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The Best Tide For Surf Fishing

The Best Tide For Surf Fishing
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Many factors can influence your surf fishing success, and fish are very responsive to their environment. One of the most substantial elements within the marine ecosystem is the tide – the habitat itself’s very characteristics.

High tide is best for fishing due to how high water levels and water movement affect fish’ feeding behavior. Spring high tide is particularly advantageous due to its additional ideal environmental conditions.

When it comes to the tide, there are a few main rules to follow, each of which is directly related to fish’s behavior. Many additional aspects come into play when following the tide.

Understanding the impact of these changes in the environment empowers one’s advantage, thus enhancing the ability to lure and catch fish. 

Why Is A High And Moving Tide The Best For Surf Fishing? 

The tide itself refers to the rise and fall of the water level. This is caused by the Sun and Moon’s gravitational pull, and all tides are not created equally.

The Moon has a stronger influence on the tide, due to closer proximity to our planet, and the tides tend to follow the lunar timetable as a result. 

How drastic the rise and fall of these water levels occur according to the Sun’s position in relation to the Moon.

Spring usually occurs when the Sun and Moon are on the same side of the Earth, and tides rise and fall more drastically during the first and last quarters.

High tide and the hours surrounding it are generally the most rewarding for surf fishing, as it has many advantageous effects on the environment and the behavior of fish.

Most fish species have higher feeding activity during high tide since the water level is higher and the tide is moving.

However, the high tide still fluctuates, and instabilities like peak and slack tide are known for its temporary decline in bites.

Although the high tide is not effective in isolation, relative factors like the strength of the tide’s current also play a crucial role.

It’s also important to note that the tidal coefficient and tidal range – the difference between the rise and fall of the water level – varies in different areas, and fast currents are not ideal even during high tide.

Understanding the specific characteristics and nature of the exact species you are aiming to fish is vital in predicting their responses within different tides.

While most species have a higher feeding activity during high tide, certain fish prefer other conditions. 

The main ways in which the tide affects the environment is through the water level, the current direction, and the current strength.

But, other factors that could also play a part in calling the tide include the weather, season, air pressure, wind speed and direction, moon phaseOpens in a new tab., water temperature and clarity, and how far out the sand bars are at your surf fishing location.

Due to these factors, their alternative scenarios that have different results specific to species.

It is often possible to fish during low tideOpens in a new tab. if that is suitable for the fish you are luring and based on additional environmental factors.  

You can frequently find certain fish species roaming the bottom of the outgoing and first part of the incoming tides.

With most scenarios and species, high tide is generally more rewarding and results in a higher bite or catch rate.

How is High Tide Beneficial For Anglers?

The effect that high tide has on surf fishing conditionsOpens in a new tab. can benefit anglers. The higher water level results in the fish being able to swim much closer to the shore.

If you have a greater casting distance in these conditions, it will increase your bait exposure to the already near fish.

This could be very rewarding since you will be able to reach the deepest areas possible from the shore.

Some fish species such as pompanos, whitings, and croakers, swim so close to the shoreline that they can be caught right at your feet during high tide.

They often swim this close to shore in an attempt to feed off of sand fleas and crabs. So, if you don’t have a great casting distance, high tide can still be beneficial.

High tide also results in larger and predatory fish nearing the shoreline.

While the water is usually too shallow for them to occupy, the deeper water levelsOpens in a new tab. allow more room for them to swim nearshore during feeding activities and potentially find your bait.

This poses better opportunities for reeling in larger catches.

They are also attracted by the increase of feeding activity by other fish roaming near the shore.

As the tide becomes larger, the current draw in more food and organisms into water columns and beaches, increasing the overall population of fish in the area and the probability of getting a catch

How Does High Tide Affect The Behavior Of Fish?

The tide’s effect on fish can be narrowed down to their feeding activity, their comfort, and their spawning.

Fish respond to their environmentOpens in a new tab. very quickly due to their cautious nature, and their feeding activity fluctuates in accordance with this.

Most fish species require moving water, higher water levels, lower light, and cover to near the shore and feed effectively.

The high water level holds the fish within its movement and allows them to swim closer to the shoreline. This is since fish do not feel as safe in shallow waters.

The water movement also creates ideal conditions, since most species are conditioned to feed in moderate currents and moving waters due to a higher chance of trapping prey.

Currents and higher water levels also have ripple effects on other aspects of the ecosystem.

The movementOpens in a new tab. disturbs nutritional organisms like shellfish beds, crabs, clams, and shrimp previously hidden under rocks and sediment.

Larger fish generally hold to shore as a result of these potential feeding opportunities. 

Fish also feel safer to approach the shore, as the white foam created when waves break during high tide provides cover for hiding and trapping prey during feeding activity.

The water movement makes it difficult for larger schools of small fish to swim away quickly, and many species will approach to take advantage of their situation. 

How Does High Tide Affect Fishing? 

Fishing during and around high tide is mainly beneficial for getting great results in a shorter period of time.

With an understanding of how the tide affects fish’s behavior, your surf fishing strategies can be planned accordingly to maximize your catch. 

The most ideal scenario is when high tide occurs around dawn or dusk, two time periods of the day that always have almost magical effects on fishing regardless of geographical location.

High tide effects, coupled with a balanced low light setting, create the perfect atmosphere for surf fishing.

High tide during springOpens in a new tab. is also extremely ideal. This is because the water levels are very high, and the water takes longer to rise and fall, creating a steady yet suitable degree of water movement.

During these conditions, one can generally expect more from the surf, since fish will be feeding and roaming the area for a longer period of time.

Water movement and its influence is one of the main reasons it is vital to fish during high tide and the 2 hours around it.

These ideal water movement conditions occur in fluctuating yet beneficial degrees as high tide commences and concludes.

So, if high tide is at 7 am, one should surf fish between 6 am – 8 am in order to maximize rewards from the high tide. 

First Or Second High Tide?

Regardless of geological location, there will be two high tides per day, with around 12 hours between them.

Both of these high tides are ideal and rewarding. However, some species have a preference between the two.

While all fish see low lighting as a means of safety, predatory fish, in particular, prefer low light hours since it’s easier for them to catch prey.

Darkness also makes your hook and line harder to spot, increasing the chances of getting more bites. 

If the tide cycle in your area falls around dawn and dusk, then that is an ideal time period to be fishing during both high tides, if possible.

However, if this is not the case, the most optimal high tide of the two would be the one that occurs at night – if it’s practical and safe, of course.

The tide can ultimately make or break your surf fishing success.

Being able to time it just right with the understanding of its effect on fish and the environment can greatly impact your productivity.

While there are plenty of additional elements that need consideration, following the tide certainly does create a great general framework to follow.


Be sure to check out the tidal predictions and related charts to find out the cycle of tides and additional factors in your area. In relation to your chosen spotOpens in a new tab., plan a solid surf fishing trip when the tide is high, and the water is moving for the best and most rewarding results.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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