Tide For Fishing: Understanding The Tides And Best Tides For Fishing

Tides are the rise and the fall of the levels of the sea. This is caused by gravitational forces of the Sun and Moon plus the Earth’s rotation.

Some shorelines would experience two high and two low tides each day or semi diurnal tide. Others would experience one high and one low tide or diurnal tide in a day. Meanwhile, in some cases, there are shorelines that experience two uneven tides in a day.

In saltwater fishing, the tides play an essential role. It affects how do fishes feed, where and when is the best place to fish, and where do fishes hang out or group.

In this article, we will understand more about the tides and when is the best time to fish. This is an essential skill to learn to make your fishing experience worthwhile.

What cause tides?

The gravitational forces of the Moon pull the water in our planet thus there are bulges in the ocean. The bulge on the other side of the Earth is caused by the Moon that pulls the Earth away from the water on that side.

The Earth rotates 180 degrees in 12 hours. Meanwhile, the moon rotates 6 degrees around our planet every 12 hours. The twin bulges and the rotation of the moon mean that any coastal area will experience high tide every 12 hours and 25 minutes.

In addition, the Moon is closer to the Earth than the Sun, thus it has more influence on our planet’s ocean. When the two work together in sync, they can produce the smallest up to biggest tide here on Earth.

The level of the tides varies according to the position of the Moon with the Sun. When the Moon and the Sun are in line, we can experience big tides. Meanwhile, if the two are opposite on each other, then the tidal range is low.

Every 27 and a half day, the orbit of the Moon is close to the Earth thus, we experience high tides for the month. When the moon is far from the Earth, the tides are low. It takes 12 hours for the tides to change from high to low, and vice versa.

How can tides affect fishing?

Tides can move the food of the fishes

The tides play an important role in fishing. It determines where fishes group, where they eat, and when is the best time to catch them. If you know about the tides, you can use that to your advantage and be able to fish well.

Tide can produce current or movement of the water, and the current can provide food which is the essential thing that fishes need.

The current of the water can sweep the plants and small marine animals along with it. All kinds of fish in the ocean take advantage of the water current and they gather to place where the food is located.

Fishing is better when the tide is running

In general, fishing is better when there is tide running and that happens during the middle period of the tide and not during the high or low levels of the tide. Snappers as well as other species of fish, bite more when the water flows continuously. However, the biting stops when the tide is near the high or low water. Thus, it is better to go fishing when the tides are running.

The tides are strong especially in shallow water just like in estuarine, Harbor habitats, bay, islands, and reefs which squeeze the tide in narrow passageways. You will notice the level of waters around the coastline.

The tide can affect deep water fishing as well. It dictates where fishes hold in connection with the structure and concentration of food in eddies (or a small whirlpool which is caused by circular movement of the water) and the upwellings (deep, cold water that rises above the surface which is rich in nutrients).

In estuaries, harbor, and surf beaches; many kinds of fishes move into the shallow areas that will dry out during low tides. It feeds on mollusks, invertebrates, and baitfish. This can also happen along rocky shorelines.

Whenever the tide goes out, the fishes go back in the deep water. In estuaries and harbors, it is possible to stop the fishes. Check the channels and the guts of harbors and estuaries. These are the deep areas where water flows while the surrounding area is shallow and very dry. These are impassable areas thus it becomes a good place to intercept fish as they move in and out on the tide.

What are the best tides to fish?

Generally, the best tides for fishing is a moving tide. Determining the best time to fish in the estuary or an inshore saltwater bay is not that hard. You will be at a good start if you focus on the spots where the baitfish and crustaceans are carried through the current as the tidal wave goes in and out.

We will discuss below some of the pros and cons of fishing in different kinds of tides:

Outgoing tides

Fishing on the falling or outgoing tides will carry the bait into the channels and creeks. If you fish on an inshore area as the tide goes out, you will see other angles that focus on the mouth of the estuary. The reason for this is because the game fish will wait at the mouth of the estuary to eat crustaceans or baitfish as they are carried along with the current.

You can also try inshore areas on other structures or dock pilings. You can find predatory game fish on these structures on an outgoing tide. These structures, pilings, or jetties are a good place for the fish to ambush their prey as it is carried out of the tide from the estuary.

Incoming tides

As the tide flows in, the fish moves into an estuary area. A rising or incoming tide is one of the best fishing tides.

When the water enters in estuary area coming from the ocean, it can have a low temperature, more oxygen, and clearer than the water that exists in the estuary during slack water periods or low tide.

