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High Tide Redfish Hunting

soule redfishing High Tide Redfish Hunting

Jeff Mckee with a 28 inch red caught on a Kickin’ Chicken Down South Lure during an ultra high tide.

By Capt. Steve Soule  |  www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

DSLkickin High Tide Redfish Hunting

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.

Redfish Love to explore! Well, I’ve made that statement many times, truth be told, it’s probably much more accurate to say that they like to hunt in the cover of heavy structures and that they will follow food nearly anywhere it goes.

Every year we have periods of extended onshore wind flows, causing elevated tides. During these periods redfish can often be very difficult to locate in shallow waters around the bay. They just seem to disappear into the fringes of the marsh. Higher water levels can make chasing skinny water reds a very challenging affair. I’ve said I would much prefer a low tide to a very high one. Low tides tend to concentrate fish into much more limited areas and make targeting them considerably easier. High tides tend to scatter fish, they spread out following small food sources deep into areas that are nearly unaccessible.

Think about the typical marsh shorelines on the Upper Texas Coast and this will start to make perfect sense. We have marshes and shorelines that are typically fringed by Spartina Grass, a relatively tall grass that does not grow under water. This grass is a shore plant that grows near and at the edge of the water all along the Gulf Coast. Spartina is the plant that first comes to mind when I think of marsh along the gulf coast.

Redfish are not slackers; they don’t have any objection to moving quite a bit to feed and traveling into heavy cover structure never seems to bother them.

At normal to low water levels, it doesn’t offer much more to the angler than a border to the water. Often providing the edge along which hungry predators feed. As tides creep ever higher during windy periods or around astronomical high tides, The roots and bases of the grass slowly flood with water. Here’s where we have to stop and think about the typical marshes along the coast. Though many marsh areas have oyster shell, as you travel farther into the back reaches, water that is typically too shallow, or doesn’t maintain the proper salinity balance, there is virtually no shell. What you will find is a predominantly mud bottom that really is devoid of structure other than bottom contours carved from tides and water flows. Knowing this, it becomes easy to imagine the difficult life that small fish, crabs and shrimp live, trying to find protective cover and sanctuary from predatory animals.

Marcos Enriquez with a stud trout that measured just over 29.” The fish ate a small kwan toad fly.

So we know that there is little structure for the smaller prey animals to hide in, which makes them very vulnerable to attack and predation. The game completely changes as the tides rise. The home of these prey species becomes a dense and food-rich jungle of lush grasses and the decaying plant food that they need to survive and grow. At the earliest moment when these small species can get to the cover of the flooded grass, they will go. It provides nearly everything that they need to thrive.

Redfish are not slackers; they don’t have any objection to moving quite a bit to feed and traveling into heavy cover structure never seems to bother them. Let’s be clear about one thing that I think is a misconception in fishing. Fish aren’t necessarily what we would call smart; they have instinctive programming. They know things happen at certain times, they know that small animals will seek out cover as it becomes available. As a matter of fact, most of the reds that follow food into to this dense cover, only a few short years earlier did the same to hide from predators as well.

Here’s where the game gets tricky. Redfish have to have water to swim. The small animals that they prey upon can get to many places that the fish simply cannot. So early in this rising high tide scenario, the fish just don’t have great opportunities, and for that reason you won’t see much feed activity. Slightly later in the tide, as the water around the grass roots and over formerly dry ground reaches 3-4 inches in depth, the feeding activity begins. This isn’t a schooling behavior with lots of fish together feeding. This is a single fish slowly stalking its meals one at a time. The fish will meander through the maze of grass patches in areas that are typically dry ground, hunting and eating one small meal at a time. You will see random small explosions followed by periods of inactivity as they move stealthily through the cover.

