Friday 4 July 2008

Bass Fishing Influences - Water Clarity (I)

I'll try and post some thoughts on water clarity over the weekend. This foto was taken on opening day 2008.

Water clarity is a factor that will strongly influence your bass fishing. The extent of that water clarity; be it too clear or too unclear are at opposite ends of the tactical fishing spectrum. Fish behaviour is different at both ends and hence you will need to apply different methods to catch them. In clear water fish are often visible when swimming and when hooked will often see them been ‘mobbed’ by other members of the shoal. Often as you bring your fish closer to hand, this exciting activity can be clearly observed. Clear water fishing is often full of refusals and other challenges whilst on the other hand ‘brownish green’ water is impenetrable to our gaze and we wonder what’s going on down there, are there indeed any fish in there?

All of my guiding services operate below the point at Rosslare burrow shore. In other words I never go ‘up north’ to do any bass fishing with clients. The reasons for this are related to water clarity and the challenges it presents to the fly and lure fisherman. As you move into the estuary at Wexford and North past the Raven point the sea is in constant contact with sand. The currents and wind are in constant interaction with this sand and depending on their strength and direction as well as longevity there is a lot of ‘suspended’ particles in the water for long periods of time. There is sand all along the East coast and this is further complicated by channels and bars and strange and complex tides.

Further south past the southeast corner, there is of course vast quantities of sand, but I suspect this sand and the geography has different qualitiesand 'behaves' differently than that on the east coast.

There’s not as much of it – no long golden beaches of fine grains
The sand particles have different qualities on the southern coasts (bigger/heavier)
There are rock platforms and deeper water closer to shore
Currents tend to be stronger and faster
There are less straight lines

We are talking strictly shore fishing at the moment – bear in mind that estuary fishing has its own complexities like run off from the land and rivers.

After a long period of say North or Northwesterly breezes the water clarity is often amazing on the south coast. A westerly breeze doesn’t affect this clarity adversely but as it swings further south towards the southwest or south then this breeze or wind begins to have its affects. The longer the wind blows and the greater its strength the more unclear the water becomes. Waves crashing and rolling puts particles into the water, the windy weather changes the environment!

If you witness a lot of seaweed deposits on the beach its usually an indication of previous high wave and wind activity. This seaweed will rot and will often decompose into the sand where you are walking. When waves hit this sand it adds these smaller often-minute decomposing particles to the water and then you can witness quite a vivid two-colour scenario of blue and green (or even brown) at the sea close to shore.

The water clarity and its longevity/components and causes are not an easy thing to understand. Because I’m exposed to it on an almost daily basis I try not to rationalise it but have developed a ‘sense of conditions’ based on experiences. Unclear water on the south coast is a different phenomena than that on the east coast and hence the fishing is different and you’re expectations should be too.

You arrive at you fishing destination – its warm, a little cloudy and misty, high tide is in about 3 hrs and it’s a spring tide, wind is from the southwest force three. Perfect. Then you walk into he water and you can’t see your feet. Not so perfect! The cause of this unclear water has been wind force, wind direction, and the previous number of hours it has blown for. Combine this with heavy rain and you get miserable water conditions.

One of the reasons I emphasise the need for anglers to tune into the weather systems is to try and enable the elimination of surprises and often disappointments. Taking the example above and applying it to today July 05th for example. It’s a nice sunny day here; it’s a bit breezy the tides are good I might go fishing! But. Already the water was murky, the wind blew very strong from the east in the last 12 hrs, and its still blowing at 4- touching 5. It will get worse this afternoon. There has been no settling period for particles to descend. Sunday looks like a calm day with winds dropping this evening and all day tomorrow so by Monday morning or maybe even Sunday evening – fishing will return somewhat as particles descend, barometric pressure builds again and the water clears. The nature of the particles are heavier than those along the east coast, I believe they descend faster.

Can you calculate the extent and the longevity of the unclear water?

The table above is a representation of wind force and a recovery rate for fishing. Please do not interpret this as 'definitive' or 'carved in stone' in any way. Its based around observations and experiences of the last 6 years or so. The way it works as a guide is that any number below three has a negligible if any effect upon the fishing. So for example if it blows force three for 4 days its value is 2 and has no effect real effect on your fishing (we are not considering direction). If it blows force 4 for four days its value is 3 and this does have an effect on your fishing or rather - water clarity and fish behaviour.

It should be noted that if it blows force six for 2 days its value is 2 this is in fact a 2+ and probably closer to three. The table values for force 6 and 7 should be treated with this in mind.

The values also give a rough indication of the number of tides it takes to recover so if it blows force 5 for three days we have a value of 3. Multiply this by 12 and this is the recovery time for water clarity from the time of the decrease in windspeed on your forecasts. A sudden drop in windspeed may increase the clearing process.

Please bear in mind this is an indication from clear to unclear on the south coast - it does not take into account the current clarity of the water. In other words if the water is already unclear this table is meaningless. It is also based on a slowing of wind speed to the negligible end of the table for a period of time, the 'future wind' on your current forecasts will decrease in speed from the value you are now taking.

A value of two is merely an indicator and can often be a heads up to change. Any value in the range of 3 or 4 and water clarity is affected and consequently so is your fishing - beyond the factor of 4 fly fishing is generally impossible and even at 3 it can be downright difficult. Lure fishers can expect to fish up to a value of 4 and even an early session at 5 but not for any extended periods.

Because the south east coast is subject to so many influences - water depth, current speed, geography, weather, its possible to locate areas of 'clearer' water even when winds are blowing hard. This is where again, ground work and perserverance pays of. By constantly fishing in the one location you may well become accustomed to its patterns but you are also subject to its negative influences. You need to find fallback locations when your favourite is full of weed and brown sandy dirty water.

You learn more by exploring and expanding your fishing - I dont know exactly what a bass does when the water is dirty but i know they hunt differently and in different places - change your techniques and strategies and you will find them!

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Forwarded to - The Irish Bass Policy Group (David McInerny, John Quinlan, Shane O Reilly, Mike Hennessy, Dr William Roche, Dr Nial O'Ma...