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Topic: How to Read the Sea - Read the Water - Part 1  (Read 60419 times)

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Offline REEFMAN

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How to Read the Sea - Read the Water - Part 1
« on: November 08, 2011, 02:56:05 pm »


In order to increase your chances of catching fish, an angler needs to be able to "read the water".
Studying and understanding the prevailing conditions will enable you to put your bait or lure in the right place at the right time.

Sea conditions on our coastline vary greatly, so what is written here is designed as a basic guide, to try improve our understanding of what's going on beneath the water and why. Hopefully, it might help improve your skill and chances of catching fish.

Water Clarity and Temperature

Water clarity and Temperature affects our fishing noticeably.
Crystal clear (Gin) water is generally an indication of difficult fishing conditions.


 
Generally, cold water is crystal clear.
Due to prevailing winds, warmer surface water is pushed out to sea, to be replaced by nutrient rich colder water from the depths. (More on this later.) This colder water is normally crystal clear to start with, but being nutrient rich and filled with planktonic microorganisms, after a day or 2 of being warmed by the sun and photosynthesis taking place, these organisms will often form a plankton bloom, which then gives the water that characteristic 'greenish/brown tinge' to it. This is often called 'water with colour' in fishing terms, and is highly sought after, because schools of bait fish will move in and readily feed on these blooms. These bait fish will be followed by Predators.



Ginger beer water - Kob country!



WIND DIRECTION

How does this cold clear water move inshore?

The phenomenon is known as Eckman transport
Ekman transport, part of Ekman motion theory first investigated in 1902 by Vagn Walfrid Ekman (for whom it is named), is the term given for the 90 degree net transport of the surface layer of a liquid (depth to which wind penetrates), due to wind forcings. The direction of transport is dependent on the hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere this transport is at a 90 degree angle to the right of the direction of the wind, and in the southern hemisphere it occurs at a 90 degree angle to the left of the direction of the wind.

Basically what this means is that in the Southern Hemisphere, water will travel 90deg to the LEFT of a prevailing wind.

In KZN, the North East wind blows down the coast parallel to the shore. What this then does is push the Warm Surface water out to sea. The deeper colder water from deep sea then comes in and replaces it....



This is the reason that fishing picks up after 2 days of a North East wind in KZN. The cold water upwelling brings nutrients with it, which after a day or 2 of photosynthesis, causes plankton blooms, which give the water 'colour'.

Similar principles can be applied in Cape waters... where the prevailing winds will cause surface water to move to the left.


Oxygen Content of the water

On the opposite side of the spectrum... in KZN, a South-Westerly offshore wind keeps the water warm, depleting the water of nutrients and also causing the Oxygen content to drop. This makes the water clear again, and being depleted of Oxygen, causes fish to become sluggish. The warmer the water, the less Oxygenated it becomes.

Remember that these are generalizations - what most often happens with the prevailing winds. Note that there are always exceptions to these 'rules' because so many other factors play an influencing role... eg. Barometer pressure, Wind strength etc.

An example is that after a North East wind for a few days, the cold water has had a chance to bloom nutrients, optimal for feeding. Then the front switches around and the South Wester will blow warm water back inshore. This is optimal fishing time - slightly warmer water with nutrients available. A steady SW wind for a few days causes the nutrients to become depleted, oxygen content to drop and fishing then becomes poor.

Another example - Warm water with a steady wind over it, creates a choppy sea, which oxygenates the water - the environment suddenly becomes a lot more conducive to fishing because of the induced oxygen in the water and more cover for prey and predators alike. Predatory fish also have a lot more difficulty hunting in crystal clear, flat, calm conditions. At times like this, they will definitely become a lot more active at night than in the day.

It would stand to reason that if the water is calm, clean and with little movement, the places that do have some movement or some white water would be the better option.

Conversely if the sea is rough, there is lots of white water and generally fairly low visibility  conditions, the quieter water becomes the better option.


