Tides

Some handy information on tides for you

To begin this article I’ll start with the sad fact that too many paddlers venture out to sea NOT knowing what’s beneath them and it’s alarming! Our tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and there’s nothing we can do about it so we need to learn how to use it to our advantage as tiny objects playing around on what covers 2/3 of the planet! So in layman’s terms here’s the gist of it for the beginner. There is more to it, more exact information but this is aimed at the newcomer to the sport and anyone who doesn’t know.

Our tides change with the phases of the moon, the alignment of the Earth, Sun and moon and it’s quite complicated but basically there’s two types of tides and they alternate on a weekly basis;

SPRING TIDES; these occur when the sun/moons pull is strongest. The gravitational pull, pulls the tides further out and in and at a faster rate.

NEAP TIDES; these occur when the moon is the furthest away in it’s cycle and are weakest. The tides move the least and slower.

What we need to know in general is when can we go out to catch fish yeah? On a neap tide the water moves slowly in and out over around a 6 hour period and is quickest mid tide but usually weather depending the water is clearer and fish are more active making fishing more productive. Also as a paddler on a tiny lump of plastic out there its a lot safer too!

On a spring tide or even on the build up to the highest one kayak fishing can be dangerous! Anchoring up on a spring tide is a no no for me anyway. I’ve lost a few anchors over the years by having to cut them free as the tide build up. Fishing wise Cod tend to hide in holes, wrecks, kelp and generally hide out of the racing tide making fishing not too good. Personally I stick to neap tides. I lose less gear and catch more fish and after 17 years am still here to type this out lol 😉

If you do venture out on a spring tide, the tide at first of the flood (coming in) or ebb (going out) will be fine but mid tide it races and this is when it’s most dangerous! A body leash is favourable in case you tip off as then you could lose connection with the kayak but the downside to this is the current coupled with kayak could also drag you under. This is why we push for paddlers to have paddle buddies as in scenarios like this they can literally be a life saver!

Most news articles by the RNLI or coastguard will mention a paddler being rescued and it gets plastered all over the net but do they ever mention the state of the tide? wind direction and speed? I’ve never seen it? I can bet that 99% of rescues are from spring tides and a gusty situation where a paddlers turned on the tide and been swiped off by the wind.

I once entered a yak fishing comp. at Runswick Bay a long way back and I observed the ‘safety talk’ before the event on the beach and watched as around 40 to 50 paddlers all kitted out raced off out to fish. I knew there was a 17mph South Westerly wind and we were tucked away in a bay behind a hill. I set off slowly paddling into the bay whilst everyone rushed out…. Once they got out of the bay the shit hit the fan! One kid who was with his dad got blown off his kayak and a few others got tipped and rescued by the safety boat. Most of the paddlers went to the side of the bay and walked back to the beach pulling their yaks against the wind.

I never ventured past the middle of the bay and slowly paddled back to shore in the middle of the beach with an old guy on the beach in front of me shouting to me to paddle backwards (never ever got that one?). I’d of cancelled the event personally but I was just a nobody fishing it!

Tide spring with wind behind it is the most dangerous i.e; on our North East coast a Westerly or SW wind is favourable as it flattens the sea for us but anything over say 15mph coupled with a big ebb tide of say 5 metres can be very underrated and dangerous! As the tide picks up and the wind pushes on you. If a mile or so off you’ll suddenly find paddling in very difficult. Keep close in and keep paddling back in is a key element here. If you’re paddling more than fishing is it worth the effort? Get in and go home safely!

So, ignoring all the science of the planets and gobbledygook maybe it’s simply safer and better to fish on a neap tide! If I plan a trip out the tides are the FIRST thing I look at and then the weather. Stay safe, have fun and catch plenty of fish!