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Estuary Observations

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by Justin Anwyl

In my last article I explained some of the many questions which get asked when deciding when and where to fish for inshore bass. This article takes us one step further into the equation and highlights some of the most recent observations made during the 2006 season.

Harbours or coves are merely holes in the land which see twice daily flows of water coming in and going out - water travels by definition quicker through these constricted areas than in other areas, thereby creating subterranean highways or underwater river systems.

Finding any subterranean highway in a specific area will produce bass at some time during the season due to the potential of small bait fish and other debris getting caught up in its drift. Bass merely follow the baitfish which are unable to hold their body mass when the water moves.

In harbours, especially, these tidal streams can be seen on Low Water spring tides and less so on High Water spring tides, so observe where the streams are during Low Water conditions. The base of these highways are your one constant throughout the season and only when the storms hit our shores may their bases shift, due to the energy put upon them by our prevailing south-westerly winds. If in any doubt about this, visit a delta of an estuary near you which is exposed to longshore drag and see how far its shingle base moves from the close of one season in October to its opening in April the following year.

In Chichester harbour and the surrounding areas nearby, the shingle channels on the main bars can move 50-60 metres every winter, so take a wading staff at the beginning of every season when walking around old marks in order to become familiar with the ground again.

Once these subterranean highways are found you are some way to increasing your chances of locating your quarry - remember, you'll normally be working from near enough Low Water to High Water, therefore, you'll need to keep pace with where the stream goes. The base of the stream on High Water will still be where it was on Low Water, but the upper layers may well be dispersed many metres away from where you originally started to fish, so you'll need to keep pace with its movement or move to an area where you are able to intercept its drift once again. Multi-tip lines can aid this problem buy allowing you to work the same stream in more and more depth of water.

It's worth noting that fishery managers on salmon streams engineer this to full affect when constructing croys in order to shift water to create a more favourable lie for a salmon.  Harbour mouths or shingle spits are both natural obstacles to the ebb and flood of the tide and it will rebound the water to an area which may be accessible to you, so move to where you can meet its drift again.

As the flood matures so does the stream and my opinion is that you may well get 30-45 minutes in an area which presents you with the best chances of meeting a good fish or shoal before the energy of the water disperses. If you locate any fish then it is only a matter of time before you meet a quality fish which will use the same highway as smaller quarry - this is the chance aspect no-one can predict. All I will say is that we never have a problem hooking a big bass - the problem will always be finding their regular movement at various states of tide throughout the lunar cycle.

During the 2006 season we have noticed some interesting correlations to feeding patterns and state of tide which may be worth noting when pursuing this quarry species.

Harbours and estuaries channel water both in and out twice daily, each tide being 6-7 hours long and the lunar cycle dictates the volume of water which is moving in and out of a specific area at any one time.

During spring tides there is a greater volume of water moving in and out within the same time period and therefore, the velocity of the water increases accordingly, unlike on the neap tides which have less of a tidal range when there is less water movement and therefore lower velocities.

On these smaller tides I believe the bait fish do not get washed out as far on an ebbing tide and can remain deeper into a harbour or coastline than you would normally expect. Taking this into consideration, you may well want to cover marks further inshore within the harbour itself. If you cover your usual areas during these smaller tidal ranges, you may well find yourself constantly fishing in front of your quarry as the original ebbing tide failed to push the bait fish past your location.

Some of our best days this year have been taking this into account.

I hope your season was successful and I wish Tight Lines to you all for 2007.

Justin Anwyl 

Photos by Johnathan Grey

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