Quite the interesting parallel, we must stalk them in nearly the same manner in which they stalk their prey. Move too fast or make too much noise and you will alert them to your presence. These fish aren’t charging down food so they become very aware of what is going on around them. Stealth and patience are the key to chasing high tide reds, coupled with a well placed cast using flies or small soft plastics. Though there are many challenges, and surely many failed attempts to catch these fish, the successes more than make up for it. Explosive eats in super shallow water. Close range and tight quarters casts are nothing short of spectacular when the fish eat. And the fight when they have some much cover and are in very shallow water is definitely something to experience.

Don’t let the high water deter you. With thoughtful scouting and utilizing a stealthy and tactical approach, these fish can be an absolute blast to target.

Squarebill Crankbaits for Speckled Trout

squarebill speckled trout Squarebill Crankbaits for Speckled Trout

This trout attacked a KVD 1.5 at the railroad bridge near the Galveston Causeway.

THE CASE FOR SQUAREBILLS

  • Erratic wobble and ‘fleeing’ action could trigger reaction strikes from aggressively feeding fish
  • Pauses in retrieve moves lure slowly up the water column for finicky fish
  • Plastic bill is perfect for deflecting off jetty rock, reefs, pilings and other structure
  • Cover water quickly as a search bait or use when fish aren’t committing to topwaters
  • Diving depth of 2-5 feet appropriate for fishing shallow reefs and flats
  • Ease of use – young anglers could catch fish on steady reeling retrieve

By Brandon Rowan

squarebills Squarebill Crankbaits for Speckled Trout

Strike King KVD 1.5 and 2.5 squarebills. Black back chartreuse, red sexy shad, sexy shad and gold sexy shad.

I am VERY late to the party. It’s no secret that squarebill crankbaits produce quality largemouth bass. This bait dates back to the 1970s but resurged in popularity after Kevin Van Dam won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic on Strike King KVD crankbaits.

This spring on the Texas coast was windy, which was no surprise. Rather than fight my way to the fish in the salt, I returned to my roots and fished Texas reservoirs and ponds for those “green trout.” Topwaters, frogs and soft plastics are standard fare for me but I was amazed at the numbers and quality of fish I caught with my newly purchased squarebills, particularly crawfish red and chartreuse models.

This got me wondering if anyone had success fishing these bass lures in saltwater? Baits like the Super Spook, Rat-L-Trap and soft plastic jerkbait are all freshwater imports that have proven their worth on speckled trout and redfish. I scoured the web and surprisingly didn’t find much on the subject. Shallow wakebait style cranks have been used with success in the marsh but I couldn’t find any articles or videos on squarebills, which dive down 2-5 feet.

The Strike King KVD 1.5 in chartreuse/black seemed like a perfect fit for quickly searching the often stained waters of Galveston Bay. These lures are best fished fast and deflected off structure or cover. I did some testing on a recent bay trip with Gulf Coast Mariner columnist Capt. Joe Kent. We caught several keeper trout that day. All but one were caught on live shrimp. One trout hit the squarebill I was burning near the Galveston Causeway.

“Hey, it works!” I thought as we netted the catch. I believe more trout would have fallen prey to the crank’s wobble but the fish seemed to be keyed in on shrimp. Even live croaker was ignored that day.

I still have a lot more testing and casting to do but these lures could potentially be dynamite in the bay, surf and near jetties. Just remember to change out to stouter size 4 trebles on the KVD 1.5 and size 2 hooks on the KVD 2.5.

Have you caught a speckled trout on a squarebill crankbait? Send us a picture of your fish, lure in mouth, and we’ll run that image in next issue’s follow up piece. Send your pictures to art@baygroupmedia.com

 

Hot Summer Galveston Trout

DillmanTrout Hot Summer Galveston Trout

Marion and Shelia Hixon with some nice trout after a quick trip with Capt. Dillman.

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 409-632-0924

This May we experienced some below average air temperature and plenty of wind. Not from the usual S/SE but more N/NW due to late season cold fronts. The below normal water temperature kept our fishing at a not so typical pattern. But we should see a summer pattern develop for speckled trout this July and August in Galveston Bay.

