THEORY – Fishing the East Johor Straits Part 2
In Part 1, I mentioned I was once a Hopeful angler. That meant I casted out, settled down, and waited, hoping a fish will take my bait and ring the bell or sound the ratchet. I also thought that if I bought the longest rod, I can cast the furthest. Because further is deeper, and deeper have more fish, or so I thought. How flawed I was in my thinking during those days!
In this part, I’ll discuss about how application of the knowledge of tides can help you get better results in your fishing, which phase of the tide is best, and which moon phase is most productive.
Daniel fooled this 7kg lady with an IMA Honeytrap on a Spring Tide just before dawn.
Spring & Neap Tides
We have learned in Part 1, that Spring Tides happen after the new and full moons, while Neap Tides happen after the first and last quarter. Now, we learn what that means in practice… The cycle of spring and neap tides play a vital role in the lives of fish. The NT Barramundi Farming Handbook states “Studies on barramundi in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea have identified that it has a complex life history. The start of the breeding season for barramundi in the Darwin area coincides with the return to large spring tides and increasing water temperatures in mid to late August.”* For anglers, the indirect effects of the tidal rhythms are the most important because many of the creatures on which the fish feed depend on the tides for timing their day-to-day lives.
Between HW and LW, the breeding, feeding and migration activities of many worms, crabs, shrimps and prawns are usually only possible when the tide is in. The experienced angler will know the timing of migrations of these animals and the fish that eat them. These might take place on only tides of a certain height, or even only on a few well-defined tides each year. At these times, “matching the hatch” will reap greatest results. Eg, “Spawning of Barramundi takes place at night around the time of the slack tide and appears to be related to the lunar cycle. The nights following full and new moons are the periods of greatest spawning activity.”* So your chance to catch a big barra (the females are always the largest) will be increased on the spawning nights (Spring tides) than on a neap tide.
Tides that are building up to the highest springs, are the best tides for fishing, especially when the spring tides coincide with a period of rougher weather that is just settling down. An example will be the annual arrival of Queenfish with the NE Monsoons. Neap tides are unreliable because fewer fish come inshore to feed.
Fishing at High Water Spring (HWS) tides at the East Johor Straits are made more challenging because the strength of such very high tides bring increased flotsam, the bane of lure anglers, especially after a heavy rain. The greater depth on HWS also make it difficult for lures to reach bottom, and the angler has to search out a greater volume of water for fish.
However, if you understand that fish take cover under flotsam as they are borne by the currents, flotsam becomes something to look for as you hunt your fish. I remember one Friday night when after a period of drought, a heavy thunderstorm in the afternoon with a spring tide swept a ton of drink bottles, plastic bags and other assorted trash down the Strait. Every cast was snagged with trash and one of my students was on the verge of quitting from the chore of removing trash off his trebles. I told him to change to a soft plastic, rig it weightless and weedless, and swim it haltingly a foot below the surface. On his second cast, while waiting for the lure to get to working depth, he struck silver… and thence, became a believer that trash is good.
Fish seem to come alive when the tidal current is flowing, and they gradually settle down to a sleepy stupor during the slack tide of HW and LW. Thus lure anglers will prefer the period when tidal current is flowing, while bait anglers prefer the hour after HW and LW when tidal current is flowing weakly. The time of slack tides is also the time to take a break and rest from fishing. It is important to note that it is more productive to fish the hour after LW than the hour after HW. We will discuss moon and sun at a later part. Suffice to know for now that if the current is flowing nicely during dawn or dusk, especially if it coincides with a spring tide, it will be the best time to fish.
Matching the hatch, this barra boofed a mullet coloured OSP Bent Minnow on the ebbing spring tide at dusk.
Proxigean and Perigean Spring Tides
A Perigean Spring Tide is a spring tide when the Moon is at its Perigee, (perigee is the point of the Moon’s elliptical orbit when it is closest to the Earth). The closer the Moon is to the Earth, the stronger it’s gravitational influence on our tides. So when the Moon is at its Perigee, the tides will be higher than a normal spring tide. The New Moon will have a greater effect on Perigean Spring Tides than will a Full Moon. That’s because on a New Moon, the Sun and Moon are on the same side of Earth. Combined, their tide raising powers will be greatest on the Moon’s Perigee.
The Moon does not have a fixed orbit. So the Perigee distance of the Moon to the Earth varies. If a Perigee Spring Tide occur when the Moon is at closest Perigee (i.e. 356,000km), they are called a Proxigean Spring Tide. These are very rare events and coastal flooding can be expected.
Proxigean Spring Tides should occur on the following dates:
Date Moon Phase
28 September 2015 Full moon
14 November 2016 Full moon
25 May 2017 New moon
2 January 2018 Full moon
13 July 2018 New moon
30 August 2019 New moon
16 October 2020 New moon
That’s all for Part 2 of the Theory of Fishing the East Johor Straits. Stay tuned to Part 3 when we delve into greater detail of the effects of tides.
* NT BARRAMUNDI FARMING HANDBOOK ISBN 0 7245 4727 4
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