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April 09, 2010

Fishing With the Tides

Be in all the right places at all the right times...

You'll find reds tailing on the last hour or so of a strong falling tide such as those that occur on the new and full moons in areas with just the right terrain - basically live bottom with depths no more than knee-deep in order to spot tailing fish. If you get that on Pelican Flat at noon, odds are good that you'll find similar conditions on Heron Flat, 10 miles down the bay, a couple of hours later. The trick is in knowing when you've had the best of it at the first flat and getting down to the second in time to enjoy prime action.

Of course, there are other factors that can have a significant impact on tide flow, with wind being No. 1: a steady 15-knot (or stronger) wind blowing with a falling tide will make that tide go low sooner and will also make it go much lower than it would on a calm day. The difference can easily be a foot or more, which can totally change the fishable habitat at given points in the daily tidal movement.

Conversely, a similarly strong wind blowing against a coming tide may pretty much stop it all together or make it come in several hours later at a given spot. In general, I've found that winds that block tide movement result in poorer fishing, but winds that increase the tidal velocity can be a big help in the right place. A few years back I got caught in an absolute gale at Pine Island Sound on Florida's lower west coast. The wind was so strong, I knew I'd take a beating if I tried to cross open water and get back to the marina, so I simply hid among the islands and kept fishing. On every island where the mangrove shore was exposed to the wind-pushed tide, snook were stacked in amazing numbers, and tossing a topwater in there was like dropping a cherry bomb into a bathtub. I went back to the same spots a day later when the wind had subsided and never drew a hit.

In short, run-and-gun fishing can be highly productive inshore, but it takes a good knowledge of lots of terrain and a willingness to pull up and move quickly to stay on top of the bite.

About the Author: Former fishing guide Frank Sargeant is the author of 10 books on fishing and boating and founder of the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Expo in Tampa, Florida, the Sunshine State's largest outdoors show. He has been the outdoors columnist at The Tampa Tribune for 25 years and has written thousands of magazine articles. His work has won some 60 national awards.