In July, look for the trout action to center around the middle of Galveston Bay. I would concentrate my effort through channel markers 50-66. There are numerous oyster reefs adjacent to the channel. While some of these reefs are marked with PVC pipe, many are not. Being able to utilize a good depth sonar will aid you in finding the smaller shell reefs.

There are numerous gas wells in the immediate area. The wells should not be overlooked as the trout will congregate around the wells and their shell pads. The Exxon A-Lease draws the most attention but don’t overlook the other scattered gas wells.

As we roll into August, look for the trout to move farther north up the channel and into Trinity Bay. Channel markers 68 and up, all the way towards the tip of Atkinson Island will hold fish. As the fish move farther into Trinity, the numerous shell reefs and wells will see a influx of trout. Some of the most popular reefs are Dow, Beazley’s, Fisher Shoals and Trinity Reef.

The wells located in close proximity to these reefs will also be good for speckled trout. Depending upon the salinity of Trinity, the fish will continue to move farther back in the bay sooner than normal. I have caught fish in the Jacks Pocket area in late August on occasion.

Speckled trout will feed on either the topside or backside of a reef or shell pad depending upon the tide. At times they may even be found directly on top of the shell, which usually occurs during a slack tide. Utilizing live bait in the heat of the summer is the most effective way to catch these fish. Live croaker, fished either Carolina or Texas rigged is the most effective, followed by live shrimp fished deep under a popping cork.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp always holds a good supply of both croaker and live Shrimp.

Please remember that it can get really hot on the water these next two months. Wear light colored, loose fit clothing and drink plenty of water. Gatorade type drinks are okay but should be followed up by consuming 2 equal parts of water. Alcohol and energy drinks should be avoided, as well as soft drinks. They only aid in dehydrating your body. As always be careful on the water.

Fools Rush In

fly fishing reds Fools Rush In

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

It isn’t always a question of right or wrong. Sometimes it becomes more a matter of better or worse. Everyone has their own idea of how to approach each fishing situation, some well thought out, others are much more haphazard. The “approach,” the level of stealth, and knowledge of the area you are fishing can have a huge impact on success or failure when it comes to catching fish.

As anglers, most of us start each day with some form of a plan on what we want to catch and where we plan to try to catch it. With experience, these plans get better and more detailed. The bottom line is that we all benefit from having a goal in mind to accomplish each day on the water. If we give more thought to what that goal is, and how we might be able to tilt the scales in our favor when it comes to achieving that goal, we all stand to catch more fish, or at the very least, gain more knowledge that will lead to more fish in the future.

I feel certain that most experienced anglers have a plan of attack for each day that they fish. A location picked based on experience, knowledge of an area, or information about an area. Novices, or anglers newer to an area, the plan is likely not so well thought out.  This isn’t to say that a novice angler can’t or won’t catch as many fish, just that they don’t possess that level of experience to know exactly where to go or when to go to certain areas.

As an experienced angler, your goal should be to refine your knowledge and hone your fishing skills. As a novice or less experienced angler, your goal should be learn areas and develop an understanding of the structure, tides, and other factors that will influence the location and movements of the fish.

Take your time, use stealth when arriving and working the area you intend to fish.

As many times as I’ve talked about structure over there years, I realize that there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the topic. Structure goes well beyond just what we can see above the water; sometimes its obvious and sometimes its very subtle. Some of the many things that I consider structure can often be hard to detect. There is obvious structure like shorelines, reefs, rocks but sometimes the little things like grass, guts, humps and very subtle depressions are the keys to finding fish holding points and movement pathways. Finding these in shallow clear water is much easier than in open water. Wading and having actual contact with the bay floor can be a big help, and for those fishing deeper waters from a boat, learning to read a depth machine can be crucial.

Something interesting to remember, is that it isn’t just the contours of the bay floor, but also what’s on the bay floor that will impact when and where fish will be. Mud, grass, shell, clay, sand and many other things determine what type of prey will be in an area during different seasons and their predators.

