What makes a beach good for flood vs ebb tide?

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by wlai, May 31, 2013.

  1. I am wondering, in your experience, what makes for a beach that's better for incoming vs outgoing tide? I can't think of any beach characteristics, such as slope, rock, etc, that shouldn't be symmetrical when water is coming or going. Of course that's grossly simplifying but it does make me curious what your empirical experiences seem to suggest. Cheers.
  2. Sometimes, like at a point, water will sweep one way from a bay full of seaweed and crap on the outgoing, and then sweep the other way with clean water from the other side on the incoming (or reverse). More time cleaning your fly equals less time fishing.

    Another example is if a salt water "pond" or estuary drains on the outgoing tide, quite a river of water flowing out will meet gravel/sand bars in a certain way that causes accelerated water movement that seems to draw fish. The reverse may not happen on the incoming.

    As another example, many good beaches are around stream mouths which form a variety of changing sand/gravel/pools/weed lines that react differently with different water movements.

    When I look at a beach, I try to remember that although the water level goes up and down, I envision how the water movement is going to happen - on the beaches that I fish this water movement is mostly lateral rather than straight in and out. Try to see how the general layout would be affected or what conditions would result.

    And then many times despite my best efforts in analyzing it I'm skunked anyways.
  3. Seaweed (salad) is indeed an issue, usually on incoming tides. Every beach is different and it will take fishing and observations on your chosen beach that will give you your best information. I have seen some beaches where the salad leavee around the point and returns in a long skinny line during the first hour of the flood tide. I also believe the incoming tide at Tacoma Narrows flows on the east side faster than on the west beaches. Conversely, the outgoing tide runs very hard along the west side, which is why I like the ebbtide at the Narrows. But then, guys who only fish the east side will swear that the incoming tide is the best. - There you go.

    Jim Wallace and Bob Triggs like this.
  4. The changing heights and volumes of tides make almost every beach and every individual tide a special case. Cutthroat are there for one reason: the availability of food. While it seems reasonable to think that an incoming tide will stir up quantities of invertebrates such as amphipods and isopods and, while this is true in many cases, being relatively poor swimmers, tidal currents may sweep them rapidly away. The same is true of baitfish some of which may be better swimmers and able to hold their own against stronger flows than others. Thus the importance of beach topography; bars and points, can provide shelter from the current and can concentrate quantities of bait. A good example is Point Williams at Lincoln park where both incoming and outgoing tides create a large gyre either south or north of the point which becomes a favorite feeding area not only of cutthroat but of resident coho as well as mature coho returning in the fall. There is no substitute for local knowledge of any particular beach.
  5. That makes perfect sense gents. Thats the problem of a grossly simplified mental model. Tide indeed doesn't just go up and down. Thanks for broadening my thinking!
  6. Then you throw something in like Colvos Passage where the tidal flow tends to always be northbound no matter what the tide because it's a secondary channel around Vashon Island. Confused yet?
  7. The Narrows is a good example. I used to dive there a lot, and you need a slack tide since the current is usually so strong. We found at certain times, that we could catch a slack on the west side long enough to make a half hour dive before the current resumed. Then we'd motor over to the Tacoma side, taking a half hour surface interval while waiting for the current to slow on that side, then make another dive of about the same length on yet another slack period. So, the same stretch of water behaves differently depending on which side you're standing.

    To really learn a beach you have to go and watch on both ebb and flood tides, and during different exchanges.
    David Loy and Bob Triggs like this.
  8. It's like the classic answer to every programming question: "it depends."
    chbichsel likes this.
  9. Whether flood or ebb is best for any given beach depends on many variables as already mentioned. However, there almost always seems to be a certain "window" within the best tide (flood or the ebb) when fishing "turns on" and "turns off". Sometimes the period can be short lived. This has been my experience fishing the salt over the years. I experienced it today. About two hours into the ebb the action began. Jumping fish, biting fish, bait action etc. And, after an hour it tapered off noticeably and subsided.
    I added this observation to my notes on this particular beach and when I fish it the next time I will try to be there for that "window". I know it won't always be the same for that particular location but from my observations over the years it often is.

    Jim Wallace and Bob Triggs like this.
  10. Jim, you are undoubtedly the wisest of them all...least helpful, but wise!

