How to determine surf current?

Discussion in 'Surf, Piers, & Jetties' started by Geeyoupee, Aug 6, 2020.

  1. Geeyoupee

    Geeyoupee Member

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    Sometimes when we go surf fishing, bait and wait, the current is really strong and pulls all our rigs one direction of the beach. 4oz weight doesn't seem to make much difference. It's almost impossible to fish as lines can get tangled or the rigs pulled really close to shore.

    How can you determine how strong the current is before going out to the beach? I bet there are many factors but what can I use to help me determine this. I was thinking that wind strength and direction would be a big factor but I couldn't find anything online. It's also hard to read as there can be many wind directions and you have to factor in wind speed. I've also tired using surfline.com to look at the foam on the water to see if they are moving a certain way but that didn't seem to help.

    Any tips?
     
  2. InfernoVolpe

    InfernoVolpe Member

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    So in my experience as a lifelong surfer, the swell direction determines the general flow of the undercurrent (what's moving anything below water's surface) while the wind will determine that of anything above (think how a kayak weather vanes into the wind and you would have to compensate in paddling).

    The first screenshot is taken from surfline with my own annotation showing the overall strongest current factor in today's forecast. As I was surfing yesterday, I got pulled south along the beach - meaning the prominent swell is from the North / NW.

    Another factor in the undercurrent is that it will always get pulled towards the nearest rip current. So imagine you're North of a rip (look up how to spot those) your bait will go South towards it. Vice versa on the other side.

    What that means is, if you threw your bait straight into a rip (very productive areas usually) your rig wouldn't really move laterally at all. The prevailing flow is perpendicular to the waterline, so any movement along the beach won't really happen.

    The second image is showing how rips work with pulling water towards them.

    Hope this helps dude!

    Annotation 2020-08-06 124749.jpg rip-current-700.jpg
     
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  3. Geeyoupee

    Geeyoupee Member

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    Thanks for the insight. I was looking at surfline but I didn't understand the arrows. Maybe you can help me understand it more.

    Why is there 3 different arrow and swells? Does it mean there are 3 different swells acting on that location? Does the blue arrow on surfline mean it's the strongest swell?
    To keep things simple in this situation, I'd only consider the blue swell which is from the West, so would this mean that my rig back towards shore? Not really South or North.

    Today is 1.9ft @6 seconds W. If tomorrow is 1.9ft @3 seconds, does that mean the current is twice as strong?

    Is there any special formula or way to calculate the strength from swell weight and it's frequency? Maybe swell height/interval?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  4. Fins in the Bin

    SDFish VIP

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    Yep Surfline is showing 3 different swells and each ones strength or dominance. His advice is right on the money, however each beach and their angle are another determining factor. In the summer our swells come from the South mainly and a few from the west. In the winter our swells come from the North and a few from the west. A big south swell will be pushing the current hard like a river to the north typically in most beaches in SD especially Del Mar and North. When you see long closeout waves with no shoulder that is usually just a straight west swell and you want to look for deep spots or rips to find an edge. Swell angle and its strength to start are probably most important, however I have surfed almost double over head lefts in IB on days where Mission is knee high at best on a good South Swell.(beach angle)
     
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  5. InfernoVolpe

    InfernoVolpe Member

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    So they are the most dominant factors on the beach today. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. The largest (blue) arrow shows the most predominant swell factor for the day. That's the one to pay attention to. More chaotic / more varied directions of swell just make for ****tier and choppier surf.

    Your rig might slowly get dragged in, but it doesn't have to be a pure north / pure south swell to move things. Any deviation off 90 degrees from the beach is going to move water up or down the coast. Again, I think rip currents are much more important with bottom fishing and the weights you'd use.

    Longer period swell (more time in seconds) = stronger waves. Think of a boat making ripples out behind it as it passes along a calm bay, many smaller ones closer together that you'd hardly feel if you were in the water. Now put that against the same boat speeding along making huge roller swells as it passes that are farther apart. Same amount of water being moved / displaced but with different degrees of 'push' if you will.
     
    #5 InfernoVolpe, Aug 6, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
  6. TekAngler

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    When the current is strong don't fight against it. Walk along with the moving sinker. When it stops moving, its caught on some type of structure and it just did the hard work for you. AKA walking the dog.
     
  7. Werfless

    Werfless The Coach ..RIP my friends
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    Larger tides make whatever current is present stronger, and sometimes MUCH stronger as well, saying..
     
  8. bendopolo

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    Generally big surf, big current. Look around for different beach topography. Current is highest on points. Less current on each side.
    Pyramid sinkers dig in pretty good.
     
  9. barepixels

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    Just bring extra weight... Adapt and conquer
     
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  10. carpkiller

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    How can you determine how strong the current is before going out to the beach?

    Even if you know exactly what the current is...there's no telling how much crap will be in the water.

    It can change from "so much kelp the guys throwing 8 ounces of weight went home crying"....to "strong current, but clean and easy fishing" the very next day, same time/tide. And vice versa.

    If you bring along a light rod at least you have the option of making short casts in the wash...when your long rod gathers 300 pounds of weeds as soon as you bring the line tight.
     
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