Don’t just show up to an area and rush through it. So often I watch people on the water rush into an area, only to turn around and leave 15 minutes later. There is very little that can be gained in this approach. Unfortunately, in most cases the fish aren’t just waiting for us to arrive and throw things at them. In fact, most of the time we scare fish as we arrive and often shut down feeding behavior with our rapid and noisy arrival. This will spook fish in an area, slowing or stopping the bite temporarily.

Take your time, use stealth when arriving and working the area you intend to fish. Though it has become increasingly popular to run boats shallow and look for fish, this approach has significant short and long term impact on the environment and the fish. Starting with the obvious, sea grass and boat propellers do not mix! Some grasses recover relatively fast while others can take long periods to regrow. Prior to Hurricane Ike, there was very little natural grass growth in Galveston’s West Bay. Through man’s intervention, grasses returned and had a positive impact on bay habitat and water clarity. Fishing the same areas without the grass, was a world of difference. If just enjoying and appreciating the grass habitat isn’t enough, there is a Texas law in place that prohibits destruction of sea grasses.

Beyond the habitat impact, there is a huge short and long term impact on the fish. The sound of an outboard motor can not only be heard, but also felt by fish at a great distance. Knowing that fish are sensitive to vibration and sound should make us all aware that a hasty approach, using the big motor, doesn’t usually result in great catches.

Lets take this a step further. I know all too well how cool it is to see fish moving and feeding in shallow water, having spent over 35 years fishing shallow water from poling skiffs and other shallow water boats. I’ve seen a lot and learned a ton about fish behavior and their reaction to different things that enter their environment. Moving too fast in a poling skiff, a slight stumble when wading, and many other subtle sounds can alert fish. The practice of “burning shorelines” has way more negative impact on fish. A slow, and methodical approach will lead to much more productive fishing.

Take your time, use stealth in your approach, use the day as an opportunity to study, not just fish, and you may just learn how many things are missed by so many fishing around you. Fishing from a more methodical perspective will help you shorten the learning curve and improve your fishing not just today, but in the future as well.

Memorial Day Weekend

birdsworking2 Memorial Day Weekend

Birds working. Photo by Kelly Groce.

The start of our summertime coastal fishing

By Capt. Joe Kent

While not the official start of our summertime fishing season, Memorial Day Weekend often offers excellent conditions for both inshore and offshore fishing.  For many anglers it is their first run of the year to offshore waters.

Others focus on the jetties and bays, with all areas capable of producing some nice fish.

Most years, the water temperature has reached the 80-degree mark and, while not as warm as in the mid-summer range of July through mid-September, it is at the point when all of our summertime fish are around.

The bay waters are not so warm as to keep trout and other fish that are sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels, in deep water.  This means that wade fishing the shorelines continues to be a viable option for catching trout, reds and other fish.

During May, the jetties begin turning on with trout activity and other fish join the prized specks in feeding up and down the rocks.  May through August is prime time around the collection of granite rocks known as the North and South Jetties and many locals add still another designation, that being the Bolivar Jetties for the North and the Galveston Jetties for the South.

Regardless of which designation you use, Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to fish them.

Bird action in both East and West Bays will continue until the waters warm to the point that the fish go deeper.  Normally that does not take place until late June or early July.

kent king Memorial Day Weekend

Polly Kent with Joe Kent’s 48 pound ‘smoker kingfish’ in 1972.

Memorial Day Weekend is a Holiday Weekend that I always have looked to as the time to head offshore, conditions permitting.  My first Memorial Day trip was in 1972 and what a trip it was.  King mackerel were thick beginning about 10 miles south of the Galveston or South Jetty.  Before that I had made an offshore trip in my boat only four or five times over the previous years.

A learning experience it was.  One of the largest kings I have ever caught was landed that day.  It was a real “smoker” that weighed 48 pounds on the unofficial scales at Wilson’s South Jetty Bait Camp.

Wayne Tucker, operator of the bait camp, said the king was one of the largest he had seen.

For years thereafter Memorial Day Weekend was set aside for offshore fishing and the percentage of times we were able to make it beyond the jetties was higher than normal for offshore trips.