    The thing is, most of us who are working and/or have a family only have so much water time so I am just trying to distill some wisdom or at least know I am thinking/observing the right things when I do get to go. Journaling I know is going to help.

    Are there any beaches where a smaller tide change is better than bigger? This weekend for example, the big tide change is early morning so that it won't be possible to fish, but would there be beaches where one can benefit from the smaller magnitude of change during the daylight tide? If so, what makes it better?
  11. Wlai,
    I re-read your original thread and realize I didn't answer your question. So, I will do so now.
    There are so many variables involved there is no set answer ( I don't think there is???) other than "it depends".

    Bob Triggs likes this.
  12. Wlai, I'm nowhere close to as knowledgable about a the beaches as some others here, but I'll say this re the smaller tides: not as good at any of the beaches I've ever fished.

    When I lived near the south sound I was going out there a LOT and I was always timing my trips around the larger of the two tides. The reason being, at least on the handful of beaches I frequented, the larger exchange of water. You really want spots where the tidal exchange produces a walking-speed current that runs parallel to the beach. That's kinda the optimal condition.
  13. --deleted double post--
  14. I hit post while going between LTE and my home wifi, sorry for the double post!
  15. Don't get too enamored with the big tides. Those 11-13 foot changes aren't as good as you might think. The little "neap" tides aren't so hot either. A good 6-9 footer is my happy place.

  16. I have found that a rising/flooding tide will pick up the little amphipods/isopods as the water rises so if I do fish a rising tide or slack high tide then low light conditions are key, as is quietly stalking the beach and casting close in, parallel to shore with little crustacean patterns is the only way I have caught fish on a slack or rising tide.
    Also If you choose a beach that is more of a cove or bay then in my experience the better tide is the rising one, the fish will come in and explore a bit more than if the tide is draining the bay.
    dryflylarry and Rich Schager like this.
  17. Fishing for SRC's in the salt in a never ending classroom. Just when I think I may have figured out a beach, I am proven wrong. I have found certain beaches fish better at certain times of the year along with certain tide levels and on incoming and outgoing tides. Then there are the magical days where none of it seems to matter. :confused:
    Bob Triggs and miyawaki like this.
  18. They'll stay around during the entire flood, but make a fast exit once the flood ends and the drain begins...
  19. Lots of great responses here, wiai. You just have to learn each beach and how it fishes, at different tides and seasons, one beach or estuary at a time. They say it helps to keep a fishing diary.;)
    You didn't mention species. One beach I know (up there in the Salish Sea) fishes well for searun cutts on the outgoing tide, as a nice little rip develops off the tip of the point (cutts will wait in the slack water inside the rip there and ambush food as it is swept out past the tip), but the cutts go away after the low. A fishable rip does not form there on the incoming. The food conveyor shuts off, and the cutthroat go somewhere else.
    However, if any salmon are returning, the incoming tide right after the low is the time to fish for them there, as they seem to want to move in with the incoming tide.

    Going back to your original question, wiai, the spot I mentioned only gets a good rip forming during the outgoing tide. There might be some place nearby that works for cutts on the incoming tide, but I haven't figured it out for that particular area, yet.

    In my local estuaries and tidal creeks, the cutthroat might be foraging around just behind the fringe of the rising tide on the incoming. Or moving upstream. On the outgoing tide, they may hold in certain lies in the creeks' inter-tidal zones as the current begin flowing out again, with the water dropping. Cut-banks, pilings, overhanging trees/bushes, and large woody debris provide cover here. I can target cutthroat in individual lies, here.
    Down lower, in the estuaries (below the creek/river mouths), the cutthroat may be spread out anywhere, foraging and chasing down bait fish. I troll for them with baitfish patterns and get random strikes down there. We mainly have mud flats and marshy edges out here in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, rather than gravel beaches, so I usually fish from a boat.
  20. I tend not to think about tide direction when fishing for returning salmon, but rather I pay attention to how the tide sets up at a particular beach and a given tidal exchange. This all goes out the window however if I can find time to fish, I GO FISH!

    This link provides a good visual of how the currents set up at local(some) beaches. You pick the date and beach, and then watch the current change throughout the tide cycle.
    Bert and Bob Triggs like this.

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