Tides determine the rhythm of life and fishing
For visitors to the Alabama Gulf Coast, the tides are a mysterious phenomenon that defies explanation.
To the folks who live and work on the Gulf Coast, tides determine the rhythm of life.
That last statement is especially valid for those who fish on the Alabama coast. The tide action has everything to do with that day's strategy to try to land a decent catch of fish.
For those who “ain't from around here,” tides are the oceans' reaction to the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The Alabama coast tides are mostly dominated by the moon's gravitational pull, which is sometimes light, sometimes heavy and sometimes almost non-existent when it is canceled out by the pull of the sun. The heavy tides, where the wave height reaches its peak, are called spring tides. When the sun cancels out the moon's pull, there is almost no tide movement, which is known as a neap tide.
At other times of the year, anglers have luck fishing the high tides and low tides. Neap tides are tough even for the most experienced anglers.
During the heat of the summer, high tide rules, according to Capt. Jay Gunn of JayHook Inshore charter service (251-752-8040).
“If there's no water movement (neap tide), the inshore fish do not feed,” Gunn said. “In late summer, around low tide, the fishing is just not productive. As summer gets hotter, just about all of the feeding activity is around high tide. The closer to high tide is when they are most active."
Gunn said if you're fishing in shallow water, the high tide brings a welcome influx of cooler water and allows the fish to make visits into the shallows to find shrimp, crabs or small baitfish.
What has been biting lately is what Gunn calls the mid-summer menagerie of speckled trout, white trout, redfish and flounder. Any of those species can be caught around high tide.
“About three to four hours after the high tide is the most productive time for me,” he said. “The hotter it gets the less active they are in shallow water. There may be a short spurt early in the morning, and then it's over with unless it's a real cloudy day.”
As far as fishing spots, Gunn is looking for ambush points where the fish will wait for the tide to move something past them.
The good news is that summertime tides are almost always daytime high tides. When it gets tough is when the high tide occurs at night. Gunn said to keep a tide chart handy and plan your summertime fishing trip accordingly.
“Don't sit around waiting for them to bite,” he said. “If they're not biting, keep on moving until you find them. You might as well get used to this pattern, because it's probably not going to change until we get a cool front in mid to late September.”
As far as the catches lately, Gunn has tossed a lot of white trout, some speckled trout and ground mullet, as well as an occasional flounder and redfish, into the ice chest.