When focusing on the tidal flats on inshore, the best tide to fish could be an incoming tide. As the tide rises and the water flows on saltwater flats, the fishes begin to search for these areas for food.

One of the best tips to try on an incoming tide is to fish the deeper water beyond the edge of the flat and cast out to fish that moves on the flat as the tide rises.

Slack Water

Again, the best tides to consider fishing is always a moving tide. Thus, avoid fishing on periods when the water is slack. Slack water is a short period of time when the current of the tide stops and it does not flow in or out.

Catching a fish is not totally impossible when the water is slack, however, it is really challenging. When there is no or little water movement, bait activity drops off and the fishes don’t actively feed.

When the water is slack, then it is a nice time to rig your line, organize the tackle, and stop to rest and eat.

Low and High Tides

It is true that low and high tides are the worst time to fish. When the water is low or high level, there might be no visible movement in the water for several minutes or hours, depending on the schedule of the tide and the time of the year.

When the water does not move, the fishes are less likely to feed. This is because the bait fish that feed the fish don’t move too. During this period, many fishes burrow in the sand or soil.

Falling and Rising Tides

When the tide changes, the water is in movement and this is the best time to fish. A falling tide happens when the tide changes from high to low tide. It happens two hours before the low tide.

As the water changes from high to low tide, the water slowly begins to push out. The rate of the water pushing out increases gradually. The faster the water moves out, the better it is to fish. Fishers use the advantage of this time to catch smaller bait fish which are being pushed out to the sea.

Meanwhile, a rising tide can occur when the water changes from low tide to high tide. Although it may not be as complimentary to fish in a rising tide as to fish on a falling tide, fishing is better and it is because of the feeding activity of the game fish and the movement of the water.

Finally, as with a falling tide, time your rising tide fishing two hours before the full high tide to make the most out of your fishing.

Determining fishing position using the tides

When drifting or fishing at anchor, determining where fishes group in relation to the tides are important for the success of fishing.

To locate concentrations of the school of fish and bait, make sure to use your fish finder. With this device, you can determine whether the fishes are holding down-tide or low-tide structure or they are on one side. Position your boat and your body to their location so you can catch them.

Use your fish finder to locate concentrations of bait and schools of fish. Determine whether they are holding up-tide or down-tide of structure, or off to one side, and position the boat so you can fish to them.

You can move the boat to get the right position of the location of the fish. Also, be aware that the fishes can move away from the structure where an eddy concentrates the food.

When the fish turns and relocate, be prepared to move with the tide. A fishing spot may be able to produce results at some points in the tide. You may consistently catch a fish on a spot during low tide, but not during high tide.

Take note of the tides whenever you go fishing in a particular spot because this will help you identify the patterns in fishing. Eventually, you can discover new spots that you haven’t have an idea to be a good spot to fish.

Other factors to consider when fishing

Apart from the tides, there are also several factors to consider in fishing. Some of it is the base point, the time span between each tide stand, movement of the water, wind, and time of the year. Check out the following below:


In fishing, you must consider where to fish and determine the habits of the fishes you wanted to catch on your fishing exploration.

For example, a shallow area might be a good location to fish during high tide, however, it might not have water or any fish during low tide.

On the other hand, a slough fishing area with a deep section is a good spot for fishing or bottom-feeding flounder during low tide but it could be a poor choice for high-tide flounder fishing.

Phases of the Moon

The tides in our planet are controlled by the moon and some moon phases can produce better fishing conditions. New and full moons can create better fishing conditions because they can give lower low tides, higher high tides, and faster current between the tides.

Tide Stands and Base Points

Check out the tide table adjustments to determine how successful your fishing trip will be. You can check some online and when you have found out that the adjustments are listed as hours apart, then make sure to avoid fishing on that day. Meanwhile, if there are only a few minutes of adjustments, then surely you will not have any issues.

Wind and Time of the Year

When fishing, you will always have to consult the coast fishermen, however, sometimes unexpected winds might blow in your direction without the chart be able to account for. The winds can drop the level of the water for a few feet. When this event occurs, you’ll need to search for deeper holes to fish. In addition, you’ll also need to find for deep holes whenever the weather is cold. When the winter is warm though, good fishing spots can be found along the flat bays.


In sum, to have a successful and meaningful fishing experience, always consider the tide of the water. Professionals and beginners would check the tide first to have a safe journey and have a bountiful catch.

The tides can affect fishing because it can move the food of the fishes and when there’s food, there are surely groups of fish. In general, a moving tide is the best tide to fish. Always consider the location, phases of the moon, tide stands, base points, the wind, and time of the year to have a good fishing expedition.

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