PENSACOLA TIDE PREDICTIONS
“Currents” by: Big “O” Charters
Over the years I’ve learned that there are many variables that affect coastal fishing and fish feeding patterns. We have water salinity, water clarity, wind, temperature, moon phases, etc., etc. I might even throw in my wife’s mood, my zodiac sign, and “do I feel lucky today”. But one of the most important variables to pay attention to when fishing is the water currents. Coastal water moves, and this water movement is what most of our fish need to trigger their feeding. I never make a fishing trip without checking the tide charts. I look for the highs and lows in the area I’m going to fish, and also the range of the tidal movement. Everyone who has done any fishing and checking of tide charts knows that these charts are never right. This is very similar to the weather forecast and or the wind forecast. However, a tide chart will give the experienced fisherman a good starting point. It gives me a place to start guessing. The wind and the velocity of the wind have as much effect on tides as does the moon. If the chart shows that the high tide at point A is at 8 am and the wind has been out of the south all night at 15 knots, I know the falling tide will be held up by this wind and may not fall until 10 am or even later. Conversely if that wind was out of the North at 15 knots there may not be any water at point A when I get there. That wind could push the water out well before the predicted high tide. Again, the chart gives me a place to start guessing.
Why do fish want “currents”? All the coastal fish that I target are predators. That is they eat smaller fish. They are also opportunist. It’s a lot easier to catch supper if it comes to you instead of you chasing it. That’s kind of like having a pizza delivered instead of going out for it. Speckled trout eat lots of shrimp in the summer and lots of bait fish in the winter. If he can hide behind a piling or a grassy point with his nose in the current, sooner or later that current will bring him his supper. In winter fishing, we are usually in the marsh. Lots of times you can see a current line extending out from the grass into the open bay. This is usually caused from an opening in the marsh grass or an actual cut. On a falling tide this water is pulled through the grass and will be cleaner than the bay water. This is why you can see the “current” line. This line may extend out into the bay for several hundred yards before the clean and dirtier water mix so much that they cannot be distinguished any more. Anywhere along this “current” line can be excellent fishing. Because of this, I prefer a falling tide in the winter for both speckled trout and reds.
In the summer months I prefer a falling tide for reds but an incoming tide for trout. Why? The falling tide for reds in summer is simple. Weather I’m fishing the marsh or the outer bays for reds I like the tide pulling the water out of the grass. This in turn pulls the crabs, shrimp, and small fish out of the grass and right into the open mouth of Mr. Red. Trout are a little different in the summer. Summer is their breeding season and they will be out on the open water and along the beaches of the open bays. A strong incoming tide is also needed to carry any fertilized trout eggs into the marsh where they can be protected from predators. This incoming tide brings higher salinity water which the trout needs for survival and the shrimp (both brown and white) which is like rib eye to the trout. This is not to say that you cannot catch trout on a falling and reds on an incoming tide in the summer, but I find it a little easier when the “currents” are to my licking.
What is slack tide? That’s easy. Slack tide is the period of time between high and low or low and high tide when the tide is changing directions and the water is not moving at all. Lots of times you can see slack tide. You might be fishing a cork and it has been moving from right to left for the last two hours. All of a sudden you notice the cork has stopped moving. It didn’t happen that fast, but if you weren’t paying attention it seems like that fast. I usually notice it when my clients stop catching fish. They were catching as long as the water was moving, but when it stopped the fish bite stopped. The only thing I can catch during slack time is “hard heads”. They will bite anytime. I usually stop fishing during slack tide and open a cold drink and a honeybun and try to relax until my cork starts moving left to right. That’s what the fish are waiting for-current.
This kind of ends my discussion of water currents. Pay attention to the tide charts, even though they are never right. Check the wind predictions, even though they are never right. And pay attention to the weather forecast, again they are always wrong. These three barometers, along with a lot of luck and blessings from the fishing gods, will help you become a better fisherman.
Capt. Owen Langridge
Big “O” Charters L.L.C.
225 978 1136