The height of the tide is one of the most critical factors when it comes to locating gamefish consistently. Ask yourself this simple question; where is my favorite fishing area and when does it produce the best for me? Is it high tide, low tide, or somewhere in the middle? Once you understand this elementary concept of “fish positioning”you will be well on your way to patterning gamefish based off the height of the tide… and likely duplicating your success in your “favorite fishing hole”in new areas.
In many of my experiences, “high water” often sets up good fishing along mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, pockets in coves, and points where structure is present. I believe these high water zones are regular gamefish producers because prey such as mullet, glass minnows, and a variety of crustaceans seek refuge in these habitats during the higher water phases. What can be challenging about targeting the higher water phases, is that gamefish can spread out over a large expanse so it’s best to develop a secondary pattern (windy or lee shorelines for example) to have more steady results.
On the other hand, “lower tidal” phases concentrate game fish in areas such as: the deeper zones & edges of a given flat, deep creek mouths,and any large sandy troughs, basins, or potholes within the grass flat itself. This lower tide height scenario is by far my favorite as a shallow water skiff guide. Simply due to the fact, that the gamefish that I’m targeting are much easier to locate and generally catch since they’re all bunched up. If you avoid the lower tide phases, because you are concerned about being stranded or trapped on the flat… you are missing out on the best opportunity of all the tides you could fish!
Lastly, the “middle tidal” movements can be a little trickier to figure out. The reason why,more or less,is the familiarity on how the game fish access the flat from the low tide zones to the high tide zones and vice versa. If you look at a satellite overlay of a typical shallow flat, you will invariably notice deeper egresses where gamefish can comfortably traverse from the edge of a flat to the crown of the flat through the middle tide phase in either direction. When you discover these pathways within the flat, you greatly put the percentages in your favor! At this point it’s just a matter of finding the secondary pattern (what they eat) and your results should be predictably good.
Examine the satellite map image above and notice the typical high, middle, and low water tide height zones plus also take note of the pathways that gamefish might utilize to move about the flat.
Bottom line, if you are not taking “tide height” into serious consideration when surveying a shallow flat, you just might be putting yourself at a significant disadvantage.
Another great tip from Flats Class!