Where Do Inshore Fish Go During Low Tide?
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  1. #1
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    Where Do Inshore Fish Go During Low Tide?

    Where Do Inshore Fish Go During Low Tide?

    When the Back Bays and ICW get especially low in the winter months where do the fish go? I used to think they found their way back to the ocean through the passes and then came back in during high tide. Now I'm thinking they collect in the deep channels and holes.

    I'm wondering ... If fish collect in deeper areas and holes, then doesn't that concentrate the fish populations in certain places, making it easier to target them there?

  2. #2
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    Yes!
    That is why some potholes, and channel edges are loaded during the negative low tides

  3. #3
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    I understand that this may be such a noob question (thanks for your patience and help in advance) ...

    So, low tide isn't necessarily a bad time to fish - It's more about knowing where the fish are going to and stacking up?

    (I don't know why I thought this ... it doesn't make sense when I think about it.) For a very long time I thought that fish traveled miles and miles to the passes into the ocean to leave the ICW and bays during low tide. So to confirm in my crazy mind - fish aren't necessarily leaving the area, they are just finding deep spots to hang out in???

    2nd question - Does low tide cause the bite to turn off???

    If fish are still around during low tide and fish still bite, why is it considered not so good to fish during an inshore low tide? I'm so confused.

  4. #4
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    Okay. I'll take a stab at all of these questions; these are my experiences, primarily in northern Charlotte Harbor; yours may differ. That said, I've been at this for a hot minute.

    Quote Originally Posted by snookcatcher1 View Post
    Where Do Inshore Fish Go During Low Tide?

    When the Back Bays and ICW get especially low in the winter months where do the fish go? I used to think they found their way back to the ocean through the passes and then came back in during high tide. Now I'm thinking they collect in the deep channels and holes.

    I'm wondering ... If fish collect in deeper areas and holes, then doesn't that concentrate the fish populations in certain places, making it easier to target them there?
    In short, you're right. In a shallow area, as the tide goes out, fish will move into cuts and potholes. As tide comes in, they'll prowl up onto the flats, and, in most of SW Florida during the late spring through early fall, they'll spend the top of the tide under the mangroves.

    Now, the complicated part is that there are a lot of other factors that play into whether the catching is good or not that have less to do with than the fact that it is "low tide" (for this purpose, we'll call this "dead low") . . . moon phases, tidal cycles (meaning, certain species bite great on the up/down/up/down of a normal quarter moon phase, while some species love those long outgoing tides, or seasonally negative winter tides for feeding), water temps.

    Your question is, wouldn't this make them easier to target, and I could argue that both ways - yes, they're easier to target because they are more concentrated, although they may not be feeding, or, (and this is usually my preference) they can also be easy to target when they are on the flats feeding with a mid-to-lower tide because they're easier to see. We've had great winter trout days shooting fish in the proverbial barrel (pothole), and we've had some pretty memorable winter redfish days watching them cruise around on the flats.

    Quote Originally Posted by snookcatcher1 View Post
    I understand that this may be such a noob question (thanks for your patience and help in advance) ...

    So, low tide isn't necessarily a bad time to fish - It's more about knowing where the fish are going to and stacking up?
    Finding the fish is always the key to catching the fish; but, don't automatically assume that finding the fish means they're going to eat because they're there.

    Quote Originally Posted by snookcatcher1 View Post
    2nd question - Does low tide cause the bite to turn off???

    If fish are still around during low tide and fish still bite, why is it considered not so good to fish during an inshore low tide? I'm so confused.
    It absolutely isn't a bad time to fish. In fact, there are a ton of advantages to fishing on a dead low (not the least of which, is, the fish could be more concentrated). Certain fish, at certain times of the year, will bite better or worse depending on the tide/solunar tables.

    All of that said, I have noticed, and had a number of old-salty types share with me, that sometimes dead low (no water movement) will turn on more than the catfish; for whatever reason, in a particular area, maybe the snook turn on, or the reds bite turn on for a bit.

    Most "bad press" for the low tide and dead low in particular is that your best fishing will typically take place when you have moving water.

    It's also important to note in this conversation that not every flat is designed the same, so hard/fast rules aren't so hard and fast. On flat A, at dead low, on a winter neg tide, let's say there's 4" of water on the grass and 2.5' of water in the hole; in this scenario, fish are in the hole. On flat B, at dead low, winter neg, let's say there's 14" of water on the grass, 3.5' of water in the hole; well, then I'd say it depends on some other factors, such as is there food on the flat, are the fish feeding (or, better asked, will the fish be feeding); in this case, you may find the fish tailing on the flat, sunning for warmth (depending on the temp) or feeding in the hole.

    Clear as mud?
    Cheap, fast, reliable - pick two . . .

  5. #5
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    Gasparilla - WOW!!! For me, that's worth a Sticky!!! Thanks so very much for giving me a great education! "Clear as mud?" NO! Clear as Gin! What you shared makes total sense. I'll be rereading that and soaking that up. Thank you very much for sharing all your time, effort, and experience!

  6. #6
    Senior Member TimGleason's Avatar
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    I love low tides to fish. Especially for redfish. Much of low tide negativity, I believe, comes from people with boats that are too big/draft too much for them to capitalize on getting into shallow areas. When they aren't comfortable getting into less than a couple of feet of water, low tide (especially in winter) is not fun. Give me my kayak and a crazy low tide without a lot of wind and I am very confident I can catch some fish within a mile of my house. Get out there.

  7. #7
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    I prefer low tide during the winter as well...Well the last hour of outgoing or first hour of incoming. You still want moving water.
    Most of my fishing inshore ios wading so too shallow is never a problem

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by snookcatcher1 View Post
    Gasparilla - WOW!!! For me, that's worth a Sticky!!! Thanks so very much for giving me a great education! "Clear as mud?" NO! Clear as Gin! What you shared makes total sense. I'll be rereading that and soaking that up. Thank you very much for sharing all your time, effort, and experience!
    Thanks snookcatcher1 - glad to help . . .
    Cheap, fast, reliable - pick two . . .

  9. #9
    Senior Member dtobias's Avatar
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    Well put gasparilla...

  10. #10
    Junior Member WNYer's Avatar
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    Gasparilla, very well put, searched and it actually helped me out. Unfortunately, we reserved a 22' center console from Gasparilla for Charlotte Harbor and now I am thinking if the tides are low around the 12/26 we a pretty much SOL to fish in Bull/Turtle Bays.

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