What makes a beach good for flood vs ebb tide?

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

  1. I had a great South Sound beach mostly to myself about 12 years ago, and I learned a lot while fishing it at different times/tidal stages. The only relative constants I found were:

    *That during full daylight, the fishing was much more productive two hours before and (especially) after high slack, when the food that grew in the tide pool began to wash out with the ebb.

    *That fishing was ALWAYS more productive at dusk, and usually at dawn.

    *That fish took up station in very nearly the same locations with each tide exchange.

    *That fishing sucked during daylight for the couple of days preceding a full moon (but often got very interesting at dark).

    *Pile worms made the cutthroat behave very strangely, and despite the audible slashing happening all around during a pile worn appearance, it was very difficult to hook fish during one.

    *That there were no absolute constants.

    Totally different take on trout fishing in the salt. Rivers and lakes are much more consistent, but hitting the salt right makes for fast, furious fun.
    Jim Wallace and Eyejuggler like this.
  2. I would say learning 3 or 4 beaches very well is very critical to learning their nuances.

    Water moving at walking speed is some of the best water to fish for both incoming and out going tide. Boulders ,rocks and deep impressions in the ground are good holding spots.

    Even on a big tide change on a chart does not mean that a beach will have fast moving water the whole time throughout the whole beach . Some of the water will move slower even 50 feet way depending upon structure.
    The water around a point that is steeply inclined will move much faster than water just off the point on gentle sloping ground.

    The key is to look for structure at low tide to see where fish will hold when water will cover the area. When I find a hot spot on beach I make mental notes of time, and where the water was when they were there, so that I go to the same spot when I am at that beach again.
    Take a step back and look the whole beach from a high point before fishing to try and see rips in the current and where fish are jumping. keep moving on a beach until you find fish
  3. I think that Preston hit it square on the head here, in pointing out to us that there is no substitute for local knowledge of any particular beach. That takes time on the water, sometimes fishing, sometimes simply observing the tide cycles, witnessing current patterns on the flood and ebb at varying stages and degrees of intensity and overall exchange. This can take months, and years, for any particular beach location. One thing that I have learned about these beaches is that many of the best sea run Cutthroat fishing beaches are also good quality shellfishing beaches. These beaches often have some similar qualities of a heavier gravel and cobblestone bottom, complexity of shoreline habitats, mixing currents, back eddies, some significant current at some stages of the tide, and very often a tidal pocket estuary or lagoon, if not a freshwater input stream of some kind. Seaweed, Kelp, rocky ledges, broad flats and shelves, converging currents, all offer forage fish a complexity of habitat to grow in and reproduce in, and for the cutthroat to feed in.

    Another benefit to fishing on popular shellfishing area beaches is that during clam and oyster seasons there can be many dozens or hundreds of people, clamming at low tide, all digging and chopping their way into the gravel, cobble and sand beaches for clams. You can bet that most of these clam diggers will inadvertently chop into some clams along the way. And despite the State regulation that we harvest these damaged clams, to count toward the daily limits, most people simply leave them lying there, all chopped up, in the same clam hole that they, hopefully), just filled in. Now if you can expect a flood tide to at some stage carry a current sweeping across a clam digging beach, with hundreds of chopped up clams, oozing protein in the loose substrate, then that will be an attraction to many species of marine organisms, not the least of which are the sea run Cutthroat.

    "Chumming" to deliberately attract these fish is illegal here. But fishing down current of a shellfishing beach, that has a happily coincidental, significant "stink factor", of all of that chopped up clam protein just lying there, mixing into the tidal currents, ringing the dinner bell for everything that creeps, crawls and swims within miles, is just good practice. You can make a study of Cutthroat fishing on the clam beaches here, and you would have quite an experience. Oyster beds too attract feeding Cutthroat, usually on the incoming tide. Not all of those beaches will feature a significant current. But the invertebrate forage species in particular can be very dense in these locations.

    One thing I always tell people is this: Do not get caught in the high tide mentality! The forage species often move, to varying degrees, with the tidal currents. This is especially true in the early months of the season, when so many bait species are very small and they struggle in any kind of current. Study the movement of water and learn the life history of the forage species on the beaches that you fish, and you will begin to understand what attracts the trout, at what likely tides and currents. Trout are free to feed on a wide range of forage, at any stage of tide, any current, any depth, any time of day or night. And they have plenty of forage here. So despite your best efforts there will be those days when you plan it all out and don't ever even see a fish. And other days when you will be stupidly fortunate and have a sensational multiple fish day, that will be purely based on the luck of being in the right place at the right time, when the fish were there and they took your fly. And sometimes a day like this will break all of the dogma and 'rules". So pay attention. And try to appreciate every single one of these unique wild fish that you catch.

