There are so many things that can affect the success of your fishing. Many times it is all about being in the right place at the right time. We have all heard the old lament, "You should have been here yesterday." I for one have heard that dreaded phrase one too many times.
Most recreational fisherman don't have the luxury of picking and choosing their fishing times. We have to go when the opportunity presents itself. But if you are fishing tidal waters there is one thing you can do to drastically increase your odds of success. Take the time to know how the tidal cycle impacts the feeding habits of your target species.
The influence of the tidal cycle on the feeding patterns of fish is something that cannot be underestimated. The movement of tide allows predator fish access to bait and the ability to easily ambush that bait.
High tides allow bait fish access to fresh feeding grounds and they will follow the tide to feed. Larger predator fish will in turn follow the bait fish to feed on them.
As the tide starts to fall water will funnel into channels. At this point the baitfish will begin to concentrate as they are "moved" with the water flow and the predator fish now have a perfect feeding opportunity. They will follow the baitfish to deeper water ambushing bait as they move. These tidal flows are hotspots of fish activity on falling tides as both bait and game fish are on the move.
A high outgoing tide can be a great fishing opportunity, but first you have to know your tide tables. This used to be something you had to do a lot of homework to calculate, but now with the Internet you can simply plug in your desired location and date and receive a wealth of data. With this information at your fingertips you are now in a position of power where you can judge what are the best fishing hotspots in your available time slot. Simple, huh?
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division has a great website where you can access tide tables for the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries. It is formatted as a map of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay showing several Tide Stations (highlighted in yellow). The map also is linked to more detailed maps of tide stations throughout the Chesapeake Bay. You can click on a particular Station on the map or you can click on one of the names in the right hand column to go to a detailed map of that region. Once there you can select your desired location, input the dates you would like to see tide data for and you are presented with the information.
To wrap it up, understand how tides affect your target species and learn how to marry tide data with available fishing locations to make the most of your time on the water. Get out there and catch'em good!