Tidal flow is the bloodstream of our local waters. All aquatic creatures respond to the ebb and flow of our daily tides and the feeding habits of fish are closely linked to the tides. Our tide heights are only about 2-2.5 feet on average from high to low. Extreme winds and full or new moons will cause larger tidal fluctuations. All boaters pay attention to the tides regardless of boating style because the shallows of Charlotte Harbor and some canals demand it. Generally speaking, Charlotte Harbor is easy to navigate.
To get the local tides you can go to www.saltwatertides.com
Most mariners are accustomed to a relatively predictable tidal pattern of 2 high tides and 2 low tides in a 24 hour period. In fact, Atlantic tides can be predicted each day by adding about 55 minutes to the low or high tide on each successive day. This is not the case for the gulf waters and Charlotte Harbor. We have days where there are only two tides! A tide chart is something that you have to refer to daily to know what the tides will be.
An explanation of how our area has such complex tides follows and I think you might find it to be very interesting. The different tides that you see reflect our unique geography – we’re caught between two basins, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The Atlantic coast has an orderly pattern of semidiurnal tides, with two high tides and two low tides each day. The Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico (Pensacola station) has predictable diurnal tides, with one high tide and one low tide. Southwest Florida, located right between these two distinct patterns, has mixed tides: sometimes two high tides, sometimes one daily high tide each day and sometimes an odd mixture of the two.
The particulars of water movement or oscillation within the Atlantic and Gulf basins is the major reason for the confusing variety of tides in our state. Tides move through these huge basins as waves, formed by the gravitational attraction of the sun. Exactly equal, balancing waves occur on the opposing side of the earth, due to centrifugal forces. As the earth turns on its polar axis, the successive high tides are a series of waves moving around the globe from east to west. Each flood tide high-water is the crest of a wave circling the earth – there are a series of waves with a distance of 12,000 miles from crest to crest.
When these enormous westward flood tide waves reach the coast of a continent, all of the energy cannot be absorbed, and a wave is reflected back toward the east – you cannot see it but it is there. This creates an oscillation of tidal energy back and forth within each geographic basin. Each ocean, sea, gulf or bay has a natural pattern of oscillation, which it determined by its length and its depth. Certain rhythms of those back-and-forth tidal oscillations fit better in large ocean basins, while other wavelengths are more closely attuned to smaller basins.
The lunar tidal influence results in two tidal waves circling the globe each 24 hours (to be exact, one wave crest, or flood tide, every 24 hours, 26 minutes). In addition, the solar tidal influence passes around the oceans of the northern hemisphere once a day, and creates another wave crest or flood ride that arrives once every 24 hours (exactly).
In the simplest terms, the lunar semidiurnal rhythm is synchronized with the natural oscillation of the Atlantic Ocean, while the solar diurnal rhythm is attuned to the natural oscillation of the Gulf of Mexico. Although Southwest Florida is part of the Gulf coastline, it is also near to the Atlantic tides; caught between these two tide patterns, Southwest Florida has a mixture of diurnal and semidiurnal tides. Between Pensacola and Flamingo, there may be one high tide in 24 hours on Monday, and then two high tides in 24 hours on Saturday of the same week. There may be no movement of water at all for six or more hours at a time. This complexity can be a source of frustration for fishermen as the fish completely understand how to react to these various tidal patterns but not always so easy for the angler.