtide will show the sun and moon rises, and will shade the graph dark and light to correspond with daylight periods for easy reference. The tide data is plotted in a line graph form and is great for visualizing the daily tides, much more useful than the old fashioned style tide table. The data can be printed for a fishing day.
The second program recommended by FishinBC is Tides4Fishing.com. This is a web-based tidal and solunar prediction software. Tides4Fishing.Com gives similar outputs to xtide with additional information about the solunar tables and the major and minor fish bites that would be expected for each day. The Tides4Fishing.Com gives solunar indications similar to a 5-star rating except instead of stars they use “fish” symbols. A 5-fish rating shows up from time to time typically when the sunrise occurs during a low or high tide phase, and generally the absolute best fishing seems to be at the time of the new moon. The Tides4Fishing.Com starts with a GoogleMaps based interphase where users can pan and zoom to navigate to the particular fishing region and then click on the “fish head” symbol of specific tide stations for detailed tide and solunar information. User can check the tides for any date, past, present, or future. The following are hotlinks to different regions in the tides4fishing.com website:
Of note, tides4fishing has tides for the entire world – check it out for your vacation destinations.
When using the tidal softwares take note of their disclaimers, both websites have them. Sometimes it is worthy to compare the tide data from a few different sources such as software, newspapers, and government websites, to get an idea if there is any variablily in the predictions and provide a sense of reassurence and confidence.
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Writing about sportfishing for salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish, snapper, prawns, and crab, with tips and techniques to catch more fish by fine-tuning specific details.
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