Some of the largest pelagic fish which include kings, ling, sharks and Dorado make it to the shallower offshore waters during May and early June, with Memorial Day right in the middle of that timeframe.

Besides good fishing and statistically good weather, the Memorial Day Weekend does not normally have the intense heat we experience later in the summer.  One advantage of fishing offshore during this time is that the crowds are much lighter than for inshore fishing.

While inshore fishing is in its prime, the weekend is one of the busiest on the water.  Normally, that does not bode well for fishing and one way to escape the heavy concentrations of boats is to head out from the jetties and enjoy the offshore.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, as the sun is intense, and that warmth of the season along with good fishing and crabbing, make Memorial Day Weekend a very special time of year.

Keep up with Joe Kent’s daily fishing report here.

Gaining Knowledge

WayneDenaDavis Gaining Knowledge

Wayne and Dena Davis caught some nice trout with Capt. Dillman despite high winds that day.

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

Albert Einstein stated that “The only source of knowledge is experience.” When it comes to fishing, I firmly believe this quote holds true. There are many written books, articles and even videos on how to catch speckled trout. Lots of that information is excellent and a great resource for gaining some knowledge about the sport. But true knowledge of how and where to catch speckled trout comes from years of experience pursuing these fish.

In my 30 years of experience guiding fishing trips, I am always asked “When is the best time to catch trout?” For the majority of people that fish, it all starts with the month of May. During the first week of May, there will be a movement of speckled trout into our bay system through the Galveston Jetties. They come from the beachfront and these fish are commonly known as “tide runners.” Do they all come at once? No, but the majority of “tide runners” come May and June. As they make their way up the Houston Ship channel, these fish split into three different directions. Some move east, others west, and some head straight up the channel depending upon the salinity of the water. That is why you will read about the increase of catches in areas like Hanna’s Reef in East Bay, and the Dollar Point area on the Western side of Galveston Bay.

June arrives and so begins our summer fishing pattern in Galveston Bay. The trout begin to seek shelter of the deeper water shell pads located in our bay system. A majority of these “tide runners” can be found near the shell pads adjacent to the Houston ship channel from Markers 52-72.  They will also filter towards the numerous gas well scattered in close proximity of the channel. With every incoming tide more fish will be pushed into this area. In my years of fishing the channel and observation, speckled trout use this area to stage and spawn.

During this time of year, trout can be caught on a variety of artificial lures, but live baits seem to produce the better results. Live shrimp and croakers are the top two natural baits. Shrimp can be fished on the bottom or under a popping cork. Croakers should be fished utilizing a carolina rig or Texas rig. Eagle Point Fishing Camp always has a great supply of both and has easy access to the above prime locations!

If you want to gain further “knowledge” of these areas, I offer guided trips out of Eagle Point. Also orientation trips can be arranged where I go in your boat. Get out and experience the great trout fishing Galveston Bay has and as always, be careful on the water.

Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 409-632-0924

March and April is when the majority of the fishing community wipe the cobwebs off their rod and reels, crank up their outboards and set their sights on bending rods.

Spring along the Upper Coast starts with the 42nd Annual Houston Fishing Show, March 8-12 at the GRB Convention Center. This is one of the largest shows of its kind in the country. Everything fishing related from boats, tackle, fishing guides and marinas located under one roof. I will be there all week at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth #618.

On the fishing scene it all begins with the arrival of big black drum. The Galveston jetties, passes, Texas City dike and the Bolivar gas wells will all hold an abundance of these fish. The best baits to use are blue crab, dead shrimp and even crawfish. A medium/heavy action rod and reel combo, utilizing enough weight to hold the bait down on the bottom, will draw the bites. These fish range from anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds.

Sheepshead will be there for the taking as well. Literally any spot along the Galveston jetties will produce these tasty fish. Shorelines with scattered shell and pier pilings should also be good. Live shrimp under a popping cork is a great method when fished tight up against the structure. While often overlooked, they are fun to catch and offer good table fare. There is a 5 fish limit with a 15 inch minimum size.

