Editors note: The terms “tide” and “current” are frequently used interchangeably. The “tide” is the vertical movement of water while the “current” is the horizontal movement of water. Although they very much work hand-in-hand, there are times when the current may be moving out, yet the tide is still rising, and visa versa.

“What tide is best?”

We get this question all the time in our stores and most anglers would have a more successful trip if they were able to fish on the right tide. Of course, there are obstacles in your planning if you are trying to schedule your trip for a certain time of day. Just keep in mind that there are certain “rules of thumb” that are usually “right on” but all rules can be broken and some anglers will still be successful!!!

Almost all fishing and crabbing is best if you use this simple formula. Go two to three hours before high tide and two hours after high tide. If you can fish or crab during those 5 hours you will usually have the best chance of being successful. Most tide tables are figured for the ocean so be sure to add two hours if you are fishing on the bayside.

If you decide to go clamming you want to clam on the low tide. Find low tide for the ocean or inlet and add two hours to the tide chart as all clamming in our area is done on the bayside. That will be dead low tide. Go clamming two hours before dead low tide and clam approximately two hours after low tide. If you are “signing” for clams, looking for keyholes in the mud or sand, the incoming part of the low tide is when clams will “sign” the best. You will also be able to see the sand bars in the bay exposed at low tide. On a full moon or a northwest wind, the low tide will be even lower, and is a really good time to go clamming.
Lots of boaters decide to anchor close to sand bars and hop out and go clamming when the tide gets low. They fish during the higher tides and clam during the lower tides, giving the family something to do all day long! Lots of fun and sun!

“I’m going fishing off the Oceanic Pier!”

The incoming tide always seems to be best when fishing off the Oceanic Pier. Since the best fishing is at the very end of the pier, anglers seem to do best as the fish come into the inlet with the tide. To fish the entire incoming tide, you need to find low tide on the tide chart, add two hours for the bay, and this will give you dead low tide. Fish between this low tide and high tide and you will have 6 full hours of incoming tide!

“I’m fishing the bulkhead between 2nd and 4th Streets!”

The main East Channel runs right in front of the bulkhead. During a hard running tide, you cannot hold bottom in the channel with even a pound of lead. It’s just impossible. If the tide is running hard, you must fish straight down or you will constantly get snagged. That being said, to be successful in catching nice flounder in the channel you must fish here when the tide is slowing down, which means fish either the dead low tide or the full high tide. Tides don’t stay still very long, maybe only 20 minutes to a half hour. The tide may be coming in on top and running out underneath. So what you want to do is BE THERE when the tide starts slowing down and wait it out. Good anglers only get 45 minutes to one hour of really good fishing when they can hold a sinker out in the main channel. Since it is very deep here, you can fish either dead low tide or dead high tide with equal success. Fish half an hour on either side of the high or low tide casting out into the main channel. The rest of the time, just fish straight down.

“How about fishing off of the Route 50 Bridge?”

If you fish near the main channel near the draw of the bridge, you will be dealing with the same hard tidal flow like on the bulkhead. There’s lots of good fish to be caught, but you need to work those tides when they are slacking. Once the tide gets cranking, you need to walk to the channels in the middle of the Bridge and on the western side of the Bridge where the currents are not running so hard. The nice part about fishing on the Route 50 Bridge is that you can find places to fish comfortably on any tide.

“Ninth Street Pier?”

Kind of the same as other places. Three hours before high tide and two hours after high tide. It’s still deep enough to fish or crab during low tide. Go two hours either side of dead low tide.

Now, if you are fishing or crabbing in the northern areas of the bay like at Northside Park at 125th Street and off the little pier behind Convention Hall at 41st Street, or the Isle of Wight bulkhead off Route 90, you MUST go at high tide to be successful. These places have little water depth at low tide. Since they are pretty far north you can add 2 ½ to 3 hours to the tide charts. Fish or crab 3 hours before full high tide and two hours after full high tide.
The Ocean Pier that sticks out from the boardwalk has better water depth at high tide also. The Ocean City Inlet itself is always easier to fish during the slacking tides (either dead low or dead high.) If you are lure fishing at the Inlet, from the Rt. 50 Bridge or off the piers, incoming water is always best. The very beginning of outgoing water can be good but doesn’t last very long.

“What if I’m fishing from the surf?”

Surf fishing is usually best during the higher tides but since you can’t fish in Ocean City when the lifeguards are on duty, you have to do the best with what is available to you. Incoming water, between low and high tides (the whole 6 hours) is usually always good and has less bait stealing crabs. The outgoing tide is usually slower, but if it’s the beginning of the outgoing (high tide just starting out) well, that’s still good.

Of course, any time you can go fishing is better than not going fishing at all! Just remember, if it’s low tide and you are fishing on the bayside, go to the places further downtown where the water is deeper. If you are on the bulkhead and the tide is running hard, fish straight down. Fish are always there. Just keep fishing, and the tide will get right sometime!

Good fishing…

Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.