Fishing & Boating News

Fishing the Tides

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

Speckled trout- flounder, and redfish were caught on a mornings outgoing tide.
Photo by Ed Snyder
This big red was caught on a falling tide along the sea-grass edges.
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Nov. 21, 2010 - Gilchrist, TX) What do tides have to do with fishing and what are the importance of tides? This is probably one of the most asked questions from anglers.

Water movement isn't just a saltwater thing as even in freshwater water currents have a definite impact on the fish. But even more so within the saltwater environment of ebbs and flows.

First of all there are differences between currents and tides. Currents are really horizontal (earthbound) movements of water with some currents affected by tides. Tides however are vertical movements of water caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. Tides occur with barometric pressure, high pressure pulls the water to outgoing tides and low pressure pushes the water for incoming tides. When wind factors get involved you'll have lower than normal or higher than normal tides. Hence, incoming storms such as tropical storms or hurricanes will increase the tidal movements and northern cold fronts will decrease the levels of a tide.

Factors dealing with currents occur when wind movements push water ahead of it. And when wind and tide are in the same direction, higher or lower tides can happen. With gale force winds it is possible to have low tides higher than the previous high tide and visa versa when opposites occur.

Tides are most important for inshore fishing due to the simple fact that predator Fish feed into the current. Fish will always face into the current to keep their positions for ambushing prey swept in by the tidal currents. This is predominantly true with low, or outgoing tides. I've experienced better fishing trips on falling tides with the trout and reds will gathering in greater numbers to intercept shrimp, mullet, or other prey moving out of the marshy sea grass areas due to receding, or dropping water levels.

Feeding activity on the marsh flats are greatly affected by water depth (tide level) than by current flows. If the flats drain, only dead fish will remain there unless they find safety in deeper holes. As the water level drops with a falling tide, the predator fish move off the flats to position along channel edges to ambush shrimp and minnows also leaving the flats.

Quick tides are better for offshore angling, but slower tides provide better opportunities for inshore anglers. Fast inshore tides create a lot of murky water causing reduced visibility. When this happens it is recommended to use natural baits with fresh natural scents or lures with a lot of sound and or imbedded scents. When relying on lure colors early spring tides call for shades of red with late spring tides calling for darker colors such as root-beer or pumpkinseed. Summer tides rely on lighter shades of chartreuse or pearl colors while fall tides do better with bone, mullet colored, chartreuse, or white/natural shrimp colors. While silver or gold spoons work well in all tide water temp conditions.

View the tide charts for your area; Using as an example for your chart - In this case I'll use Gilchrist TX and Galveston East Bay as an example. 

If you study the tide tables here you'll see that the four tides a day will provide the most productive angling mainly due to more active feeding periods with the availability of prey increased. The two tide days provide the next best fishing opportunity but with slightly less activity. But one tide days limit your chances with less feeding activities, but even so one tide days can still produce for you especially with all day outgoing tides.

One exception though, on full moon tide nights the fish will actively feed all night long making them harder to locate and catch during the daytime. And moonless nights will scatter them. This is when night anglers can take advantage of the moonless nights with their own light systems attracting bait fish that in turn attract predator fish such as trout and reds.

Rip tides, or super fast tides, fish the edges of the rip currents or the eddy's that they create. Trout and reds usually will hang near the rips ambushing pods of mullet, shad, or shrimp they may be swept along. They will also hold in the eddy's for the same reasons.

On slack tides fish the holes, reefs, or shell-pad areas around gas wells or pumping stations in the bays. Even though slack tides are offer little action due to limited bait movement they do however provide good action for those who know how to work sandbars and oyster reefs with artificial baits by bumping or "massaging" these areas.

Outgoing tides are always good when fishing the marsh areas. On the start of the tide fish the inside areas of the slough entry's then work your way to the outside areas where the trout will be staging in ambush for the mullet, shad, or shrimp that are fleeing dropping levels in the sea-grass. The redfish will be running the edges of the grass where you'll actually see them. The specks should be holding nearby. This is when your chances of catching a "Gator-Speck" (25incher or bigger) are at your greatest. On one trip I managed to catch and land three gator-specks over 25inches using saltwater assassins. Even though one speck at 25inches was legal for me to keep I released all three as they are our top breeders.

Tides are very important factor for saltwater anglers playing a key roll in the success or failure of your fishing trip . Learn the tides and you'll learn to predict and plan ahead for your fishing trips.

Tides for Gilchrist, East Bay starting with November 7, 2010.

Day High
Moon Time
% Moon
8 Low 4:27 AM 1.4 6:37 AM Rise 9:12 AM 3
8 High 5:35 AM 1.5 5:27 PM Set 7:36 PM
8 Low 3:23 PM -0.2
8 High 10:58 PM 1.6
9 Low 4:11 PM -0.1 6:38 AM Rise 10:07 AM 8
9 5:26 PM Set 8:36 PM
10 High 12:05 AM 1.5 6:38 AM Rise 10:55 AM 15
10 Low 5:02 PM 0.0 5:25 PM Set 9:35 PM

The incoming tide here shows its fishing edges where specks and reds line up to ambush prey.
Photo by Ed Snyder
A rip tide with eddy's can provide lots of fishing action-.
Photo by Ed Snyder