It’s All About the Tides
Recently a good friend of mine purchased his first flats boat, he already had a 31ft offshore vessel, was quite boat savvy and really good at fishing the reef and offshore. We had been out in the backcountry and on the ocean side flats in my Hells Bay Marquesa multiple times. But fishing the flats and backcountry on his own was something totally new to him. I checked out his new Hewes Redfisher and offered several suggestions as to how to set up the boat for fishing the local waters. So just like many of us, he found himself and his wife stuck on a flat as the tide was dropping, not realizing it until it was too late. And like many of us, found himself in the water pushing his boat into deeper water. We all have done it at some point. It is like putting your boat in at the local ramp and forgetting to put in the plug. It happens. I must admit, he did not try to hide anything, admitting that he had gotten stuck and then asked me to write an article about tides. So here we are.
Tides are everything when it comes to fishing. And knowing how the water moves on and off a flat can help you predict where the fish will be at different stages of the tides. It can also help you avoid getting stuck and spending a lot more time on a flat than you wanted, waiting for the tide to come back in. This has led to many couples refusing to fish together and other tide related problems.
If you are planning on fishing a flat or area for the first time, start at the lowest stage of the tide and explore the area as the tide rises. Doing so makes it a lot harder to get stuck, but if you do, all you have to do is wait a little as the tide rises. Fishing at the lowest stage of the tide will also teach you where the shallowest areas are, areas to avoid during the falling tide. A perfect recipe for disaster is to fish a flat for the first time during a falling tide. Many years ago I took my mother to Airport flat on the ocean side of Key Largo during the falling tide. We got stuck right in front of the only outdoor shooting range in the Upper Keys for four hours. My mother hates guns! It was not a good experience and I really learned from it. It happens to everyone. And if it has not happened to you, it is coming.
When I was 18, my father, mother and I went to Port of the Islands on the West coast with our local fishing club for the first time. We had an awful day of fishing in our flats boat so at the end of the day decided to park the boat in a half-foot of water and walk the flat in search of shells. We walked around a small island finding lots of shells but by the time we got back to the boat it was high and dry. The water’s edge was 30ft from the boat. This forced us to wait for the tide to come back in. When it finally did, the mosquitoes had destroyed us and it was 10 pm and really dark. Needless to say, my mother was not happy and it took another two hours to get back to the resort. Later we learned that the tides on the west coast were bigger then the east coast. As a result, my mother never again let us take her into the backcountry. But it was a hard lesson learned, one, which no one ever has to learn themselves.
Learning a flat takes years. It is not something that happens after one or two trips to the same flat. Over time the topography of the flat changes as well. Hurricanes can also change a flat drastically.
So constantly checking an area will help you stay on top of changes to the flat. This is why you hire guides. We spend all of our time fishing these areas and know where and when to be there.
For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!
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