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COLUMN: Targeting the tides


I have been studying the tides lately. Not for a local fishing trip but for a trip I hope to make to Newfoundland, next August.

Trying to pick the best time to go fishing, especially for a trip that is over eight months away, is a bit of a guessing game. However, one factor that can improve your odds is to check what the tides are going to be at that time of year. While commercial fishers still pay close attention to the moon and tides many anglers don't give them the attention they deserve. I still like to keep a close eye on the moon before I go fishing as it still is a useful barometer of when sea trout and salmon should soon be running in our rivers.

As most people are aware, tides are caused by the gravitational forces, or pull, exerted on the earth by both the sun and moon. Since the moon is closer it has a greater effect. Twice during each 24-hour period the ocean pours out of our bays and estuaries then, after a pause or slack period, it pours back in. Since the moon rise approximately 50 minutes later each day the tides vary by 50 minutes, or approximately one hour each day.

Spring tides occur when the sun and moon are in line with the earth and their gravitational pull is greater. These tides have no relation to the season and occur twice each month at full and new moons. The opposite of a spring tide is a neap tide which occurs when the sun and moon form a right angle to the earth and cancel out their effect. These tides occur on the first and again on the third quarter moon phase.

Tides are important to anglers because they are closely related to the movement of fish. High tides will bring fish into areas that may be too shallow other times. Since spring tides are much higher than normal most runs of sea-run fish such as Atlantic salmon, trout, shad, striped bass and gaspereau will re-enter fresh water on a spring tide. Low tides can also be effective times to fish because any fish present will be concentrated in a much smaller area.

A falling tide will also concentrate marine worms and bait fish in channels where they attract fish such as sea-run brook and brown trout or striped bass.

When fishing the tide for sea trout I usually time my trip so that I can fish the last hour of a falling tide, the slack period in between and the first hour of the rising tide. That way, I hope, I will increase my chances of catching a big one.

Paying attention to factors such as the weather, as well as the tides, all combine to not only increase our fishing success but also our enjoyment of the time we spend on the water. I know timing my Newfoundland trip to coincide with high tides is no guarantee of fishing success but it will hopefully increase our odds of intercepting some fresh-run salmon.


Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

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