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Redfish on an Incoming Tide
written by Ron Brooks

Low tide, a quiet boat, incoming current, and a good creek all come together to make for some fine redfish action.
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"The fish we are catching here probably have not fed in several hours, and they are headed into the creek to move onto those flats." 

 

Captain Mark guides out of Golden Isles Marina on St Simons Island, Georgia.  He's a great guy and even better guide and I had the pleasure of fishing with him again recently.  We were looking for redfish in the creeks and tidal marshes of the Georgia coastal estuary.

 

Like most redfish anglers, I had been taught and have practiced all my life looking for redfish on a high, outgoing tide.  Several logical reasons make me do that.

 

First, the creeks I chose to fish were all navigable at high tide, making access safe and easy.  Second, reds will find the marsh and mud flats that are flooded on high tide and they will move there to feed.  It was obvious to me that as the water dropped on an outgoing tide, these reds would have to come off the flats and into the creeks with the tide.  We would always be there waiting for them to move through.

 

Here is where the difference was in what I grew up doing and what Captain Mark taught me.  On this trip, we fished the dead low and incoming tide. 

 

I was convinced as we entered the first creek that we would be waiting for the next five or six hours for high tide.  But as the current began to move, Captain Mark took one of his famous "Thunder Chicken" float rigs baited with a live shrimp, and allowed it to drift away from the boat with the increasing current.

 

Not only did that shrimp get eaten, but every shrimp we put into that drift was taken by some very aggressive redfish.

 

Needless to say, I was amazed that these fish would be here on an incoming tide.  I was amazed until Captain Mark made me think about what was happening.

 

"The fish you look for on a high outgoing tide have been feeding on that flat for an hour or more," he said.  "The fish we are catching here probably have not fed in several hours, and they are headed into the creek to move onto those flats.  Which fish do you think will be more likely to take your bait -- one that has already been feeding, or one that is hungry and looking for food?"

 

I had no answer for him -- just a look that said that light bulbs were turning on in my head.  What he said make perfect sense.  And for the next two hours, that perfect sense played out with a limit of redfish in the boat and many more than that released.

 

As the current increased, I caught even more reds.  At one point, it was five casts and five reds.

 

As I drove home from that trip, I began to think about the creek we had fished, and I realized that the exact creek was not important. Any and all creeks that flood out onto a marsh or mudflat will contain fish at some point.

 

I did my field homework the next week, and went into the Florida Intracoastal Waterway to a number of my favorite creeks that meander off the waterway. This time I purposely went on a low tide, and I found one or two of my creeks that I could navigate at low tide.

 

I eased my boat in, shut the engine off and slowly poled back into the first creek to the first bend. I quietly pushed the pole into the mud bank, tied off the boat and waited for things to settle.

 

As soon as the water started moving in, I took a plastic grub  and jig -- chartreuse in color -- and began to slowly work the opposite, deeper bank. It took only three casts to hook up with a nice red. 

 

As the current increased, I caught even more reds. At one point, it was five casts and five reds. I also caught some small seatrout and two sheepshead, and catching sheepshead on artificial bait is saying something in my world!

 

So I think all this points out a good lesson. What we did with Captain Mark is not a Georgia story and it is not limited to redfish.  It is applicable in every area that has tidal marshes and any fish that feed on these marshes and flats on a high tide.  The key becomes locating tidal creeks that are navigable, at least at an idle speed or with the assistance of a pole, at low tide.

 

Low tide, a quiet boat, incoming current, and a good creek all come together to make for some fine redfish action - and the other fish are a bonus that will add to your day!

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