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Fishing with the Tide

Getting with the tide tables can help you catch fish!


Being in the right place at the right time is perhaps the most important part of a successful fishing foray. If you aren't where the fish are, you can be assured you will not be catching anything. Water level, water movement, and movement direction all play a vital role in where the fish will be located.

The influence of tidal changes on a fish's feeding and migrating habits can not be understated. They move with the tide and feed at locations that provide them either access to food or the ambush ability at that food.

The saltwater coast line of the Southern and Southeastern United States is veined with rivers and creeks coming through saltwater estuaries, oyster beds, and marshes to reach the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. These estuaries and marshes are the very beginning of the marine food chain for all species of fish. Learning the basics of this food chain can lead to some fine fishing experiences.

On a high tide, water will flood the marshes, covering acres and acres with as much as two feet or more of water. Crabs and small baitfish will follow that rising tide to feed on in the shallows. Larger fish, such as redfish, flounder, drum and trout will also follow that rising tide in to feed on these baitfish.

High tide in the coastal marsh finds large schools of small redfish on a shallow flat, roaming in search of forage. Individual large reds can be seen tailing as they root for crabs and other crustaceans in the mud.

As the tide begins to fall, the water coming off these flats begins to funnel into small channels, leading into larger channels and eventually into the creeks and rivers. Fish sense the dropping water and will move out with the tide to deeper water. These tidal outflows to deeper water are where fishing can be great.

As the water drops, oyster bars become visible, and the juvenile crabs can be seen scurrying about the shells. Take note of the life that abounds on the oyster bars. They almost tend to be a self contained ecosystem, with each resident depending on the other for survival. Take note, because the larger fish in the area will definitely take note.

Now that we know the fish will be there, let's see how to go about catching them!

When it comes to back country and estuary fishing, a high outgoing tide means pure pleasure for me. I know that fish will be concentrating in the tidal outflow areas and moving to deeper holes in the creeks and rivers.

I have many creek “holes”, places on the outside bend of a creek where the water is deeper, in many, many creeks. They hold fish most any time of the year, different species at different seasons. Winter finds seatrout in these deep holes. Summer finds the redfish and flounder in the same holes.

I start far upstream at slack high tide and begin to fish my way back downstream. Sometimes I will be throwing a bucktail, most often tipped with a shrimp or mud minnow. Other times, I will throw just a jig head with the same tipped bait.

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