Why Tides Matter

Dan Carns

A lot has been written about tides and while much of it is true, some is questionable. Also, if you ask five anglers what is the best tide to fish, you’re going to get six answers. So, let’s dive into how tides work and then why they matter. Tides are directly driven by the gravitational pull of the moon and somewhat by the sun. Day to day tides advance approximately 50 minutes so if it’s high tide at noon today it will be at 12:50 the following day. This tidal tug will be exaggerated when the moon and the sun are aligned in the sky, such as the new moon and to a lesser degree when they are in opposite positions in the sky, as in a full moon.

That being said what we really care about is how it effects fishing. So, predator fish like snook, redfish and spotted seatrout that we chase here in SWFL depend on the tides to deliver food so they hole up in areas that have the best chance of delivering bait while expending the least amount of energy. When tides are slack at either the top or the bottom and not flowing at all the bait balls and schooling fish are under no tidal influence and can spread out and move about freely. Once the tides start to move they are trapped by moving water so they tighten up in the school for protection and in general have to follow the path of moving water and are now vulnerable to attack as they are a larger target constrained by moving water. Another way fish use tides are when the tide is full and flooding up under the mangrove trees, the bait fish and crabs congregate in the roots making them easy pickings for ambush predators like snook and reds. Trout will use potholes and grass flats to ambush bait as the water flows in or out delivering food.

I do want to dispel this myth about staying home when the tide appears to be “wrong”. This is perhaps my biggest pet peeve when I hear an “expert” or friend say you should stay home and mow the lawn or clean the house because the tide sucks. Don’t fall for this as time and again I’ve proven this to be false. One of the owners of Gulf Coast Kayak, Bryan, and I spent a morning fishing for and catching redfish in early December on one of those days that showed no moving water, yet we caught fish for three hours in what became a stunning day of fishing. Another reason to go when it’s convenient for you and not the tide is that when it does slow down or feeding does pick back up you want to see this for yourself so that you’re building on that knowledge, that helps you become a better angler. It’s A Wild World-Get Out There! Fishman Dan