Low Tide Look-See

Low Tide Look-See
Capt. Geoff Page and fishing pal Jean Paul Hernandez tracked down a couple of nice reds as the tide rose. (David A. Brown)

Extreme tides reveal key details that benefit anglers

At first blush, it looked like we had arrived too early. The Tampa Bay flat had been laid barren by the combination of a strong full moon tide and the north wind of a late fall cold front.

However, Capt. Geoff Page had a plan that involved leveraging these fall-winter scenarios known as “negative low tides.” Essentially the full and new moons always bring the strongest water flow, but this time of year sees lower levels anyway, so moon tides really rip the water off a spot. Throw in a north wind and the tide falls lower and stays out longer.

On this day, we found football fields of sea grass lying in damp mats on muddy bottom. The tide had fallen so hard and fast that live shrimp were left wiggling and flipping on the grass – much to the delight of opportunistic sea gulls.


Click image to see the photo gallery
Extreme tides reveal key details that benefit anglers



Not too worry, though; Page was well aware of the day's tide schedule and he knew that this had created an opportunity to catch some of the redfish that would eagerly awaiting the tidal door.


“You get there ahead of the tide and you can get into position to pick off those redfish as they move in,” Page said. “They want to be up there on that flat feeding, so they'll stage right off the edges in those deeper bowls until the water gets deep enough for them to move around on the flat.”


While I explored the exposed sea bottom, Page and fishing pal Jean Paul Hernandez stepped out of the flats skiff and waded perimeter waters. They found the occasional redfish foraging out in this deeper water, but once the tide started reclaiming the high ground, Page knew it was time to take up a specific position on the edge of a prominent bowl.

Here, he said, he had previously found redfish gathering like eager shoppers awaiting a store's Black Friday opening. The window of opportunity was narrow, as this was only a staging area for the reds' mad dash onto the soon-to-be-flooded flat.

Once the fish scattered, he'd have to hunt them down one at a time. In the bowl, proximity and feeding competition would likely create a target-rich opportunity.


Just like clockwork, the reds started piling into their staging bowl right as the water started inching over the adjacent flat. The fish feel even the slightest of water movement and as the tide gains steam, they know it's chow time.

To maximize their opportunity, Page and Hernandez knelt at the bowl's edge to minimize their profiles and avoid spooking the fish. (Neoprene waders repelled the water's chill.) As expected, the window was indeed small, but both anglers connected with redfish and Page's biggest – a 27-incher – was joined by at least a dozen more big fish that slipped past as the water level increased.

A few points to consider when you encounter extreme low tides:


Contour and Composition - Thick versus sparse grass, oyster colonies or scattered shell clumps, hard sand or soft mud – all of these elements influence how and where fish will congregate. You may catch sporadic glimpses during higher tide stages, but unobstructed views only come during low water periods. Look for run-outs, troughs and drains and you'll learn how the fish approach and retreat.

Food Sources – Crabs, shrimp, snails, blood worms; all offer forage for redfish and other predators, so note size and coloration so you can select the right artificials. Also, watch for mullet activity around the flat as this signals a good opportunity for big-time topwater action.

Obstructions - Low water not only shows you good things; it also reveals plenty of bad things. Things that are very hard. Things that go “bump” when you hit them. Things that you really need to avoid.

Depending on where you fish, that could be stumps, oyster bars, truck tires or the rocky protrusions of Florida’s true complexion. The latter become more prevalent north of the Tampa Bay region. Areas like Hernando Beach, Bayport and Homosassa are littered with limestone outcroppings that will knock the prop right off your engine.

For this reason, as well as those of positive nature, make notes and shoot photos or video of your low-tide findings. Referencing this invaluable information will undoubtedly benefit your fishing efforts during higher tide stages.

Recommended for You

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for walleyes in early summer. Walleye

How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it. Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

Perfect for competition or a day at the range. Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×