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Let tide charts guide your fishing

January 27, 2017
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

For those making the conversion to saltwater fishing after a lifetime of chasing bass, walleye or muskie, having a basic understanding of tidal movements and moon phases and their effect on the saltwater fish they seek is vital to your future success.

No. 1, if the water is not moving in or out fishing is typically slow. For example, new anglers that fished from 9 to 1 and came home with little to show for their efforts are frustrated by their neighbor's huge pile of fish caught from 2 to 7 on a fast incoming tide.

If the new anglers understood the value of moving water and had picked up a local tide chart to guide them they would have caught fish as well.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Each experienced angler has his favorite tide to fish depending on the species he seeks. I find I do better catching snook on an outgoing tide and redfish on an incoming tide. There always are exceptions, but typically this works out well for me over the near 20 years I've fished here full time.

Bottom line, any moving water is better than standing water. Use your tide chart to plan your trip accordingly, if you have the time to be choosy.

Let's look at our example tide chart. If your low tide is at 6:00 a.m. and dead high tide is at noon but the water only rises (tide height) a few inches over that time period that means you have a very slow incoming tide and typical slow fishing.

Another glance at the tide chart shows an outgoing tide starting at noon and ending at 6:00 p.m., but the water level drops by a foot and a half. That's obviously a fast moving outgoing tide which will stimulate the fish to naturally feed more and more aggressively, as more fish food is trapped in the stronger currents.

Those choosing the slow incoming water morning to catch redfish probably will do okay, but picking another day with incoming water from 612 but with a much stronger incoming flow probably will do better.

This is all, of course, if you have the luxury of being able to fish anytime you please. As Roland Martin once said, "the best time to fish is anytime you can."

To complicate matters further the tide can be broken down into stages. As stated I prefer snook fishing on an outgoing tide. Using one of our local passes as an example, as the water starts to flow out of the pass the current flow is weak and picks up strength till it gets to its maximum flow strength, then slows to a standstill.

Again using snook as our example fish, they will be stimulated to start feeding as the tide changes, but as the flow gets too strong the fish will expend too much energy fighting the current and often pause in their feeding until the current slows to a more manageable level till the tide stops completely. Then it starts to reverse itself in a never ending cycle carried on since the beginning of time on this planet.

As temperatures grow slowly colder, sheepshead fishing improves. Nearshore rock piles, docks and bridges will host the spawning fish as well as mangrove shorelines. Fish are typically less than five pounds, but those over 10 are not uncommon.

Small bits of shrimp on small hooks gets the job done.

Clean these delicious fish with gloves and an electric filet knife for best results. Coat your filets with milk, eggs, salt, pepper and Panko bread crumbs and quick fry in a hot skillet. Pat dry and serve.

Offshore anglers are waiting for the winds to die down. The usual assortment of bottom fish are on the reefs. Kingfish are in the vicinity and tasty tripletail on the way out and back around floats or structure.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or, or



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