Fishing: Tides a surer indicator than the moon in finding where the fish are

By Geoff Thomas

For all the theories of moon and tides, baits in the water are still paramount. Photo / Geoff Thomas
For all the theories of moon and tides, baits in the water are still paramount. Photo / Geoff Thomas

This week's "super moon", which is a phenomena which occurs only once every 70 years, raises the question of whether the lunar effect on the earth's gravity is magnified by the closer passage of the moon's orbit.

The moon appears 30 per cent larger, giving rise to the name "super moon", as it passes by on its elliptical orbit around the earth, and at its closest is only 357,000km away which might sound a lot but is in fact 50,000km closer than at other times.

It is well known that the moon exerts a sucking type of gravitational pull on the earth which causes oceans to wobble like a giant jelly, thus creating tidal flows.

This effect is stronger at the poles and much reduced at the equator which is why the biggest tides occur in polar regions, and conversely minimum tidal movement is noticed in equatorial waters.

When the moon is closer to earth the tides are larger, so the effect is magnified.

And the question must be discussed among academic circles as to whether a similar effect takes place deep under the crust, where molten magna rages. Could the magnetic pull of the "super moon" have some impact on the tectonic plates that grind together, causing earthquakes?

This is a matter for better qualified scientific minds to ponder, but a layman's simple deduction does suggest that a link could at least be possible.

What is indisputable is the size of the tides this week, which peaked at 3.6 metres on the Waitemata Harbour on the day following the extra large full moon. This is as big as the tides get all year. So the fishing should have been good all week, in spite of the full moon which is usually associated with poor fishing. Super high tides, often referred to as king tides, deliver extra strong currents. Fast water flows disrupt the seabed, uncovering shellfish and other organisms and creating a dining table for bottom feeders like snapper and gurnard and flounder.

This can also help when fishing in deeper waters like out in the Hauraki Gulf where there has been some great fishing in 40-plus metres of water. On smaller tides there is virtually no current out in the open waters, and when it comes to catching snapper there is no doubt that current is king.

As well as the effect on the seabed, currents deliver plankton which is the basis of the triangle which starts with mackerel and pilchards and anchovies and peaks with top predators like sharks and marlin. It is those species in the middle like snapper and kahawai and kingfish which are in the sights of the majority of coastal fishermen.

The picture is not as pretty in the Bay of Plenty where kahawai and terakihi provide something for anglers to take home, as snapper are hard to find in most places.

When the equinoxial winds that have plagued our coasts since the equinox in September finally relent, the west coast will offer the best fishing. It is water that commands respect, where lifejackets should be around the shoulders and not under the seat, and everything from snapper and gurnard to kingfish and kahawai can be found.

Freshwater: A technique which is rarely seen in these days of downriggers and jigging is fly fishing around the margins of lakes in Rotorua and Taupo. This can involve wading and casting over the edge of a shallow shelf as feeding trout drive smelt into the shallows. Or, drifting in a small boat and watching for a rising trout. They can be seen feeding where there is a shelf or weed beds and the angler just has to wait. A slow sinking or floating line with a smelt pattern works fine.

Tip of the week

Much has been put forward about relating fishing prospects to the phases of the moon, from the Maori fishing calendar to the American solunar tables. And just to confuse the waters, there are different versions. A well-known author of Maori calendars commented once: I used to put the full moon down as a bad fishing day, but I went out the other day and did really well on the full moon, so I changed it to a good day. Readers can take what they will from that. But some trends seem constant, chiefly that the two weeks around the new moon are better for fishing than the weeks around the full moon. A commercial snapper fisherman who relies on success for his living deserves respect in these matters and his mantra is: The two days before the new moon and four days after it are good fishing days but the day of the new moon is not. It also seems to be commonly held that fishing around the full moon is hard, perhaps because fish feed at night in the brighter conditions, and fishing picks up on the third day after the full moon. Both versions of the lunar-based calendar agree that for best fishing results, it is preferable to have the moon directly overhead, or directly underfoot on the other side of the earth. This is the basis for the bite-time predictions. Beyond these perambulations, the most important point is to have a bait in the water.

Bite times

Bite times today are 5.10am and 5.35pm, and tomorrow at 6am and 6.30pm. These are based on the moon phase and position, not tides, so apply to the whole country. More fishing action can be found at www.GTtackle.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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