On the speckled trout scene look for the action to first heat up around the Galveston jetties. As we move into the latter part of March, the lower Galveston Bay area, around the causeway, Campbell’s Bayou and Sand Island will hold its share of fish. In April, East Galveston Bay and the western shoreline of Galveston Bay, from the base of the Texas City Dike, Dollar Point and towards Moses Lake will hold good numbers of trout. Don’t overlook the shorelines around Eagle Point. Last year this area gave up excellent stringers of quality speckled trout.

Until next time be safe on the water and enjoy what Galveston Bay has to offer.

costa rica sailfish Galveston Bay Spring Fishing

In January, my girlfriend and I visited Costa Rica for our first time. We fished aboard “Dreamworks,” owned and operated by Capt. Tom Carton and his Mate Jerry Carothers. We went 7-12 on Sailfish and lost a blue marlin estimated at 300 pounds. Capt. Tom has been fishing the area for over 25 years. He had the first Charter service in Los Suenos. I highly recommend him. You can find him on the web at captaintoms.com.

Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

These time proven big trout lures consistently produce fish over five pounds and have landed me a number of top tournament finishes.

By Capt. Steve Soule

superspookjr Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

Super Spook Jr.

If the wind is light or I’m fishing in shallow water, my first and often only choice for chasing a trophy would be the Heddon® Super Spook Jr.® in bone with silver sides. Its a small lure in the world of big trout, but that’s what makes it so deadly. Fish in shallow water are much more sensitive to noise and water movements and there are days when the subtle presentation of a smaller lure just works better. With a little practice and variation of the retrieve, you can make the Spook Jr. sound and appear large. The single ball rattle system can be worked gently without spooking fish, but if you work it hard, you can achieve a wide side to side motion with a rather loud clicking to draw them in.

heddonsuperspook Five Lures for Big Speckled Trout

Super Spook

When the chop gets a little bigger, it’s time to tie on a bigger bait. The Heddon® Super Spook® in Okie Shad, or as I have always called it, the “Jimmy Houston,” is a close tie for my all-time favorite topwater. It’s a very natural color combination that works well in dirty water, but produces in clear water when others just won’t. This is not a small top water, in size or sound, but with its more natural color scheme it can be used effectively across the spectrum of conditions. Big or light chop, shallow or deep, this one does it all and I have caught more quality trout on this lure than I could possibly count.

shedog

She Dog

The MirrOLure® She Dog 83MR in Chartreuse/Pearl is another topwater that excels in choppy conditions, but can be deadly in both dirty and clear water. It too has a single ball style rattle, but emits a much higher pitch sound than the Super Spook. I don’t necessarily turn to this one as frequently as some of the others on this list, but when conditions call for it, I always have one ready. This lure and color combination landed me my largest trout to date, a fish just over 29.5” and over nine pounds, in 2010 in Galveston.

fatboy91

Paul Brown Fat Boy

When its time to probe the depths with deadly precision, I turn to the MirrOlure® Paul Brown Fat Boy, a creation of Houston mastermind Paul Brown, probably one of the greatest lure designers to ever live. This lure can take some time to get a grip on, but once you do, it can be fished effectively from less than a foot to depths over six feet. It’s a soft plastic wrapped, cork over wire, baitfish imitating, seductive dancing, finesse bait that has been the demise of many giant trout. Because of the construction of the lure, the Fat Boy can be tuned to swim at different depths, diving slightly up or down with different bends applied to the nose or tail. Chartreuse, gold sides, white belly has always been a favorite color combo for me.

fatboypink

Paul Brown Fat Boy

It’s not really fair to say that there is a fifth in my top five, because it’s a repeat of number four. For many years, the Fat Boy in pink with silver sides has been my go-to for cold winter fishing. This selection is a standard answer concerning winter trout, but my tournament partners can vouch for the fact that in certain conditions, I would start and finish a nine hour day throwing this one lure. It landed me my heaviest trout that I have an accurate weight on, at 9.25 pounds, and has been the lure that led me to more top five finishes in trout tournaments than any other.

