How Do Tides Affect Fishing?

If you’re interested in catching saltwater fish species, you’ve probably done much research on how to have an exciting and successful fishing trip. You may have found the best times and places to fish, bought all the fishing gear you need, and practiced your fishing technique, but have you considered the tides?

So how do tides affect fishing? Tides are essential for the marine ecosystem. Tides create a current in the ocean that sweeps along and collects small animals and plants, depositing them in one place. The concentration of small fish attracts larger fish and other marine life to feed, making them an easy target for fishermen. 

This article will explain what tides are, whether it’s better to fish at high or low tides, and how tides are useful for fishing. Keep reading to learn how to read tides when fishing and much more. 

Is It Best to Fish at High or Low Tide?

Generally, the best time to go fishing is when the tides are “running” during the middle period of the tide. This is when the tide is moving from high to low tide or from low to high tide. 

When the water reaches the peak of high or low tides, it slows down and stops moving, becoming “slack.” Once the water becomes “slack,” the fish are less likely to bite no matter how delicious is the bait you’re dangling. 

Most offshore fish feed and bite more eagerly when the tide flows freely. Plan your fishing trips according to the “running” tide to take advantage of the increased feeding activity.

The “running” tide will deposit the highest concentration of bait fish, insects, and plants in shallow waters, bays, harbors, estuaries, and around islands and reefs. These are the prime spots for tide fishing. 

Tides also affect deep-sea fishing. The circular water movement creates a small whirlpool, pushing the nutrient-rich water to the surface. This water movement sets up the place where the fish are going to feed.  

How Are Tides Useful in Fishing?

How Are Tides Useful in Fishing

The tidal movement directly affects the feeding behavior of many fish species. Keeping this in mind, you can plan your offshore fishing trips according to tides and target fish in areas they are most likely to feed. 

Most fish species that stay close to coastal areas feed during the flood tide, when bait fish, insects, plants, and tiny organisms are washed on the shore. Sometimes, fish feed at the start of the flood tide and the very end of the ebb tide.

Understanding the effects, the tide has on fish can improve your fishing. Fish are easier to catch when they are feeding, and it’s the tides and currents that dictate the fish feeding behavior. 

How to Read Tides When Fishing

The best way to read tides is by learning how to read a tide chart. A tide chart is designed to help anglers determine when and where to go saltwater fishing. 

During incoming tides, fish will move into shallow water areas. This happens because channels and estuaries see an influx of baitfish and crustacean activity as the incoming tide flows toward the inshore. 

Shorelines are also a great place for inshore fishing during the incoming tides. The rising water pushes baitfish and crustaceans towards the shore as it rises, and with them also come the predatory fish. 

If you plan to fish at an incoming tide, be at your fishing spot at least two or three hours before the high tide arrives. Use a fishing tide chart to check the fishing tide times a few days before your fishing trip to be prepared. 

Consider fishing near ledges, piers, potholes, channels, or bridges during the outgoing tide.

Keep in mind that predatory fish usually stay positioned up-current, waiting for prey to pass by. To catch a fish in these conditions, cast the bait into the current and allow the water’s movements to carry it back.

When the water level drops as the tide goes out, you may try fishing deeper areas that usually hold fish during low tides. 

A tide chart provides a time range when incoming and outgoing tides are expected, but the wind and weather can influence the tides. For example, low tide can be even lower if the offshore winds push the water away from the coastline. 

While learning how to read tides when fishing, remember that fish won’t feed by chance or move locations. Make sure to note where you catch fish, the tide phase, and the time of the year. 

Having this information can help you create patterns for targeting certain fish species. If you keep track of tidal movements and your catches, you’ll quickly learn where to catch fish at the incoming and outgoing tide. 

Other Factors that Affect Fishing

Besides tides, many other factors affect fish behavior and fishing. Here are the different weather aspects that affect fishing:

  • Water temperature
  • Rain
  • Barometric pressure
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Turbidity
  • Light
  • Ultraviolet light


The tide has a huge influence on sea fishing. Tides are the rise and fall of sea level caused by the joined effects of the Sun’s and Moon’s gravitational forces and the rotation of the Earth.

When the Moon and Sun align, they create parallel gravitational pulls that push the ocean’s water further up the shore. This phenomenon is known as high tide. 

At low tide, the ocean’s waterline pulls down the shore. This happens when the Sun and Moon are creating perpendicular gravitational pulls.

The best time for fishing is when the tides are “running” or during the middle period of the tide, instead of the peak of the high and low tides when the water is “slack.” The feeding cycle of fish is directly affected by tides which concentrate crustaceans and prey fish into one area for large fish to feed on.