Tides And Seasons – How Do They Affect Saltwater Fishing?

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No matter what environment you spend your time fishing in, specific environmental changes affect fish behavior and, therefore, your fishing success. 

The two main factors you need to understand as an angler are seasons and tides. Tides and tide times are the most critical factors, but all saltwater anglers must pay attention to both. 

Having been an offshore guide on the flats across several countries, including Seychelles and the Bahamas, I have had to learn about tides and seasons, and believe me, fish respond to them far more than you think. 

In this article, I’ll run through everything I’ve learned over my many years on the water so that you can predict how fish will behave and be more successful anglers. I’ll start with tides and move on to the impact of seasons. 

How Do Tides Affect Inshore Saltwater Fishing? 

When you are fishing on the flats, the tide governs everything. Focus on the changing tides as a flow of food and nutrients that almost every species you want to target follows. 

Falling Tides 

As the tide falls, it dries out the shallower waters of the flats, which the small baitfish and crustaceans use to protect themselves from predators. As the tide drops, this bait gets forced to go with it, and predatory fish will be lying in wait or following this bait movement. 

Let’s take bonefish as an example. As the tide drops, they drop off the flats with it, feeding on all the shrimps and crabs they can get their hands on. Eventually, they are forced into channels and lagoons, where sharks, barracuda, and giant trevally lie in wait for them. 

Incoming Tides 

When the tide comes in, it begins edging its way onto the flats, and the bait will follow, as being in the deep channels and lagoons is dangerous. 

As the water rises enough, species like bonefish begin to follow the food, and they are looking for a shallow haven to protect themselves, such as the mangroves, shorelines, or the shallowest high spot they can find. 

But the salty toothy predators like sharks, barracuda, and GTs know this, and once they are all congregated in their “safe zone,” they will plan an attack if they can. 

What Type Of Tides Are There?

There are three types of tides found on earth’s oceans. 

  • Semi-daily or semi-diurnal tide, two high tides, and two low tides every 24 hours. These tides are similar in height.
  • Mixed semidiurnal tide, when the high and low tides differ in height.
  • Diurnal tide, only one high, and one low tide every 24 hours.

Coasts around the world are affected by one of these types of tides.

Are Spring And Neap Tides Good For Fishing?

Fishing is best at high tide situations; therefore, spring and neap tides are productive times for increasing the chances of catching fish. Since the spring tide has a long time between low and high tide and the pull is stronger, the spring tide is considered to be the optimum period for fishing.  

Spring tides are high tides slightly higher than expected, and low tides are slightly lower than normal. Appearing all year long, spring tides occur twice each lunar month.

Neap tides, which are also high tides are moderate tides, which results in a high tide that is slightly lower, and low tides are slightly higher than the average. These occur during the time when there is a half-full moon. Neap tides occur seven days after a spring tide.

What Is The Best Tide For Fishing?

In a semidiurnal tide, many anglers prefer to fish as the sea level rises and holds at its highest level. This equates to approximately six hours before and 2 hours after the peak height. 

This would be twice as long in a diurnal tide due to the single high tide in a day.

Rising tides bring food to fish, contain more oxygen, and have better clarity than a low tide.

Where To Find Tide Prediction Times, Charts, And Tables?

To find out about the tide information at over 2500 locations in the United States, check out salterwatertides.com, which accurately predicts the following:

  • Tide heights and times,
  • Sunrise and sunset times,
  • Moonrise and moonset times, and moon phase.

If you fish in the United Kingdom, the met office site will give you 500 locations across the country for tide times and forecasts using a postcode or beach name. 

For those searching for any other country, check out tideschart.com, which publishes all the world tide times, tides tables, and charts.

How To Adapt Your Fishing Tactics To The Tides 

The key to fishing tides well is following the water flow, but you must be ahead of the game. If you post up on the right spot too early, you will be behind the flow of fish as they will have already dropped out. 

If this happens, drop deeper and wait for them to come to you and keep dropping down to stay ahead of them. 

On an incoming tide, do the same thing and follow the water as it moves up the flats. Ensure you stay ahead of the fish and keep moving until you find them. 

How Do Seasons Affect Saltwater Fishing? 

The species that inhabit the shoreline are the most significant impact on anglers regarding season changes. In many parts of the world, winter and summer bring an entirely different group of fish as others leave for warmer or colder waters. In climates with no significant season change, we will continue to see the same fish throughout the period.

Just as in freshwater fishing, water temperatures also have a critical influence on saltwater species. For inshore species, like bonefish, warmer and colder water will have them sitting deep, so fishing in the early morning is best. 

For offshore pelagic fish, like marlin, changing seasons involve migration. They will swim thousands of miles across oceans to stay in their preferred water temperatures and the water temperatures of their prey, giving them the best chance of food! 

Tides Out

Anglers of all types should never dismiss the idea that tides and seasons don’t affect their saltwater fishing. In reality, it’s one of the most significant factors to consider in any worldwide saltwater fishing scenario. 

In conjunction with another critical variable, the changes in barometric pressure, understanding these two factors will give you the best chance of catching more sea fish from the shore or a boat. 

Steve Fitzjohn