When bay/inshore fishing from a boat, one can drift fish (where you let the tide carry your boat) and anchor fish (where you anchor your boat to one spot). Besides the obvious, what are the differences between the two? Or put differently, when would you choose one method over the other?
To supplement the points in Escoce's answer:
NOTE: The following is salt-water-centric. It may or may not apply to fresh water.
- you are chunking or chumming - the fish will follow the scent trail to the source.
- Wind or currents would move the boat into an undesirable or dangerous position.
- There is a hot area to fish over - say structure or a hole. You can cover more of the area by drifting. Drifting also allows more boats to fish the area than would be possible if everyone tried to anchor in location (a pile of rocks is a good example).
- Working along a shore line - wind/current permitting.
- Your anchor line isn't long enough to hold bottom safely.
The target species often has less to do with the decision to anchor vs. drift than with the location, conditions, and just what you feel like doing. There are times when people drift for stripers and times when they anchor. The same goes for most other species I've fished for.
If you are bottom fishing with a bait that needs to stay on the bottom you want to anchor. If you drift while dragging the bait. You are likely to hook up to something on the bottom like rocks or weeds and your hook is going to get fouled from lighter weeds anyway. In this circumstance you want to anchor and let the bait be.
Drifting is good for jigging the bottom or anywhere in the water column really so you can cover more real estate.
If you are casting and retrieve fishing, then either is fine really.