Best Tides for Fishing

Any fisherman worth a grain of salt knows the difference between high and low tides but how they affect fishing can be a bit confusing and can just be a little intimidating so to keep it uncomplicated I simplified the why and hows to answer the question. What are the best Tides for fishing?

Typically, the best tides to fish are when the tide is “running”  that is when it’s on the move from high to low or vice versa. Once the water approaches the extremes of high or low tide, it slows down and stops moving, becoming what’s known as “slack,” where currents stop and the fish are less likely to bite. 

Tides are long-period waves that move through the oceans in response to the forces exerted by the moon and sun and have basic tidal patterns that occur along the Earth’s major shorelines. In general, most areas have two high tides and two low tides each day.

What Causes Tides


Tides here on the earth’s oceans are formed by gravitational pulls from the moon and sun as well as some interference from the sun’s gravity. The moon has the greatest influence being it’s closer to the earth. The moon pulls water towards it as it orbits the earth causing tides to occur.

This gravitational force allows the ocean to bulge outward in two places at the same time. One bulge occurs on the side of the Earth facing the moon. This is the moon’s direct tidal force pulling the ocean toward it. The other bulge occurs on the opposite side of the Earth. Here, the ocean bulges in the opposite direction of the moon, not toward it. Both form High Tides.

As the Earth rotates, that area moves away from the moon’s influence, and the tide ebbs. Now it is low tide in that area. As the Earth keeps rotating, another high tide begins to take place in the same area when it is on the side of the Earth opposite the moon.

Geography complicates the tides, but many places on Earth experience just two high and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. The extra 50 minutes is caused by the distance the moon moves each day as it orbits Earth. Because tides occur regularly they can be calculated and predicted with accuracy.

High and low tides occur twice a day and if you know when these tides happen it can make for better fishing. It takes approximately six hours to go from high tide to low tide and vice versa, with high tides falling around 12 hours apart from each other.


Types of Tides


Semi-diurnal tide: a tide occurring twice a day like the Atlantic seaboard These tides occur twice a day. This means a body of water with semi-diurnal tides, like the Atlantic Ocean, will have two high tides and two low tides in one day, much like the eastern seaboard of North America.

Diurnal Tide: These tides occur once a day. A body of water with diurnal tides, like the Gulf of Mexico, has only one high tide and one low tide in a 25-hour period. Low tide

Mixed Tide: Some bodies of water, this includes most of North America that are in contact with the Pacific Basin, have mixed tides, where a single low tide follows two high tides.

High Tide:

  • The tide is at its fullest when the water reaches its highest level.
  • The time at which this tide occurs. Also called high water.

Low Tide:

  • The lowest level of the tide.
  •  The time at which the tide is lowest. Also called low water.

Tides can affect currents in the water on earth and which also affects feeding time for fish. During high or low tide there is no current in the water that won’t move for a period of time. Baitfish activity will drop off. If you plan your fishing between low and high tides “running tides” when water is moving then your success in catching fish can be improved. 

The running of the tide will be the strongest in shallow waters, estuaries, bays, harbors, and around islands or reefs where landforms narrow down the water current through channels.


Fishing High Tides


In most cases, fish will move into shallow water areas during incoming tides. This means that channels or bay mouths that the fish normally would not access because of lack of water are opened up to them.

Incoming flow often sees an increase in baitfish and crustacean activity as the current from the incoming tide flows through toward the inshore flats this will bring bigger predatory fish for dinner.

On the surf, small baitfish will follow the water on incoming tides into areas like points, troughs, and channels that you can visually discover and document when fishing outgoing tides.

Surf fishermen will plan their day around an incoming tide using the rule of thumb two hours before high tide and two hours after for the best chance at success as currents push up to the shoreline giving anglers an opportunity for catching big fish chasing smaller fish.

You can use a Tide Chart that you can find at any tackle shop, online, or newspaper to plan your times well enough ahead of time and know exactly where and when you need to be to get your line wet.  Tides Near Me is an easy site to use.



Fishing Low Tide


Tide AnimationOne huge advantage to fishing at low tide is, that it allows you to read all the structures on the beach, such as the depressions, or type of bottom. This is key information for where to fish hang during future low tides where areas may hold more volume of water.

You will just have to adjust your fishing tactics based on where the fish are most likely to find food sources as water levels rise or fall. As the tide goes out during low tide and the water level and volume drops, you will also have a good opportunity to fish the deeper areas and holes and channels that can often hold fish during low tides.

On bays and rivers, it could be piers and holes near permanent structures like sea walls, docks, and bulkheads.

Fishing at low tide can produce success as long as the currents called Ebb currents in the water are moving and that is important offshore or onshore because once slack tide shuts off the fish will shut off. It won’t make a difference how early you go if conditions in the water are not right.

The strongest flood and ebb currents usually occur before or near the time of the high and low tides. The weakest currents occur between the flood and ebb currents and are called “slack water” or “slack current”. In the open ocean, tidal currents are relatively weak. Near estuary entrances, narrow straits, and inlets, the speed of tidal currents can reach up to several kilometers per hour.


Fishing Tide Chart


Tide charts show the predicted times and heights of high and low tides for a given location. The bottom of the tide chart shows the hours of the day, while the left and right sides of the tide chart show the tidal range in feet.

The high marks on the graph are predicted high tide times, while controversially, the low marks on the chart show low tide times. Next to the right side of the chart, there are absolute high and low tide times. The time the moon rises along with sunsets and the direction of the wind and the weather are divided into hours of the day.

Typically, the best times to fish are when the tide is “running”  that is when it’s on the move from high to low or vice versa. Once the water approaches the extremes of high or low tide, it slows down and stops moving, becoming what’s known as “slack,” where currents stop and the fish are less likely to bite. This information is all available here on a Fishing Tide Chart.


See the source image


The biggest variable that needs to be considered when fishing high and low tides is the wind. The wind can push water in the direction that it’s blowing. The wind has friction on the water’s surface and a 10-15 0r 20 mph wind can make for a huge factor in determining tides.

On this Tide Chart, the wind can be seen right at the 2nd column near the bottom. So if the winds come out to 15 plus mph the tides could be a 6-inch to a foot height difference on the tides and need to be factored in along with its direction. The problem is the wind variable is not an exact science and can’t be exact depending on where you are fishing and will affect the curves on the chart that indicate the elevation of water.

  • If the tides are moving against the wind there will be a difference in depth and currents on the chart
  • If the tides move with the wind then the opposite is true and the curves will be higher on the chart. 

I lived on a Lagoon tidal system off the bay and ocean in New Jersey and have experienced low tide and strong wind that actually blew the water out of the bay and emptied the lagoon in the back of my house which was a strange sight to see but introduced me to how wind worked with tides and was a huge factor.



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