    Time on the water and local knowledge take an investment of time and effort. And even then, actually catching these wild fish does have an element of luck to it. That may be the best thing about it all. A little realistic humility goes a long ways in this game.
  4. Wow. That is good stuff Bob.

    Bob Triggs and Jeff Dodd like this.
  5. Thank you Bob. And why did I never think of a clamming beach as a chum source ;-). brilliant!
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  6. Here is an example of some damaged clams, left behind, after the flood came in.
    dan-jan-6-11-13 006.JPG dan-jan-6-11-13 007.JPG
  7. great, now I'm gonna have to make a damaged clam fly pattern:)
  8. If you study the beaches long enough, especially at the lower tides, you will learn how to spot the complexity of habitat, and the diversity and abundance of marine species there. One thing that I look for, along with good clamming and oystering conditions, is an abundance of barnacles. This indicates nutrient dense water. And some places are better for this than others. Along with an abundance of barnacles I am encouraged when I see juvenile shrimp and crabs, rearing in a pocket estuary or tidal lagoon nearby. All of this indicates a richness in the food web from the bottom up- from the planktons up to higher organisms. No doubt that Cutthroat do feed directly on some of these invertebrates, especially as juveniles when the crab and shrimp etc are very soft and small. And I have seen fish feeding on crab in the megalops stage, which are very, very small and vulnerable, and difficult to see.

    Usually there will be good crabbing to be had nearby. And in our area right now we can see some 1000 crab pots set in the bay, with all of them soaking in the tidal currents, bait cups filled with stinky bait. That scent carries for many miles on the tides here, attracting numerous marine species to feed on the loose particles of protein. No doubt the Cutthroat are attracted to this too.

    If you want to have some fun some time, here is a simple trick to find out what swims in your waters. This is an old aboriginal fishing method. But we won't be fishing here and now. Get a can of fishy cat food, or chop up some herring into a fine mess. Better yet- do both. Dump the horrid material into a bait pot, or a sheer nylon stocking foot, of a pair of woman's stockings, or use a small mesh bag. What you want is for water to be able to pass through the mess, without losing a lot of the meat in the process.

    Now you go down to the beach at the lowest tide, just at slack low. And you get yourself a lawn chair or stool to sit on. You set the bait on the beach at the waters edge. And this will be best of there is a current of reliable duration coming on the tide. Use a rock or spike, or just your boot, to hold this thing down on the bottom in the currents. Sit down in your chair and wait. Be very still. Dont be moving your feet etc. A beer might help. Do not have any kind of fishing tackle with you when you do this. This is called "chumming", and it is illegal to chum for fish when fishing. But you aren't fishing. You are a scientist. This is an experiment.

    As the tide comes in, and the current begins to wash through the bait, you will notice some critters will appear. One by one, here and there, gradually increasing. And it may be a surprise to see all of the things that will show up from downstream, in the tidal flows, following that scent to the source. You will see many of the smaller fish that you normally only see in nature guides, and some other things too. It is a lesson in just how much amazing, beautiful marine life there is here. You might get some new ideas about flies and fly patterns too, as you sit there in the shallows, watching the many various critters nibbling at the meal. Wear polarized sunglasses! In some areas the tide may rise as much as a foot per hour, so do this with some idea of safety in forethought. http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com

    rhody2013-dick-davis-5-19-13 088.JPG
  9. Bob you are describing the magic of near shore ecology, and why I can't stay away, so much happening.
    Your posts in this thread and others, sound like the start of a great book I for one would like to read. Seems Ed Ricketts, Joe Campbell and John Steinbeck thought the intricacies of the near shore were inspiring enough to warrant years of there lives to its observation.
    I now have a folding lawn chair on the back rack of my Trooper, I'll be the cigar smoking guy sitting in a lawn chair with waders in ankle deep water under a rising soldier's Moon, fishy cat food stuffed in women's panty hose under my feet dreaming up fly patterns for future encounters with all the tide promises.
    Jeff Dodd, Bob Triggs and miyawaki like this.
  10. Damn Bob, now everyone knows about our secret beaches. We make our own near the closest convenience store!

    Bob Triggs likes this.

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