In my last article (see “Stalking Sea Bass”) I explained some of the coastal features you should look out for when deciding on your fishing location - these maybe an estuary, harbour or cove where the water moves in and out. Finding any sub-surface highway in a specific area will produce sea bass at some time during the season due to the potential of small bait fish and other debris getting caught up in the tidal drift. Bass merely follow the baitfish where ever they pushed by the tides.
In harbours especially, these tidal streams can be seen at low water on Spring tides (less so at high water) so observe where the streams are during low water conditions. The base of these highways are your one constant throughout the season and only when the storms hit our shores may their bases shift due to the energy delivered by prevailing South-westerly winds. If in any doubt about this, visit the delta of an estuary near you which is exposed to longshore drag and see how far its shingle base moves from the close of one season in October to the opening in April the following year. In Chichester Harbour and the surrounding areas, the shingle channels on the main bars can move 50-60 meters every winter. It’s advisable to take a wading staff at the beginning of every season when walking around old marks in order to become familiar with the ground again.
Once these tidal highways are found you are some way to increasing your chances of locating your quarry. Remember: you’ll normally be working from near enough low water to high water during your fishing, therefore you’ll need to keep pace with where that stream goes. The base of the stream at High Water will still be where it was at Low Water, but the upper layers may well be dispersed many meters away from where you originally started to fish so you’ll need to keep pace with its movement or move to an area where you are able to intercept its drift once again. Multi-tip lines can aid you with this problem buy allowing you to work the same stream in more and more depth of water, as the tide rises
It’s worth noting that fishery managers on Salmon rivers engineer this to full affect when constructing Croys on the river bed. Croys will shift water to create a more favourable lie for a Salmon, and in the same way harbour mouths or shingle spits are obstacles to the ebb and flood of the tide, directing the water to an area which may be accessible to you.
As the flood tide matures, so does the stream and my opinion is that you may well get 30-45 minutes in an area which presents you with the best chance of meeting a good fish or shoal before the energy of the water disperses away from you. If you locate any fish, then it is only a matter of time before you meet a quality fish which will use the same highway as smaller quarry. This is the chance aspect no-one can predict…all I will say is that we never have a problem hooking a big Bass once we have located their regular movement at various states of tide throughout the lunar cycle.
During the 2006 season we have noticed some interesting correlations to feeding patterns and state of tide which may be worth noting.
Harbours and estuaries channel water both in and out twice daily, each tide being 6-7 hours long and the lunar cycle dictating the volume of water which is moving in and out of a specific area at any one time. First and third quarter moons bring Neap tides (small tides) that have less of a tidal range, therefore less water movement and a lower velocity of water. New and full moons create Spring tides (big tides) when there is greater volume of water moving in and out within the same time period and therefore the velocity of the water increases accordingly.
On these smaller (Neap) tides I believe the bait fish do not get washed out as far on an ebbing tide and can remain deeper into a harbour or coastline than you would normally expect. Taking this into consideration, you may well want to cover marks further inshore within the harbour itself, because if you cover your usual areas during these smaller tidal ranges you may well find yourself constantly fishing in front of your quarry as the original ebbing tide failed to push the bait fish past your location.
Some of our best days this year have been taking this into account
Tight Lines to you all in 2007!
Justin Anwyl , Orvis Endorsed Guide
Guiding: Atlantic Sea Bass in Chichester Harbour and along the Southern English coastline.
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