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Tides and Wind Directly Impact Where and When You Fish in Florida

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On: Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 3:35PM | By: Florida Marine Times

Perhaps the greatest challenge to rookie saltwater anglers is understanding the importance of tidal flow, coupled with wind direction and velocity. Freshwater anglers accustomed to Trout streams or Bass lakes “up north” are frequently mystified the first time they book a guided saltwater trip. “I want to fish Charlotte Harbor next Thursday,” I once was told by a client. “Been hearing a lot about Bull Bay. Can we get out early? Maybe around seven and do a half-day trip?” “Let me check,” I replied. Then, “Nope. Thursday morning won’t work until at least nine.” “Why not? I LIKE fishing early in the morning.

I’m always on the lake first thing back home to avoid the crowds.” Which is easily-enough done “back home.” Anglers simply find an access point, get into the water, and have at it for as long as their casting arms hold out. “Down there,” I explained, “we’ll have a negative-low tide of six inches starting at 7:04 Thursday morning. That means the water will be half-a-foot lower than average. “On top of that, winds are forecast out of the northeast at 10 knots for Thursday. That means there just won’t be any water in Bull Bay. “Kinda hard to catch fish in dirt.” It got quiet then. “I, uh, don’t understand what you’re talking about,” he said next. “A lake is a lake, isn’t it?” “Yes,” I replied, “ but the water level in THIS lake rises and falls, sometimes twice a day. And Thursday morning it’s going to fall really low. Which means it’s highly unlikely we’ll catch any fish. “Of course, if you just want to take a boat ride and look at the scenery we can do that. If you want to catch any fish, though, we’d better not leave the ramp until at least nine.” The moral of this story, obviously, is that it’s critical to analyze what the tides and wind are doing to the area you plan to fish.

Probably the easiest way to start is by purchasing the Fishing Planner published by Florida Sportsman magazine, which provides the tides tables for every area in Florida. That will give you an immediate heads-up on the tide depth (or lack of it), along with the Master Tides times, along with the Correction Tables for your entire area. There have been many times when a planned trip to Little Sarasota Bay turned into a jaunt way south to El Jobean, for instance, because of time differences in the tides. The main point is to “stay ahead of the boat”—and the weather! Check the forecast frequently, and spend time in your favorite tackle shop asking questions if you’re unsure of conditions. Trust me, nobody will laugh at you for being cautious. If they DO, find another shop in which to hang out. An unproductive fishing trip is merely a minor inconvenience. Sinking your boat is bad. Having someone die is, well, just plain stupid.


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