BAROMETER

Atmospheric pressure is a good prediction of weather patterns.
Low pressure indicates stormy weather and the fish will go off the bite.
High pressure indicates fair weather and stable conditions... more chance of fish feeding during these conditions.
More importantly, is the very beginning of a dropping barometer - Fish will feed before an approaching storm or between the approaching fronts, or as the barometer rises and falls through the course of the day.
On a rising barometer (after a storm) the fish will feed better too. In my experience, it's when a Barometer starts to move that's important.

These are very basic, general guidelines, as there are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking...

 ■ Rising Barometer: Fishing is Best

■Rapidly Fluctuating: Indication of good fishing (regardless of fluctuating up or down).

■Static Barometer: Fishing is poor

■Falling Barometer: First part of fall is good fishing. After the fall continues for several hours, the more the it goes down the poorer fishing will be.

■Unusually Low Barometer: Donít bother as there is no fishing, because there will be a big storm!





Surface action of the water.


SWELL
Far  out to sea, winds blowing across vast sections of flat water cause the  surface water to produce a 'wind wave' - a wave of water that varies in  size according to the strength of the wind. These 'wind waves' continue  to flow, even when the wind that caused them has stopped, when they  become known as 'swells'. These swells continue to move until their  energy dissipates.

Notice how a water molecule (red dot in the  animation below), doesn't move dramatically forward as one would think  when a wave passes. Rather it moves in an Orbital path, slowly moving  forward with every cycle.



[Interestingly,  Short waves, lose their energy much quicker than long waves, which is  why swells from distant storms are only long waves. (waves with periods  larger than 13 secs). These long swells lose half of their energy over a  distance that varies from over 20000 km (half the distance round the  globe) to just over 2000 km! ]

When they are large enough, these  long swells will reach the shoreline, with varying results. Once formed,  there is very little that a 'local' wind (near the shore) can do to  affect these swells, besides creating 'white horses' that appear on the  crests of swells and making for a choppy sea.

WAVES

Once  these swells reach shallower water, or an obstruction beneath them (eg  sandbank, reef, pinnacle) they change in a number of ways.

As a  swell approaches the coastline and comes into contact with the sea floor  the waves will start to slow down. The shallower the water becomes the  slower they move. As they slow down they have to squash together. (i.e.  they shorten their wave period.) This process results in increasing wave  height. The steeper the sea floor gradient the more pronounced the wave  height will increase. The increase in wave height begins to occur at  depths of around one half of the wavelength.




As  the wave moves into increasingly shallow water, the bottom of the wave  decreases speed. There comes a point where the top of the wave overtakes  it and starts to spill forward ó the wave starts to break.  In general a wave will start to break when it reaches a water depth of 1.3 times the wave height.






Slope of Sea Floor

If you've read everything we have written up to this point, you know that it's the action of the sea bed slowing the bottom part of the wave that causes the wave to break.

Gradual slope: A gently sloping approach causes the bottom of the wave to drag and will result in the top of the wave prematurely overtaking the bottom resulting in the wave breaking in deeper water. These crumbling waves won't be steep and will lack punch.



Wave breaking on a Steep sloping sea floor: - a steep slope or a reef. The swell approaches the Sandbank/reef at a greater speed, since it hasn't been slowed down by any slope yet. From the diagram below it can be seen that the wave "jacks up" due to the rapid change in depth creating a higher wave. The breaking depth is reached much later than on the gently sloped bottom. The top of the wave quickly overtakes the bottom and pitches forward. The waves created by the rapid change in depth are much steeper and hollower ---> the wave tube is born!
Rapid depth change creates steep pitching waves - those big thunderer backline waves so prevalent on the KZN North Coast. Behind those waves is much deeper water!




What determines the slope of the Seabed?

It's quite important to understand how different slopes are formed.
Generally, the Southern parts of South Africa has fine sand, which is much more resistant to Wave action than coarser sand, which is found in the Northern parts of our Coastline. Coarser sand is more prone to being moved (due to the friction co-efficient). Fine sandy beaches (Cape) generally makes for flatter gentler slopes into the sea. The further North one goes, the more prevalent coarse-grained beaches become and the deeper the drop-offs and the faster the slope on the beaches.

