shrimp boat and sunrise

Scouting: Locating Tidelines that Hold Fish

Find where Speckled Trout and Redfish are Biting by Finding Tidelines

Hi, I’m Captain Devin and I believe in “fishing smarter”. To Fish Smarter is to embrace a way of life that is nested inside the world of inshore fishing. For many of us, it is to painful to sit under an umbrella and watch a cork all day. We want to enjoy hunting fish and finding the bite, to experience those “Aha!” moments when we learn something new, to become masters of our trade and of the marsh. So I Fish Smarter.

You can Fish Smarter by finding and recognizing tidelines to catch specks and reds. This article is about using Google Earth to locate this phenomena.

What are tidelines?

Tidelines are formed when the current flows around a point or along a shoreline. From a vantage point above the water, especially the sky, they can be seen as long lines stretched in the direction the water is flowing. See the picture below to better understand.

water current around islands

You can see lines along the tips of islands in this screenshot. That is where water is flowing past and forming tidelines.

You can see those tidelines  because that is where water is flowing the heaviest. Trout may not actually hold on these lines, but just inside it between the tideline and the shore.

oyster sticks and tideline

In this picture you can see a tideline.

In the above picture you can see a tideline that is running off the shore into another body of water. You can see the PVC pipes marking the oyster lease and it is those pipes or “oyster sticks” that indicate there is a an oyster bed underwater. Oysters are filter-feeders, and it is logical that you would find them in the same area tidelines occur when the tide is rising or falling. This oyster bed is marked, but not all of them are.

Tidelines are just as important to other types of fishermen, too. Like in the picture above, oyster fishermen seed their oysters in the current where water flows. Oysters are filter feeders and need that current to survive, grow and be plentiful. You will also see crab traps lined up on these tidelines because crabs will travel along them.

Crab Trap Tideline

Note the tidelines and presence of crab traps. If you have an experienced eye you can also see the aquatic grass.

So understand if you can’t see the tideline from your boat, but you know the water is moving, you can use crab traps and oyster sticks as an indicator to where you need to fish.

What’s critical to keep in mind here is that tide lines are visible from the sky, but not always from your boat. Chances are, you have been running over loads of trout without even knowing it.

It comes as no surprise that “find the tide line” has become the name of the game. The experts at Campo’s Marina have been saying this for a long time. In fact, you can see expert advice on tidelines from Kenneth Campo on RodnReel.

Why are these tidelines so important?

Speckled trout and redfish can’t see what we see above the water surface. Their world is a little different from ours and they will make decisions based on what’s underwater. One of these things that will influence their behavior is the presence of baitfish, especially shrimp.

If you have ever seen a speckled trout swim, you know they dart around like missiles. Shrimp are not so quick and remain at the mercy of the current once they are adrift. Apparently, this is at the disadvantage of the shrimp. See for yourself here:

So as a tide is falling, all the water will be flowing towards those main arteries of the marsh. With it will be drifting shrimp and other tasty baitfish that trout and reds enjoy. The moving water essentially “forms” the baitfish and will consistently rake them across the same areas. The trout and reds know to stack on these areas and await their meals. It is a cycle that happens every day. Watch this video of us nuking some trout eating shrimp subject to these tide lines.

You can see evidence of this bait cycle on Google Earth. It is a dead giveaway. Use the Time Slider to find where this bait will be, and then go fish it under favorable conditions. Watch the following video to see what tide lines look like from a boat.

Now this is where Google Earth and its Time Slider comes into play. Go ahead, open up Google Earth and follow along. Move to an area in the marsh with various intersections, mouths and cuts. Now scroll through various dates and look for any water rips or tidelines. Here are a few.

MRGO Rocks

Some anglers always believed that water flows through the MRGO rocks. Here it is fairly obvious.

Water Current Tide Tidal Vortex

So much water is being shoved through such a small space that a “whirlpool” is created. We wouldn’t bother fishing here when the water is moving so hard.

See what we are talking about? You can get an idea as to what areas will have the right moving water. Understand that where you should cast exactly can be a little tricky. Moving water is necessary, but look for a point it may be moving across. That will be your sweet spot. If not, be sure to always cast around!

Picking out a spot with a tide line and running to it first thing would be a knee-jerk reaction. Don’t do that! Instead, take the time to find out the date that image was taken and look that day up on a tide chart. Understand that winds play a role in how water flow, so if a hard east wind is blowing the day there is a falling tide, know that the water may actually be going the other way. However, it’s pretty easy to see which way water is flowing on a satellite image.

Tide Chart Water Current Flow

Click to Enlarge

Remember Scouting: Finding Reefs & Eroded Points, you need to locate a lot of spots to try out in order to find the one that is a consistent hot spot.

It’s easy to see how differing bodies of water can be broken down into metaphorical categories like highways, streets and sidewalks. Bayou LaLoutre is most definitely a “highway”, being a main life line of the surrounding marsh. It should come as no surprise that anybody would drift Bayou LaLoutre for trout during low water in the winter. This is because that is where all the bait and fish drain into. Makes sense, right? The same can be said for Oak River in Delacroix.

Hopefully you understand what tidelines are, why they are important and how to find them. If you catch fish, please let us know on Louisiana Fishing Reports. Finding fish and sharing those findings will further your angling education. Now you can Fish Smarter!

Looking for other ways to Fish Smarter?

What I covered in this article is only one part of what I know. There is a lot more for me to share with you! These things include, but are not limited to:

  • what fishing tackle is best suited for Louisiana’s inshore waters
  • which waters are safe to float in
  • knowing how to tie the right knots
  • knowing the seasonal patterns of fish
  • how to locate the fish biomass
  • what to do when you don’t catch fish
  • and more!

You can learn this solid foundation of knowledge in Inshore Fishing 101. To learn more, just hit the button below!

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