By Capt. Mel Berman, 970-WFLA

 ** There’s an old adage advising that “timing is everything.” And, where fishing is concerned, that dictum couldn’t be more valid. As most experienced anglers will tell you: “successful fishing is being at the right place; at the right time; with the right bait.” A good case in point is an outing that my late pal Merrill “Canoeman” Chandler and I enjoyed some years back.

Just setting up a drift over a rich, “pot-holed” grass flat, we began by working our favorite DOA Shrimp. On virtually the first cast and every toss thereafter, hungry sea trout ravaged our baits.

Catching and carefully releasing these spotted beauties, Merrill and I got our count up to more than 70 of these larger keepers.

“This is fun,” I proclaimed, “but you know Merrill, I think we should try for a slam. We can always come back here to catch more of these hungry trout.”

Of course the word “slam” is the accepted term for a day in which an inshore Florida angler catches at least one each of the three popular inshore species — snook, trout and redfish.

So it was that the Canoeman and I actually left a hungry bunch of sea trout — still biting — and headed for one of our known snook and redfish spots.

And it didn’t take too long, after setting up along a mangrove lined pass, before I hooked a hefty redfish working a small gold spoon along the edge of an oyster bar.

Meanwhile, the Canoeman, twitching his 7-MR MirrOlure along the mangrove edge, hooked a huge snook that began ripping out great volumes of line. Here was a powerful fish that took some fancy maneuvering but, in the end, Merrill managed to bring the massive critter boatside. Carefully removing the plug, the hefty linesider made a beeline for the security of those mangrove trees.

Each of us managed to catch a couple more reds and snook, but they were not quite as cooperative as those voracious sea trout we had encountered earlier.

After an extended pause in the action, the Canoeman said, “you know, it really was kind of fun catching and releasing all those hungry trout. How ‘bout we go back there and do it again?” “Sounds like a plan Merrill!”

Arriving at the same lush green grass flats that produced so abundantly for us earlier, we set up for the perfect drift. Again, working DOA Shrimp with the same touch that proved so successful that morning, we caught — nothing – nada — zilch!

“It’s as if there never were any trout here – ever,” I lamented. The Canoeman concurred. responding with that time worn but apt phrase, “that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.”

If someone had arrived at this flat – at this precise moment in time — they would have sworn that there were no fish here — ever.

So why did this trout spot go from glorious to dreadful? Consulting our tide chart, we could see that earlier in the day there was the beginning of a brisk incoming tide. And now some three hours later, the water flow had come to a complete halt and, according to our tide chart, would stay flat until well into the afternoon.

So here was one of those instructive lessons that we can learn from our fishing experience: Always check the tides. It really does make a difference – when they’re moving; when they’re going out or coming in; when they begin and end. And the key word in that dictum is “when.”

Now I know that many of our fellow anglers would say that “I just go fishing when I can.” This is all well and good my friend, but the message here is that it’s really not a bad idea to take a peek at the tides chart when planning your fishing day. It could make for a much more satisfying and productive trip.

As we said at the beginning of this opus — “in fishing, as in life, timing is everything.”