The Saltwater Magazine for Gulf Coast Fishing!


Reds & Tides

Understanding tidal movement and redfish feeding activity...

Everyone has heard of fishing for redfish under the birds, but what about under the dolphins?

That is exactly what I was doing at the Cameron, Louisiana jetties last year and the reds were biting in an almost frenzy-like state. The tide was coming back in toward Lake Calcasieu and the strong flow of water created an eddie on the west side of the rocks.

Eddies for those not familiar with the term are areas of slack water. That is apparently where the menhaden were hanging out because I had about half a dozen dolphins feeding in front of me and was hooking up with reds on just about every other cast of my smoke/pearl-colored Wedge Tail.

What was particularly interesting about this trip is that most of the bites were on the edge of the eddie. I would throw out the lure and let it just kind of sit there and when I would feel some pull from the tide on edge of the eddie, I would work the lure and "wham!" the reds would hit it.

How fish use tides to their advantage and the overall affect on tidal movements has always been fascinating to me and that particular trip got me to investigating various tidal affects on redfish I and other anglers have experienced.

Hopefully you will be able to take this information, apply it to specific areas and find more redfish.

I have always believe the reason that tidal movement sparks the biting of predatory fish is that it moves more prey species around and makes them vulnerable.

Going back to the Cameron Jetties for a second, the tide was quite simply rushing through the channel and smaller baitfish often have a hard time navigating in that kind of water.

The ones that end up in eddies stay there and often die there as predatory species have figured this program out. Big reds will hammer baitfish like menhaden in these situations.

Another fine example of this is a tiny island in the Chandeleur Island out of Biloxi. There is a "bowl" at the end of this island and on high tides, the mullet get tight to the shoreline. On my second excursion to this area I watched as reds quite literally corralled mullet into this spot and just brutalized them.

With a school of hungry reds feeding on the outside of the bowl, there was no escaping. High tides allowed this to happen because the bowl on a low tide has only a couple of inches of water in it. On high tides, however it can become a death trap for anything the reds (or sharks) in the area want to prey on.

I have noticed that reds will use spots like an eddie or bowl as a tool in which to ambush or corral fish. I certainly do not think the reds plot out these attacks, but believe by design they know how to use tides and structure of some kind to their advantage.

Take for example, a situation I ran across in Aransas Pass, Texas last year.

While fishing with Shoal Grass Lodge we ended up hiding from the wind and fishing around a bunch of old rusted out boats and structure in a small cove. There was a man fishing from the bank we struck up a conversation with and he said the best fishing there was on the first hour of a falling tide.

"The blue crabs hang onto the structure and will get up inside of it. When the tides begin to fall, they start moving out and reds move in to feed on them," he said.

This reminded of the reds I catch around Roseau cane on falling tides while flounder fishing.

I have written in this publication about how Roseau cane, which has a very intricate rooting system, holds baitfish on high tides and how flounder will gang up on the edges waiting for the tide to fall and baitfish to move out. Well, redfish do as well although not as to such a great extent as the flatfish.

I have caught numerous reds in these spots and it always seems to coincide with a tidal fall.

Something that is important to keep in mind about tides is that they are not only affected by the moon but also wind. In other words, tidal charts are a great guide but do not be surprised if there is more or not as much water exchange that you are expecting in a particular area.

For example if the tidal charts are calling for a six inch low tidal movement at the Mobile Bay entrance and for two days you have had a 25 mile per hour south wind blowing, you might not notice a water depth change at all. In fact, you might have water higher than expected because of the south wind, pushing a bunch of water.

And this can spark redfish feeding.

If you have a big wind blowing, it will often push baitfish against the north shoreline of a bay system or concentrate them in areas where the winds effects are lessened like in a protected cove.

On that same note, it is very important to pay attention to tidal correction tables. A tide is like a wave in that it lessens in strength as it moves inland. That is why it is important to keep up with the tidal correctional tables for the areas you fish. If the tides are given for the Galveston Jetties and you are fishing on the north end of Trinity Bay, you will not see nearly the tidal movement.  In planning your trips keep in mind that water exchange will lessen the farther you move inland in most cases.

If the reds are feeding on a flat coming out of a marsh you need to know there will be water on those flats. If you are expecting them to be feeding on the edge of an area where baitfish are clinging on high tides you will want to find the tides that are high and falling.

Conversely, tidal currents will be strongest the closer you get to the Gulf, so it is important to make note of the intricacies of fish feeding in relation to these big tides. Even a small tide can create big movement at a jetty or fish pass, like Rollover Pass on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas. Small passes do not require big tides to push lots of water in or out of bay systems.

All game fish use tides to their advantage in feeding but I believe of all of the popular inland species we pursue, the redfish use it more as a tool in which to fill their bellies.

In the next issue, I will discuss speckled trout feeding in relation to tides, which I believe is more an issue of access and opportunism.

While trout take what they can get, reds use tides to get what they want.

Top anglers tackle tides/reds...

In preparation for this article, I sent out emails to some of the top redfish anglers that I know and got their feedback on the role tides play in their favorite fish areas. Here is what a few of them had to say.

"The tides, wind and weather play a huge role in water movement and depth. You see when we were just about in the middle of Port Mansfield and Aransas Pass, it seemed as one tide was coming in the other was going out, thus the only fluid movement was thru the Land Cut."

"Just recently, Packery Channel was opened up to the Gulf (Flower Bluff area) and part of the causeway was raised, allowing newer water movement that we are now studying."

"As far as Baffin Bay, a west/northwest wind, is the worst, it blows the water out of the bay and fishing gets tuff. The best of course is a five to 10 miles per hour out of the southeast." Capt. Jim Onderdonk, Baffin Bay

"In Tampa Bay, reds will push the mullet against the shorelines really hard when the tides are high and the mullet are close to the shorelines. You sometimes wonder which came first the reds feeding and pushing them against the shore or the mullet being against the shore and the reds feeding on them. Either way, I definitely get the sense that sometimes the reds will school up and attack away at mullets pinned against the shore." Veteran angler, Jason Altman, Tampa. Fla.

"When the tides are low in the summer, the schooling action really heats up on the bays on the upper coast in Texas. The baitfishes are forced out of the marsh onto the main bay where the redfish are there to feed on them." Ken Friedman, Galveston TX.

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