Tide Influences

Tide Influences
Jackson Talbott tricked this pretty speck on a Chicken On A Chain Bass Assassin.

As astute anglers we must study and visualize every possible scenario based upon the variables laid out before us. Wind speed and direction, tides, water temperature, water clarity, salinity, solunar periods, barometric pressure, etc., all need to be considered when devising a solid game plan for a successful day of fishing. We also have to keep in mind that what may look good on paper may not be all it’s cracked up to be because certain variables should never be viewed in a vacuum. For example; wind speed and direction affect tide levels, water clarity affects water temperature, and barometric pressure also influences tides.

Tide charts seem to be the single most confusing thing I hear about from anglers, especially folks who are somewhat new to fishing saltwater. “I thought the tide was supposed to be high at 7 O’clock this morning. What’s the deal? The tide chart I looked at is wrong!” I hear this several times over the course of the year.   

Occasionally, prospective clients will call to book a trip but they won’t just simply request my open dates. Instead, they’ll go a step further and specifically request, in their words, “a good tide and moon day.” Many of them ask for available dates around a new moon or a four tide day. While we certainly have had some great trips on new moon four tide days, it’s important to understand that not all such days are created equally. The assumption is that fish will feed more heavily during daylight hours on the dark of the moon, and with four tides there is more tidal movement. But what if those four tides are something like this?

High  5:21AM   +1.0
Low   8:41AM      +0.9
High  12:09PM     +1.0
Low   6:33PM      +0.2

Sunrise on this particular morning was at 6:47AM. Therefore, there was very minimal water exchange for the first 5 or so hours of the day, making for a tough bite. The best bite was midday just as the tide was turning to go out, but by then the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to drift or anchor effectively. Not to mention that my clients were worn out from 5 hours of slow fishing and about to have a heat stroke. We caught just a few small trout and reds, hardly enough to justify the effort on this particular new moon four-tide day. If the wind had been light, and if we would’ve had more time to fish, then the end result would’ve most likely been better; but that window of opportunity never really opened.  

While I absolutely understand their desire to increase their odds of having a great catching day, the fact of the matter is that it’s just not that simple. There are far too many other factors affecting the outcome. In addition, if I only picked the “good days” for customers, then I’d have a lot of days off over the course of a year.  

Each night, before my next day’s trip, I look at several variables to help put my fishing plan together. The tide schedule will tell me when the tides are supposed to change, along with the level of change. I then look at the wind forecast. This is one of the main factors that helps me determine where I plan to start my day and whether I should wade or drift. It also helps me mentally adjust the tides to determine what the actual tides will be versus the predicted tides. For instance, if the wind forecast predicts easterly winds at 10 to 20 mph, then more than likely the tide levels will be higher than indicated in the tide schedule. Conversely, if it’s supposed to blow from a westerly direction 10 to 20 mph, then tides will be lower than what is shown on paper. Additionally, if the barometric pressure is high, then this will likely cause the tides to be even lower. After digesting all of the information I’ve gathered, I try to recall other days when I fished in similar conditions and what made us successful, and then try to follow those same strategies.

I tend to occasionally bellyache about ship traffic here in Galveston Bay. There is never any mal intent. As a matter of fact I very much appreciate the goods they import and export and what they contribute to our economy, not to mention the hardworking men and women that are responsible for making it happen. Like most areas along the coast, we’ve experienced quite a bit of erosion, and because of our busy ports, shoreline erosion has accelerated. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. I’m thankful for the Galveston Bay Foundation along with their volunteers and help from other organizations for constructing Living Shorelines, projects which reduce erosion and create new habitat.

This being said, there are some temporary benefits to ship wakes as I witnessed on a recent trip. When tides are weak, ship wakes washing over shallow sand bars stir up shrimp and small crustaceans while at the same time creating artificial tide movement because of the water they displace. We recently had a morning where the tide level was very low and there was no wind or tide movement worth mentioning. Looking at all the forecasts the night before, I knew the high temperature and lack of wind was probably going to become unbearable by noon or so. Similar to the scenario I described earlier, we had to find a way to make something happen in the first 4 or 5 hours of the day.

My clients and I stood on a sandbar while fanning our casts along the deep edge. The ship channel was miles away but rolling swells travel long distances. As the waves washed across the flat, shrimp would flush up out of the sand and solid trout would violently explode on them. Slicks would occasionally pop up giving us yet another target to hit as we chunked our soft plastics like they were darts aimed at the bull’s eye. The water also became streaky, making the trout easier to trick. Slammin’ Chicken Bass Assassin Sea Shads on 1/8 ounce Pro Elite jigheads were responsible for the catching and releasing of 18 solid trout on a morning that would’ve otherwise been pretty tough.

We tend to see more frequent easterly winds as fall approaches. Winds from the east and low pressure ahead of early cool fronts contribute to higher tides. This is when I set up close to shoreline grass near bayou drains tossing soft plastics such as Bass Assassins and MirrOlure Lil Johns into washouts near drains and along drop-offs. The topwater bite this time of year can be off the charts as well, especially when we see lots of active surface bait. In calm conditions I like Super Spook Jr’s and Baby Skitter Walks. When there’s moderate chop on the water, MirrOlure Top Dogs and full-sized Skitter Walks are hard to beat. Super Spook One Knockers also have their place in the wading box. When it’s choppy, a MirrOlure She Dog is hard to beat.

Using every possible resource and making adjustments for unforeseen weather changes will ensure that we get the most out of every fishing trip. Paying attention to details and knowing how to react to even the most subtle changes will help us fine tune our skills and bring us even better days down the road. Turn ‘em loose if you can. God Bless!