On the Water: Tide Guide

From the clusters of oyster beds and perennial spartina grass, or cordgrass as more locally known, along the sparkling saltwater riverside to the tailing redfish in the shallow marsh flats, the salt marsh estuary is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. At Kiawah River, almost everything in our natural habitat thrives off the ebb and flow of our local waterways.  

Caused by the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth and the Earth’s rotational force, high and low tides typically occur twice daily in most places. A high tide is when water advances to its closest point onto the shoreline, while a low tide takes place when it recedes to its furthest point. A third, and less common, tide is a King Tide, which is an extremely high tide that often accompanies a new moon.  

The difference between high and low tides can make up several feet in the course of only a few hours. In the Lowcountry, our tidal fluctuation is greater due to our gently sloping coastline. Because the water levels actively change with the tide, our waters are some of the most productive, cleanest and healthiest in the country.  

As any fisherman will tell you, the tides also play an extremely important role in fishing, as they can determine where fish are and when is the best time to catch them.  

In general, a fisherman’s catch is best when the tide is moving, which occurs in between high and low tides. When fishing on an outgoing tide, place your bait in the mouth of an estuary, because game fish typically wait there to eat crustaceans or baitfish as they are carried along with the current. As the tide flows in, the fish move back into the estuary area and toward the tidal flats where they begin to search for their next meal. When the tide rises, cast out to the deeper water beyond the edge of the tidal flat. 

Whenever you’re out on the water, whether it’s to cruise the coast or catch your next meal, it’s important to be mindful of the coastal tides to avoid running aground. Track the daily tide schedule or frequently monitor your boat’s depth gauge so you don’t get stuck in shallow waters. 

The ebb and flow of our Lowcountry waters keep Kiawah River’s marshes pristine and healthy. With the dog days of summer quickly approaching, there’s no better time to get outside and explore our waterways’ unique ecosystems.