Where do we begin?

Fishing tidal water is not rocket science and many principles that apply to moving water (river fishing) also apply to the comings and goings of the sea. On the Gulf Coast of Florida the real complexity involves the tides and the effect the wind and the moon phases have on them. There are no 10 foot tides that are commonly found in other places. Here a 4 foot tide is huge and at times the tide won’t move a foot. Full and new moon phases command the greatest movement of water while in between extremes far less water flows.
Now enter into the equation, the wind. If the wind blows from the shore toward the sea (an off-shore or east wind) the outgoing tide will be greater than predicted and the incoming will be held back with less water allowed to enter the backcountry. If the wind blows from the west the opposite applies. This is flat country where average water depth on the flats, at high tide, will likely be 4 feet or less. If you find 8 feet of water remember the spot because it is considered a deep hole and a sanctuary for fish when low tide comes. During a full or new moon phase, when the major low tides occur many flats, usually covered with water, go high and dry.
There are tidal charts, like the one above, available on-line that predict the highs and lows for any given day of the year. They are calculated as average mean tides over a 50 year period and indicate whether the tide will be higher or lower than average and indicate how much one way or the other ( + or – mean ) it will be.
If this doesn’t confuse you enough, tides are predicted at given locations along our coastlines; Boston, Miami, Everglades City and so on. Predictions are made at the coastline, not inland. As you move further inland from the coast along tidal rivers it takes longer for the water to get there, at times an hour or more. The low tide also occurs earlier in the backcountry than predicted at the coast because all that water has to leave before the low can occur on the outside. Factor in the wind speed and direction and things begin to get very interesting.
So there is homework involved before any trip. It’s all on-line. There are tide charts and NOAA weather predictions with wind speed and direction for your viewing area. The short course is tidal movement, times of high and low tides, wind speed, and direction all factor into the decision of where you might go for the day. You slowly begin to understand where you can go or not go and when. It all boils down to T-O-W (Time on the Water). In the beginning it’s a real challenge but you only need to get stuck behind some oyster bar during low tide and get to sit there thinking it all over till the tide allows you to leave before you begin to really pay attention to the details. After a while it’s just a few minutes of homework at a couple of websites and you know where you’re going to spend your day and more “Time on the Water”.