BEACHES

Beaches are made up of a series of troughs, channels and sand banks.
From the Intertidal zone (where the water washes up the beach) one would normally find a drop-off or lip, forming a trough that runs parallel to the beach.
Beyond the trough is a Sandbank that separates the trough from the Open sea. Somewhere along the trough, which can run for many km's, there is an opening or channel that runs straight out to sea.

Troughs are notoriously poor at producing fish. Because the water in these troughs is usually clear - this is not a good spot for Bait fish to hide! Bait fish will always look for turbulent water, that provides bubbles and colour in which they can hide. These areas are right next to Sandbanks, where the water run-off causes turbulence, sediment in the water, good feeding characteristics for bait fish schools.
Predators prey on Baitfish using the element of surprise. They cannot hide themselves in clear water/troughs. Predators will lurk and patrol on the edges of structure like sandbanks, where they know the baitfish will be.
So although the deep water troughs on a beach look so inviting, there are very rarely any fish in them, because there is no cover!

The spots to put your bait in - always look for "working water", the water running off a sandbank or structure that creates white water or "foamies". The bubbles and sediment in the water provide excellent cover for the little ones, with the Predators utilizing this cover in smash and grab runs.




The sand bank at the back of the trough is broken by these channels leading out and if it is a fine-grained beach that is gently sloping, there may be a series of two or three such troughs and sand banks going seaward.
On a coarse-grained beach (KZN) one very seldom finds more than one trough and one bank at the back. The water tends to be deeper in these troughs than on fine grained beaches.

Looking from above....



The open sea channels are an excellent place to put your bait out. On either side of the opening between 2 sandbanks is prime territiory - the bait fish will be there feeding on the sediment, and the scent of your bait will call fish from beyond the opening out to sea.

To summarize... a swell approaching a gradual sandbank will have a soft crumbling wave. A swell approaching a steep sandbank will have a big dumper type wave. So we now have a good idea of the depth of the water behind the Sandbank.

Once a wave has passed over the bank, watch carefully - it will reveal to you the slope characteristics on the inside of the bank down into the trough!

A steep slope going into the trough will give you a very distinct cut-off between the white water of the wave and the blue calmer water... (the Kob drop-off!  :hnthnt: ). This cut-off line is often a couple of metres shoreward of the drop-off, in other words, if your bait lands exactly on the line it is going to be a few metres into the deep water rather than on the bank.
To land on the bank, one has to try to anticipate how strong the water is and how far it is pushing the white water shore-ward and place your cast a few metres into the white.




The bigger the area is that the white water fades into the blue, the gentler the gradient (no clear cut-off). One will notice here that the bigger the swirl or the foamy that comes off the bank, the further it will extend white water shoreward and generally one can assume that the fish will be spread over a bigger area on the inside of the bank.




What to look out for

Courtesy of Barry Wareham

The more water that comes in over the bank in the form of breaking and rolling waves, the more the water piles up in the inside channel and the stronger the current will be running out to sea in the holes on the side of the bank. It is very important to remember this, particularly when fishing for smelling type fish as it is this current going seaward that will bring big fish into the hole to look for the bait. Look for the seaward rips, as this is the best chance you are going to get to pull big fish on smell. The opening in between 2 sandbanks is the ideal spot to put a Slide bait or a big cast bait out.

Fish feeding activity on beaches definitely increases when the tide starts to push (Incoming tide). Quite often, once fish have fed successfully, they will move offshore or move to a resting or holding area where they will bide their time until it is time to go and search for a meal once more and again, this would generally coincide with an incoming tide if on a beach.

