Riding The Inshore Tides: Part 2 (Incoming)
This is part 2 of a 3-part series with Captain Charlie Thomason about coastal tides and how they influence gamefish. In part 1, Thomason shared his tips for locating fish on the outgoing tide. In part 2, he talks about why coves tend to outproduce points on incoming tides and dishes the details on how he develops patterns.
In the photo above, the coves marked by 'X' are areas that will hold concentrations of fish on the incoming tide.
Mind the Curves
To review for a moment, Thomason previously said he tells his clients to fish points and other current-breaking structures on the outgoing tide and to fish the coves on the incoming. "Cove" is a pretty vague term. Here's Thomason's explanation of the exact shoreline characteristics he looks for to hold fish in rising-water scenarios.
"When I say 'coves,' what I'm talking about are indentations on the bank where the incoming current flows in, hits the bank and then flows down the shoreline towards a point.
"A lot of people hear the word cove and they picture a large area, but the places I'm talking about might only be 50 or 60 feet long. Put your boat on the shoreline, look down the bank and pay attention to how the shoreline curves and indents. If you look down a straight bank and see a spot where it looks like someone took a bite out of it, that's where those fish will hold on the rising tide."
If you've read part 1, you know Thomason insists on fishing areas where the tide's moving into, not away from. If you're targeting a marsh pond with a feeder bayou on the south side, the incoming tide will flow into the north shoreline. You might find a few scattered fish in other parts of the pond, but the biggest concentration will be in the coves that get the most current on the incoming tide.
Find Patterns, Not Fish
Here's a scenario that confuses a lot of anglers. You're steadily catching fish in a certain area on the rising tide. Then, as the incoming current slows, so does the action. Now what?
"A lot of anglers think, 'I just need to go find where these fish move on the outgoing tide and the action will pick up again,' but that's not how it works," Thomason notes. "It's a misconception that fish just swim around and eat all day. They don't.
"If you find a spot where the fish are eating on a certain tidal movement, don't assume that you can just move a few hundred yards when the tide changes and catch them again. Chances are they fed for that short little window and they won't eat again until the conditions are the same. Fish develop a routine, just like humans. After those fish feed they don't rush to the next choke point to find more bait - they lay low, they rest, they sleep. So don't bother with trying to catch 'those fish' all day.
"That's basically what fishing a pattern is all about," he adds. "I never go out with the purpose of finding a certain group of fish. If you try to do that, you'll run yourself ragged. Instead, I pay attention to when and where fish feed and how that relates to the tide cycle."
Thomason's definition of paying attention goes a whole lot further than simply noting that fish feed in Lake X on the incoming tide. Two decades as a charter captain has taught him that developing a pattern is all about sweating the small stuff.
"Whether you're fishing an incoming or outgoing tide, any time you get on a good bite, you need to immediately start asking yourself questions," he said. "Why are these fish here? What are they feeding on? Is there any deep water nearby? This is the kind of stuff that should be going through your head when you find a concentration of fish.
"The more questions you can answer about why those fish are in that specific location at that specific time, the more you can hone in on a specific pattern. It's one thing to know that fish are feeding in coves on the incoming tide, but what else is there?"
According to Thomason, look at your GPS or a map and study your location. Are you in a long, narrow lake, or a nice round one? Are you fishing a straight shoreline with only one major cove, or a bank with a lot of little points and indentions? Does the area have shell or grass nearby? As you answer these questions you can start looking for areas that share similar characteristics, and before you know it, you'll have different patterns you can run on different tides."
- In part 3 of this series, Thomason shares his tips for locating and catching fish during extreme high-tide events.
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about the author
Texan Jason Bryant has written about fresh and saltwater fishing for more than a decade. When he's not chasing redfish in his poling skiff, you'll find him dodging pirates and looking for mean Mexico largemouths at Lake Falcon.