TIMING IS EVERYTHING

They say comedy is all about timing, but the ticking clock is no laughing matter when you’re working with tight windows of tidal opportunity.

Case in point: A recent trip to the coastal zone of the Florida Everglades found Capt. Ray Van Horn prospecting the mangrove edges for the redfish, snook and black drum that forage in this food-rich habitat. A week before, Van Horn enjoyed great success in the exact same area; but something was different.

The prior trip fell on a quarter moon and moderate tides brought the fish up and back in steady intervals.

Our trip was two days before a full moon and the smoking tides bore witness to this strong lunar influence. On the rising tide, the fish usually forage along the edges of the mangrove trees—unless the incoming water grants them deeper access.

This day, the water pushed at least a foot higher than the previous week and all those creeks, drains and winding corridors leading through the tangle of mangrove roots allowed the fish to enter those inner lagoons where anglers can’t reach. Occasional pops and white water explosions bespoke the predation occurring deep in the thicket.

Realizing we missed the incoming tide window, we left to burn some time on a known tarpon haunt about 2 miles away. When outgoing tides drain that inner sanctum, the fish fall out and stage along that mangrove edge for another perimeter feed before pulling out to the deeper cuts on low tide.

Good plan, but when we returned, we found the falling tide was racing out so fast we had actually missed the window by about 20 minutes. Exposed, muddy mangrove roots bespoke the rapid drop.

Van Horn had a few bites and he boated a nice red, but it was nothing like the rally he’d expected.

In fairness, having a photographer on the boat tends to slow things down a bit and very likely deprived my host of a few key pitches to rapidly dwindling spots. Nevertheless, days like this offer a demanding schedule with no mercy for those who tarry.

Right place, right time—yeah, that’s a common fishing axiom, but the implications exponentially expand when you’re dealing with narrow tidal periods.


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