The moon and its different phases determine when tides change from high to low, and how strong the tide will be. Good water movement is key to good fishing, especially in salt water.
The full moon and new moon phases have greater effects on tidal flow. Where and what time of day you plan to fish will determine which moon phases will suit you best. If the tide is going out during a full moon in the morning, it is usually a weak tide. On days during a full moon phase, when the morning tide is incoming, it should be a strong one. In this same situation, the afternoon outgoing tide will also be a strong one. Fishing will be good on both of these tides but the afternoon tide is exceptionally good.
A classic example of a good outgoing afternoon tide can be witnessed at the mouth of Tampa Bay and at Boca Grande. The afternoon tide brings thousands of crabs out of the bay which puts the tarpon into a feeding frenzy. The same outgoing tide also occurs on the new moon phase.
Usually the quarter moon phases have less effect on water movement. Good tides can be expected as the moon approaches each full or new moon phase. Tides will become less and less as the phases wind down after each new or full moon. One thing to note about tides is that strong winds will sometimes make them stronger or weaker depending on wind direction and speed.
Tide prediction tables are printed and can be found in many sources. Most fishing magazines, daily newspapers and any weather site on the internet will have them. All of the tide tables are only predictions and may vary somewhat depending on weather conditions, although most of the tables are very accurate. The tables give times and expected highs and lows in feet and inches. These tables will show differences in hours and minutes from one location to another. For example, the high tide at the mouth of Tampa Bay will be about two hours different further up inside the bay. Most tide tables will calculate these differences for several locations.
Now, how can you use this information to help your fishing?
When you read the tide tables for your area, you will notice that some days have four tides in a 24 hour period. Some days may only have one or two tides in a 24 hour period. The two-tide days may produce enough moving water to make a good high tide, but it takes half the day for the tide to get high. On those two-tide days the water movement is very slow. On days when there are four tides, the water has to come in and go out faster, and this faster moving water makes for better fishing. If you want to catch a snook, a good tide is critical. Redfish and trout also bite better on moving water. Mackerel, bluefish, jack cravelle, and ladyfish aren’t as particular.
Some fish species prefer different tides. Some anglers prefer different tides. I like to fish when there is good moving water, preferably a good morning incoming tide and a good afternoon outgoing tide. If I had to recommend one moon phase over another, it would the be the new moon. A full moon lights up the night sky and if the sky stays clear, the fish tend to feed all night long and are not very hungry early in the morning. On the new moon the night stays very dark and fish tend to not be as active at night as on the full moon.
The best time to go fishing
is any chance you get. But if you have the time to plan your days according to the times of good moving water, you should catch more fish.