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Louisiana Fly Fishing For Redfish Back and Tail




I am often asked what constitutes a favorable tide for sight fishing redfish.  An honest answer to this question would be that if varies wildly based on where you are fishing, the type of habitat and flats you are fishing, time of year, type of bait present and many other factors. I can however present you with a bit of a generalization that seems to be consistent on many of the flats in the Calcasieu Estuary, and that I'm sure would apply on flats that are similarly featured in other area's.  Many of the flats in the Calcasieu estuary, particularly those in it's northern reaches do not have a lot of aquatic grass, and tend to have water that is less than clear.  These flats tend to be soft bottomed mud flats that are adjacent to, or not far from the deeper water of the ship channel.  On these flats, experience has taught me that low water levels with moving water are  most productive.  

The benefits of a low water level on flats matching this description are two fold.  Lower water tends to concentrate the fish, and low water allows you to spot fish even in the murkiest of water.  When the water gets low redfish, sheepshead and black drum will often offer a visual display of their back and tail above the waters surface.  Even when the fish don't breach the surface, they will still push wakes and make other tell tell signs of their presence allowing an angler to stalk and present a fly to them.

To track what the tide will be doing, get acquainted with tide tables on line like the one at Saltwater Tides..  If you pull up a tide chart for Calcasieu Pass it will list the predicted times for high and low tides within your selected date range, as well as the predicted water level expressed in relation to average mean low tide.

Since the times listed are for the predicted high and low tide at Calcasieu Pass,  you will have to make adjustments to the time listed to allow for the tide differential, which is the difference in time between the highs and lows at the pass, and the highs and lows in the specific area you will be fishing.  In much of the area I like to fish, the difference runs in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 hours, and I can normally look for a predicted high or low for the pass and figure that at the time the tide is at its highest at the pass, it will just be moving in with really good force on the flats near Prien lake, and when the predicted tide is at it's lowest at the pass is when I will be beginning to see good outward movement.

As to tide levels, here in the Calcasieu Estuary we do not have particularly large tide swings.  Normally a 2 foot swing from the low to the high is considered a relatively strong tide.  This week we have a swing of just over 3 feet which is enormous, and the largest predicted swing I have ever seen listed on the tide charts for our estuary, with predicted highs of 3.0 feet above the mean low, and predicted low tides of -.01 feet below mean low.  That much movement of the water will tend to cloud the water, however the low tide levels are low enough that any fish moving on the flats ought to be visible.  With this big of a swing, the water level will change fast, so be careful not to get stranded by the tide on a flat.  The levels I find most fishable for much of our estuary in generally between -0.2 and +0.6, depending on the wind.  Since our tides are relatively week, a strong wind can almost neutralize the movement of the tide, or compound it if blowing in the same direction as the water flow.

The main caveat to my assessments of preferable tide levels above is for those area's of marsh that either experience much less tide flow because they are very far removed from the ship channel and other major tidal bodies, or because they are practically impounded, and also those area's that have a lot of aquatic vegetation which make the water very clear and enables you to spot fish regardless of water level.  A prime example that encompasses both of these scenarios is the area of Cameron Prairie Refuge behind the Grand Bayou Weirs.  In those area's worry less about the tide and more about wind direction and speed.   The wrong wind can make that long ride across the lake to access the weirs long, bumpy and wet.

Anytime you are heading to the flats to fish, look at the tide tables before hand.  Even if it's not going to dictate when or where you fish, by knowing what the tide is supposed to be doing, and observing what is occurring on the water while you fish, you will soon build your own knowledge base of what tides create the conditions that are best for your fishing.





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