The best time for tide-pooling is during spring tides (“spring” in the sense of “jump,” not the season), those that happen every two weeks when there is a full moon or a new moon and the gravitational effects of the moon and the sun complement each other. These have the highest high tides and the lowest low tides. Plan your trip to the tide pools for half an hour to an hour before the lowest tides. The best tide pools are found near the water during “minus” tides, those that are lower than the yearly average low tide. Tide tables can be purchased at local stores that stock fishing supplies, or checked online (a quick search will turn up dozens of online charts for any location).
The intertidal zone, where tide pools occur, is often divided into the splash, high, mid and low zones. The best tide pools, by far, with the richest diversity of sea life, are found in the last of these. In the low zones, which are uncovered only during the lowest tides of the month, you may find any of hundreds or even thousands of different species including sea stars, small crabs, urchins and occasionally an octopus.
Cautions: Wear long pants and shoes with soles that grip on wet rocks. Don’t let the incoming tide flood your return route to shore. Don’t turn your back to the ocean. Watch the waves, and don’t let a big one sneak up and sweep you off the rocks. Collect only memories — leave everything where you find it. Even the smallest shells will be used by young hermit crabs. Don’t collect tide-pool organisms. Respect their habitat and don’t carelessly flip over rocks in the pools. Tide pool flora and fauna are protected by strictly enforced laws to conserve them. Many are becoming rare.
Where: In northern Humboldt excellent tide pools can be found on Trinidad State Beach just below College Cove, at Luffenholz Beach two miles south of Trinidad, and at Patrick’s Point State Park.