Ask a Captain
Tides — I know they are important, but I can't figure them out.When I see a tide chart, what should I be looking for? If it says "Low tide 10 a.m.," or "High tide 2 p.m.," when will the water be moving most?

Dig your site!

how to read and use fishing tides tide tablesBig Daddy,

Tides are only predictions they are not exact. But Tides are also the most important factor in saltwater fishing. It is like a biological clock for fish for many reasons.

One is it brings fresh clean water with a high dissolved oxygen content in and out of areas, it changes the temperature of the water, it moves forage around (food) and creates ambush points for predators. So many more things. I will try and make this short, but I give a 2 hour tide class and still can't cover all the basics. Let us start with the strongest tides are around the new and full moons of each month. Two or three days before these new and full moon phases the tides are the strongest and rise and fall in heights more then the quarter moon phases. That means that the fishing is usually better around those new and full moons. The tides in this area can be anywhere from 1 tide days to 4 tide days. Most tides run approx on a 6 hour cycle on the 4 tide days.

But lets just get down to a simple tide day and the main question you asked "when will the water be moving most?" Here is a tide chart for today at Clearwater.

Tides for Clearwater starting with April 16, 2012.
Day High/Low Tide Time Height Feet
16  Low 4:05 AM 0.4
16  High  10:09 AM  1.9 
16  Low  4:25 PM 0.5 
16  High  10:11 PM 2.0 

It shows Low tide at 4:05am at a 0.4 feet. Approx 6 hours later the tide will be high at 10:09 am at 1.9 feet. This means the tide will be moving 1.5 feet during that incoming tide. The tide will slowly build to a peak flow which is going to be around the half way mark. So the tide should be at peak flow around 7:05 am, the strongest part of the tide. About 6am to 8am should be a great time to capitalize on good water flow.

You notice there is a lot of "should be" in my sentences, because there are NO RULES IN FISHING. The tidal flow peaks about midway through the tide and then tapers off. The next tide phase is your high tide at 10:09 am outgoing starts and flows out until 4:25 pm. Again approx 6 hours. The tide will move approx 1.4 feet. The peak flow will be approx 1:30 pm. On this tide a good time to capitalize on good water flow would be from around 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. That does not always mean your going to catch fish, but it will increase your chances.

During a new and full moon phase these tides will move 2 and 3 feet, much more then you see below. Below that chart I put a chart for May 6th 2012, it is a full moon phase and as you can see the water flow from the 1:06 pm high tide to the 8:36 pm low tide (approx 7 hr tide) is moving 3.5 feet on that outgoing. That is a lot of water current.

Tides for Clearwater starting with May 6, 2012.
Day High/Low Tide Time Height Feet
7 High 2:07 AM 2.2
Low  7:42 AM  0.8 
High  1:06 PM 2.9 
Low  8:36 PM -0.6 







Hope this helps. I will be giving a entire tide class in the future and I can simplify it. I hope you can attend.

Captain David

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