Look for the deep drop-offs, particularly where there is a bit of a swirling action in the water. Look for banks that are showing some soapy water with the odd breaking wave, rather than water that is rolling all the time. Fish like to feed on these types of banks and the takes are often quite dramatic. I mentioned above the holding or resting areas, because on many occasions anglers successfully catch fish that are not feeding aggressively and not eating the baits, particularly size wise, that they normally would. Just like any animal, once they have fed, they are not inclined to take big bait, but will often just suck up a tit-bit. When Kob are not feeding in the churn on the back of a bank or on the shoreward dropoff, they can sometimes be found chilling in a hole and will be tempted with a much smaller well-presented bait.

Isolated banks are brilliant, particularly if the water all around them is deep. There will often be an abundance of fish on the edges if the bank is still too shallow, but they will feed aggressively on the bank as soon as it is deep enough. The big predators too will be found patrolling the deep water around the bank. These isolated banks are easily identified by the calm water all around them, but waves lifting, breaking, rolling and then fading into a swell, show one exactly where the bank is.



When you see sand lifting or churning, remember that all kinds of food items are probably being exposed and fish hang around these areas. On the beaches that have very fine sand, most fish are very tolerant of this fine sand and can often be caught in it. On coarse-grained beaches however, the fish definitely avoid being in the churning sand, but will definitely hunt around the edges.

RIPS AND SIDEWASH

Side currents and the effects of Longshore drift cause a sidewash. Generally if there is a very strong side-wash on the beach continually in the same direction the whole length of the beach, it is not a very good condition to fish in, as it is difficult to get a sinker to hold. If there is absolutely no current, it is also not very conducive to good angling, but at least one can still fish in it.

It is very important to be able to identify an outgoing current, sometimes referred to as a 'Ripí. This normally intensifies on an outgoing tide, but can be quite obvious and intense when seas are big.

The vast majority of fish that we target use their sense of smell extensively. Current gets them homing in on your bait. Whenever you stand and watch the water it is imperative that you work out which way the current is going and how strong it is.

Rips that go straight out to sea can pull fish from a long way off. Remembering that wind will blow anything floating on the surface, one should always try to look for things in the water, bits of weed, etc., that will give you an indication as to which way and how fast the water is moving.  Having established this, you can throw your bait to the area that is going to make maximum use of the current. Should there already be other baits in the water, you obviously need to position yours where it is the first one the fish will come across when he comes homing in on the smell!





 
Generally when one looks down the length of a sandy beach, there are long curves with fairly distinct points on the beach. Quite often there is a hole in the curve and a bank on the point. Particularly on a low spring tide, these banks are often easy to walk or wade onto and invariably the water on the other side of the bank is very deep. It is also a feature that is very consistent in terms of producing fish. Always check out the points on the beach and be there before the tide starts to push.

Very Important: Whenever you look down a beach, remember that what you see from the side is often very misleading. Do not make an assessment looking left or right on the beach. Try to get up high or else walk down the beach to the feature that you think you are seeing. Take some time to  watch and allow some sets to come through, especially if the sea is calm. This will help you to better understand what lies beneath. You will be amazed how often water that does not look good from the side, is in fact really good when you get to it!

Hope this helps someone!  w;k



Now is not a good time to go fishing... said nobody... EVER!!

#QAnon   
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Offline REEFMAN

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2011, 02:42:57 pm »
Part 2 will deal with Rock fishing... when I've got some time...  :cnfzd


Edit:

Ok done... Part 2: http://www.ultimateangling.co.za/index.php/topic,7429.0.html

Now is not a good time to go fishing... said nobody... EVER!!

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Offline WalkersKiller

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2011, 02:50:56 pm »
Wow excellent post Reefz, very helpful...  :resp: :resp: :resp: :resp: :resp: :+ cred:

One question I have always wanted to ask... I have caught fish in the trough or channels leading out to sea and I have caught fish on sandbanks... I presume the channel would be a better area to fish?

Offline REEFMAN

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2011, 02:57:01 pm »
The channel opening is good... this is where the scent calls fish in from outside the Sandbank. Particularly helpful when sliding or casting big baits. But if you're talking about the troughs... no this is the worst option - a barren area. It's only the occasional predator that comes swimming through the troughs. The edges of Sandbanks is the place to be for eds and the predators that follow them. For flatfish- on top of the sandbanks.

