When should I go fishing? What's the best tide?    Tide charts  

When is high tide is the most asked question I get, I tell them the time of the high tide here at the Top of Charlotte Harbor. Funny though they never ask the height of the tide? Here in our area High tide does not mean you have a lot of water, It only means that all you get for now. Many times Highs do not have as much or any more water depth then some low tides, Yes Fall & winter high tides are not as high as Spring or summer lows, We have an average of 1 foot more water Spring and summer than we do Fall or winter. I figure 1.5 or high is a high tide .9 to 1.5 medium tide, 0.0 to .9 low anything below a 0.0 is well a good day to hunt for lure you stuck on the bottom as most of the harbor is dirt anyway.


This is the Crimson tide,
Not to be confused with Red tide.


People assume that they should fish the high tide? Why I have as many good low tide spots which are actually easy fishing than high tide. When the water is very high the fish scatter or go way back up under the Mangroves, On very low tides the are in the holes. Like shooting fish in a barrel they have to be there.
Lets talk about right now. We have had Rain keep in mind it does not matter too much if it rains in Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda it is up-river which makes the big difference. Rains fill there rivers all that Fresh water stained dark with Tannic flows out of the rivers into the Harbor. The Peace, The Maayka, and the Caloosahatchee all empty into Charlotte Harbor, Which is why this area is called brackish water. which simply means salt water diluted by rain or river runoff, it is still salt water after the rain stops. So when is the best time to fish?
Lets look at it.


 High and low tides in some places
 are really drastic, like here where
 the changes are 15 to 40 feet.

 In our area we only exchange 2 feet
 a day on the average.
 So you would see this here.




High tide once the water reaches it's peak, the it starts to go out, Pulling the Hot fresh dark water from the rivers, Consider that salt is heavier than water so the only place out there with any salt is right by the bottom where the sand holds the salt. The water from the rivers is fresh and hot. It is important to remember that hot water does not hold much oxygen. So it is hard for fish to breath. Much like you in the sun you don't want to move, much less eat, Then
Low tide comes, and the tide starts pushing cooler saltier water in from the gulf of Mexico,
up into the Harbor, it is like flipping a switch, they bait which had been hiding near the bottom to be in the salt come back to the surface, the fish get active, everything starts to happen.




 Here you can see how low the water is.
 on a high tide the water is level
 with the branches of the mangroves.

 On a day like this, you would look for deeper
 troughs just at the edge of the mangroves,
 That is where the Red Fish will be.
 This is in the Myayaka Cut off.

 Greg caught this Red on a live shrimp
 free lined up by the edge of the mangroves.




So if you are planning a trip during August look to get out at low tide, take advantage of the incoming tide, I usually figure the last half of the incoming & the 1st 3rd of the outgoing to be the best fishin. I like to be there get set up and then when the salt water hits and every thing starts to happen I am ready. Let the fun begin.

It is hard for many people to realize that fish have about the same ability to smell as dogs. So now that we have talked about the dark hot water, lets look into the water, all 2 or 3 inches that we could see into it. How far do you think the fish can see? that is why I started with the smell thing, yes fish are hunters / predators So if you cannot see even if you can you still use your nose and ears to find food. Dead bait such as frozen shrimp has a much more potent aroma to it, That makes it better bait in very dark or dirty water, The live bait of it is moving has the less of a scent but the movement in the water makes vibrations or sounds if you think of it that way to attract predators the hook makes their movements erratic wounded good to eat but easier to catch. If you have enough salt in the water you have lively bait, but with low salt content in the water the bait is lethargic and not a good predator attractor,
So I would put my money into dead stinky baits. The guides who are catching the most Tarpon during the last few weeks are using Mullet cut into large chunks so big the cat fish cannot get it in their mouths and the Tarpon can. Yes that dead stinky bait is going to attract Cat fish just use big chunks like 1/2 of a mullet at a time. The cat fish start moving it around and the Tarpon will move in and take it from them. Cat fish are Tarpon food as well So it really dose work.

So incoming tides and dead bait, I guess I could have said it all in just that sentence but where the fun in that, Good luck out there.