Water temperature, Color, Ocean Tides and Swells

Water Temperature, Color, Ocean Tides and Swells

The Basics
Understanding the Basics of Temperature, Color, Ocean Tides and Swells conditions will arguably improve any fisherman’s ability to land fish. These are the technical skills needed to properly identify conditions where fish will feed. Understand the equation and how each

Most fish, if not all, feed instinctually, instilled by millions of years of evaluation. Understanding the environmental triggers that cause fish to school up and go on the bite takes much of the speculation, luck and superstition out of the equation. It’s a simple science of fish survival behavior. Know the parts-follow the equation and anyone can be a successful fisherman.

The ABC of Kayak Fishing
By Allen “Bushy” Bushnell

ABC of Kayak Fishing
Good Introductory Reading for those new to Kayak Fishing.

Allen “Bushy” Bushnell, is a long time ambassador to the kayak fishing community. He writes the “Fish Wrap” Column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and is the organizer for many fishing tournaments including – Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament. Allen also provides local guided trips for fishing around the Santa Cruz & Monterey Area

Water Temperature

Q: How does water temperature affect a fishing bite?

A: I think water temperature plays a big role in fishing. By accurately gauging water temperatures and understanding fish migration routes and current ocean conditions an angler definitely increases his chances of catching big fish.

The more you know, the more you’re prepared, and the more you will catch fish!

Here are my observations of fish. It is simply an observation and not tied to any scientific data. I’m not a marine biologist. Go ask the HOT DFG data collection girls at the docks if my observation is accurate.

Cooler Temperatures
Pacific Halibut

Warmer Temperatures
California Halibut
Rock Fish

Water clarity and color

Understanding water clarity is important to getting a bite and landing a fish. When fishing in San Francisco Bay clear water is important to increasing an anglers chance of landing fish like the California Halibut. Pacific and California Halibut primarily feed by sight, so having clear and clean water will increase an anglers chances of landing a nice fatty flattie.

However fish like Sharks, Rays, and Sturgeon, which hunt by smell will more activity feed in muddy water and in high current conditions. In particular, the white sturgeon, typically found in the California bay/delta and san Pablo bay will feed primarily in “chocolate brown/brackish” water after a strong rain (Environmental Trigger) has muddied up the water and released shrimp or other bait fish into the water systems.

The King (Chinook) Salmon is mainly targeted in “Murky Green” water. By gauging water clarity, color, temperature and bait fish (Feed), an angler has a good idea if the “bite” will turn on, or at least put them in the best position of a bite.

More Information

Oceanic Swells and Tides


Oceanic swells play a big part in bottom fishing (halibut, Rock Fish, & Lingcod)
Current swells report can be checked on sites like

Http:// www.noaa.gov

Typically halibut and rockfish will go on lock jaw when the water temperature and swells (especially a south swell) are in play. When the temperature rises and the swell is down they (Halibut and Rockfish) will go on the bite.

Ideal Scenario– Clear water, small swells, warm water, and good tides will turn on a bottom fish bite.

Tides Table for San Francisco Bay Area

Most seasoned fisherman will agree that fishing is cyclical. One cycle is the Daily fishing cycle. It goes something like this.

Early Morning →Fish Bite→Afternoon Lull(Go to lunch and eat ham sandwich here) →Late Afternoon to Evening Bite. This tends to be the norm but this is not always the case.

Minus Tides
These are great tides for Sturgeon and Clamming
Minus Tides exist a handful of times during the year.

Strong tides
Good for Strip Bass in the central bay rock piles
Good for sturgeon in San Pablo Bay and Delta

Smaller Tides
Clearer water in the bay
Good for Halibut

The Full Moon
Good For White Sea Bass in the ocean
(Look for area’s of spawning squid)

Fishing is akin more to a science than a superstitious tradition. Most seasoned anglers and old boots “legends” will have a log that measure data, GPS points, dates , time, feed and water conditions at a minimum. These family/business secrets are usually passed on to the next generation.

However, with the emergence of the Internet and access to GPS points, live weather data and fishing articles the veil is slowing being lifted on these secrets. Even the best poker player in the world, with all his experience and knowledge, can be played on the river. There is always a luck and chance factor to every situation. However with more knowledge anyone can have a shot at a big salmon, halibut or sturgeon. It’s always good to have a tight line—The Lost Anchovy.

Version 1.0
Revised 7.16.2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *