Fish movement and feeding is heavily influenced by water movement. For the surf angler, movement means tide and current. Just how important are they? Any experienced angler will tell you, when you are trying to catch a big striped bass, the two go hand in hand, and knowing what each is doing plays a vital role in increasing your chances of a successful fishing trip.
Tides are the rise and fall of the water level over a certain period of time. There are four tides throughout the day; two high and two low. Each tide lasts approximately six hours. Tides are determined by the relationship between the Earth’s rotation and the gravitational pull between the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon. During the period of time between the apex and nadir of each tide, the speed of the water movement will vary. The fastest part of the tide will be the two hours before the high and low tide. The slowest part of tidal movement will be at the start of each tide- sometimes referred to as the slack tide. The intensity of the tide also depends upon the position of the Earth.
Currents are the flow or movement of a large mass of water in a specific direction. There are
three main factors that influence current: the tide cycle, the wind direction and speed, and the thermohaline circulation. The tidal cycle has its most significant influence on current near the beach or shore of the ocean, bays, and estuaries. The current formed by tidal movement is called tidal current and it has a specific, predictable pattern. The wind’s effect on current is a surface effect. Its intensity is based on wind direction, strength and speed. The formation of current by the wind can drive water movement both along the coastal areas or in the open ocean. Thermohaline circulation creates influence over water movement from the surface to the bottom. These movements are caused by variations in water density which are primarily caused by changes in temperature and salinity. This type of current movement can occur in deep or shallow ocean waters and is much slower than flows formed by tide cycles or winds.
Although these are the main factors influencing currents, there are other factors that shape currents including the amount of rain run-off, and the contour of the bottom- slopes, ridges, cuts, sandbars etc. So it really is no wonder that tide and current are very important to the surf fisherman’s quest for fishing success. If you want to put yourself in the best possible position to catch fish, especially the larger bass we are all long for, you really need to understand the effects of water movement and know its condition at the time you intend to fish.
Movement of water moves the bait, and fish follow bait. How a fish positions itself relative to water movement allows the predator to be ready to strike for an easy meal. Striped Bass (especially the larger ones) have learned that it doesn’t make much sense to waste energy chasing bait when they can have the tidal movement and currents bring the bait to them. They can just wait on ambush points (places where they can attack without being seen) such as
behind rocks, along sandbar edges, or in holes. The more tides and current you have, the more the water moves the baitfish thereby leading to predatory activity. This is most prevalent during the full and new moon cycles.
When we have full or new moon cycles the gravitational force is stronger which results in more extreme tidal conditions as well as more intense tidal currents. More movement means more opportunity to catch that big predator waiting for a meal.
There you have it. Developing a true understanding of tides and currents and how they affect your fishing spots, combined with an understanding of the conditions at the times you intend to fish, will give you pieces of the fishing knowledge puzzle necessary for a successful outing. Arming yourself with greater knowledge of these two elements will also help you discover new areas that hold fish and understand which tidal and current conditions are best in the areas you have already been fishing. Know the flow before you go. Live the Passion! & Tight lines!
iBass360.com is pleased to feature a monthly surfcasting blog from Bernie Hoyt , a NYS Certified Fishing Guide with over 30 years of experience surfcasting the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast. Bernie offers trips along the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Northeast Striper locations. He is a pro-team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, and KastKing, as well as a member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at