Low Temps & Low Tides
Well, our first taste of cooler “winter” weather has arrived and as usual, this time of year produces “negative tides”. Tide charts reference the average high and low tides for each area of our coastal waters. Negative tides are those that drop below the average low tide range and are noted on charts with a negative number that shows the variation from the norm. While boaters can scout these exposed flats from a distance, the kayak angler can get up close and personal during negative tides. No flat is uniform and all will have channels that may be only a few inches deeper than the surrounding bottom. These serve as pathways for fish moving towards deep water as the tide falls and towards those really shallow spots only available to them on a high tide. These areas hold the crabs, shrimp and baitfish that are exposed or stressed by the lack of water and the cooler temperatures. Gamefish will “stage” or gather where these small channels drop off into deeper water so make a few casts in these areas before heading onto the flat.
Redfish, snook and other gamefish work these tidal flats after a negative low tide in search of an easy meal. On a sunny day, this shallow water will warm quickly, particularly in areas of low wind velocity and dark bottom color. Bright, sandy shallows will not warm as quickly. So, find a spot with wind protection, shallow flats exposed on a negative low tide and a dark mud or grassy bottom and you will find the baitfish and the predators you seek.
One of our favorite areas close to home is Oyster Creek. The area north of the spot where Oyster Creek meets Lemon Bay exemplifies these qualities. This launch is just south of Lemon Bay High School with adequate parking and a sandy beach that you can back down for unloading. No need for wheels or carrying your kayak here but please move your vehicle back to the parking area after unloading. The tidal flows in and out of Oyster Creek can be an issue but the currents are strongest under the Placida Road Bridge. Stay to the center or south as you paddle under the bridge and out to Lemon Bay.
Once out of the creek, paddle to the north to find shelter from the wind (usually from the NE) along the southern shore of Cedar Point Environmental Park. Be careful around the shallow oyster bars along the way. Look past the schooling mullet for tails or dorsal fins of redfish rooting among the oyster shells for the crabs and shrimp they love. Further from these exposed bars, the snook will hang out looking for forage the mullet and redfish flush from the oyster beds. A weedless single hook lure will work well around the oysters. We use a 1/16th ounce bullet weight with a 3/0 wide gap hook and a shad tail or copper penny Gulp here. Be sure to start your retrieve as the lure hits the water and hold the rod tip high to keep away from those sharp shells. The challenge is to move the jig as slowly as possible but fast enough to avoid hanging up. If you do get snagged, paddle over and lift the jig from the other side. Avoid jerking on the lure, this may fray your leader on the shell and bend the point of the hook. Of course, this will spook the fish you were casting to but there are other spots to try.
We recently made a trip to Oyster Creek to see if the red tide was a problem. The brackish water in the creek was dark and cloudy with the scent of a few dead fish in the mangroves. Once out on the bay, the water cleared and the odor was gone. There were no “floaters” or other dead fish here. Unfortunately, the bite was slow on the rising tide. Les hooked into a couple of good fish on the oyster bars and Kimball landed a few “snooklets” along the mangroves. We will try it again on a rising tide as the low temperatures suppress the red tide bloom. Give this spot a try. It’s a beautiful paddle even if the fishing is slow.