Now is not a good time to go fishing... said nobody... EVER!!

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Offline WalkersKiller

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2011, 03:02:07 pm »
The channel opening is good... this is where the scent calls fish in from outside the Sandbank. Particularly helpful when sliding or casting big baits. But if you're talking about the troughs... no this is the worst option - a barren area. It's only the occasional predator that comes swimming through the troughs. The edges of Sandbanks is the place to be for eds and the predators that follow them. For flatfish- on top of the sandbanks.
That makes a lot of sense, have blanked quite a few times when fishing in troughs, wont be wasting my time there again...

Cool have caught Raggies and small Kob in channels and Blue Rays and Lesser Sandys on and just behind the sand banks...

I understand how to determine the depth of the water behind a sandbank after you explained it, dont know if i missed something but would the depth of the water behing a sandbank be the same depth as the channel adjacent to it?

Offline PH

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2011, 03:04:02 pm »
Great posting, Reefz!! :+ cred:
 
In Barry's booklet about kayak fishing, he illustrates rips currents but these illustrations makes it so much more clear that rip currents utilises or causes the channels prependicular to the beach. I never really understood or knew whether a rip current is parallel to the beach or perpendicular to the beach. (can be very dangerous for kayaking)
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 03:05:25 pm by PH »
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Offline Rods

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 03:15:18 pm »
Absolutely brilliant post Reefs.  So much info. Yor!   :+ cred:

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 03:16:16 pm »
Post of the month by a mile. Where do I nominate?

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2011, 03:21:05 pm »
Watched Off The Chart last night and Barry wanted to land a GT from the side on his last night there. He tested the waters till he come across a spot that he believed was 100% for GT. He stuck it out without pulls for hours and then a GT picked him up and he landed what was minimum a 40kg fish.

His knowledge on area selection was that good. I would have lost confidence by then.

Great post again Reefz!

Offline WalkersKiller

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2011, 03:22:26 pm »
Post of the month by a mile. Where do I nominate?
Already been nominated TM  :-)

Offline Capt. Hook

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2011, 03:23:31 pm »
Excellent Post
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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2011, 03:24:54 pm »
Shooo Reefz going to have to come back to this after exams! Hours of reading and applying to what I have seen at the coast. Seriously top notch post and definitely something I need to work on. Being more of a south coast and transkei fishermen it tends to be arriving at a spot and putting a bait next to a rip and that's it. I need to develop my water reading skills for when I hit those north coast beaches

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Re: Reading the Water
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2011, 03:31:23 pm »

Offline Skaap Tjop

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2011, 04:54:09 pm »
 :resp:    and lots of it...
"He prayeth well, who loveth well /Both man and bird and beast."

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2011, 04:57:36 pm »
 (clap) (clap) (clap)

 :+ cred:

Great Work Tony

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2011, 04:58:20 pm »
 (clap) ..... :win: ...... :udman: ........ :+ cred:

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2011, 05:13:02 pm »
Wow Reefz. Article of the month!  :+ cred: :+ cred: :+ cred: :+ cred: :appr:  something to cheer me up after TaxEISHion exam today :cry:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time.

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2011, 05:32:10 pm »
 (clap) (clap)    One of the best posts I have ever read . Well done Master !!! :+ cred:

Offline Willie

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2011, 07:00:22 pm »
Reefz this is an excelent informative post  :tkx:  this will help definitely help me. I was hoping that our TV fishing programs will show us this but you have outclassed them  :resp: :resp: :resp: :+ cred:
The worst day fishing is better than the best day at office

Offline krissi

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Re: Reading the Water - Part 1
« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2011, 07:50:53 pm »
WOW some serious time and effort put into this Reef - well done and much   :resp:     :+ cred:   I have only glanced through it but will be printing it to study it in detail to use at Nationals (for my own added advantage). Thank you very much!