Did you know that you can sit down with a calendar and plan when the fish are going to bite, months in advance? Well, you can! It’s especially accurate with inshore and island species like white seabass and yellowtail. Believe it or not, it actually works with trout too. Really.
The idea of fishing around the tides has finally taken hold after years of old timers saying it’s all poppycock. Certain things are a given and old sayings even point it out: “The early bird gets the worm.” I.E. Fishing at dawn is a very productive time. We all know that. Slack tides are also productive, more and more people are beginning to recognize that. So if you had a slack tide at dawn what do you get? Good fishing!
During each lunar cycle there are two periods where, for about a week, the tidal movement increases each day. Between the 1st quarter moon and the full is one of them. Between the last quarter moon and the new is the other. Now look at this tide calendar, from the 10th to the 18th. See how the low tides get lower, and the high tides get higher each consecutive day? That my friends, is a prime moon phase. The fishing is (almost) guaranteed to be good during that time. Weather and other factors can override it, but not so much this time of year. Conversely, the days from the 3rd to the 10th you can see the tidal movement decreasing each day, and these tend to be less productive times in the lunar cycle. I call these sub-prime moon phases.
In my experience, high tides tend to be more productive than low tides, and evenings better than mornings. So let’s pick a day with a high tide in the evening during the prime moon phase. I like the 1st and 2nd, and the 15th and 16th. These days have already passed, and absolutely WERE productive times. Not only did the seabass bite at Catalina on these days in the afternoon, but the twilight boats also enjoyed great sand bass fishing at these times.
Your experience may be different, and you can taylor your trips around the tides. Like to fish calicos on the rising tide, but need to be home on time for your kids baseball game? Check out the incoming tides on the mornings of the 2nd and 3rd. Both days are during the prime 1st quarter moon phase, and have a big difference between the low and the high. Tide only means current in places where water rushes in to fill a void, or drain a void (like a harbor). Otherwise, you can’t equate tides to currents, it just isn’t the same thing.
If you were to take a stack of old newspapers with fish counts and match it up to a set of tide calendars, you’d see a much higher “fish-per-rod” ratio during prime moon phases, than you do during sub-prime moon phases. I have done this, and it’s amazingly accurate. I even plan our annual family vacation to the Sierras around the prime moon phase, and it works. Not only do we catch more trout, but bigger and a higher percentage of native trout as well. Over the years I have done several trips to the Sierras for 3 weeks or longer, and the prime moon phase was WAY better trout fishing than sub-prime moon phases.
From here it gets much more complicated, and controversial. The whole “Astro” side of moon phases and “moon overhead, sun under foot” deal comes into play, and it’s a topic for a book, not an article. Just know that there are some guys that know where to be, and WHEN to be there, for a reason. There is a time to fish whitefish and sheepshead, and a time to fish yellows and seabass. It all has to do with the tides and moon phases. Try planning a trip during a prime moon phase, and see what happens. If not, at least track the fish counts and match it up with a tide calendar. You’ll see, it’s spot on, and has been since man first gazed into the sky, put pen to paper, and fished for food and fun.