These are my choices and I’m sticking to them. Every lure on this list has produced trout over 7.5 pounds in the Galveston Bay system. There is no one single bait that suits every condition set or scenario that you will encounter, and this list may not work for you, but it’s mine and has not changed much over the past ten years. When its time for me to hunt big winter or spring trout, you can rest assured I will have every one of these ready to go.

Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

big speckled trout Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

Finding trout and redfish when the water goes cold

By Capt. Joe Kent

There has always been a rule of thumb for seasonal fishing.  You should fish deep in mid-summer and winter, and fish shallow in the fall and spring.  While I certainly do not disagree with that, there have been some modifications to that rule for winter fishing around the Galveston Bay Complex.

Several decades ago, anglers could pretty much rely upon the scenario that if you want to catch fish during the winter, fish in deeper waters.  One reason is that the winters were colder and more prolonged than they are today.  Still, fish tend to follow that pattern around the Galveston Bay Complex except in at least one area and that is West Galveston Bay.

West Bay, as we call it, is a relatively shallow bay with few deep holes when compared to other bays such as upper Galveston or East Bays.  West Bay is well-known for its cold weather fishing and in fact, tends to turn off during the warmer months.

corky 300x197 Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

Paul Brown’s Original Suspending Twitchbait in Copper Top.

Slow sinking lures retrieved at a slow pace produce the fish.

This small bay system that spans between the Galveston Causeway and San Luis Pass is one of the top spots to catch trophy trout during the winter and early spring.  Reds also are plentiful that time of year and when looking at the average depth it is surprising that it is so productive during the cold months.

Harry Landers, a retired and once popular fishing guide out of Jamaica Beach, told me that West Bay was a well-kept secret for winter fishing.  He felt the same way about Chocolate Bay, a shallow bay system that adjoins Lower West Bay to the north.

Landers caught many trophy-sized trout during his hey-day and placed many happy guests into trout that would go to the taxidermist rather than the kitchen.

Landers knew West Bay and Chocolate Bay like the back of his hand and shared a few of his secrets, many of which are common knowledge among fishing guides today.

While Offatts Bayou and its famous Blue Hole caught the attention of anglers during the winter, Landers was out fishing the shallower waters of West Bay.  Wade fishing, he felt, was the most productive way of fishing the shallow waters.

No doubt when freezes took place, Offatts was the place to fish. Once the water started warming, trout would venture out of the deep water looking for bait.

Mud bottoms during the afternoon tide, either incoming or outgoing, hold the warmest water and attract the small finfish and crustaceans.  In turn, predator fish such as specks and reds will be nearby looking for a winter’s meal.

Shell bottoms also are popular especially in deeper waters.

During periods of afternoon incoming tides, large sow trout can be found roaming the shorelines, especially grassy areas for bait.  Wade fishing is much preferred for trying to entice an older and wiser fish to bite, as boats make noise and noise easily spooks trout.

Another of the popular choices is narrow channels for reds.  While West Bay has a limited number of those channels, offshoots from the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) are plentiful.  Carancahua and Green’s Lakes, along with several man-made canals just north of the ICW, offer excellent action on reds during outgoing winter tides.

Winter fishing styles apply to all of the areas mentioned and probably the biggest of the techniques is a very slow retrieve of the lure.  Slow sinking lures retrieved at a slow pace produce the fish.

While there will be some good fishing in deeper waters this winter, try shallow and go for the glory that is a trophy trout.

Galveston Bay Winter Fishing – What to do?

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

galveston bay speckled trout Galveston Bay Winter Fishing   What to do?

Windy Marshall with a cold weather trout.

Winter is finally here. November of 2016 was very mild, with only a few cool mornings followed by record high temperatures. December arrived and in the first week we experienced record rainfall in some areas and our first real cold front. January and February are typically cold and wet months along the Upper Coast of Texas. This is a great time to enjoy some indoor activities or things that you might have neglected. Fishing still can be good, but you just have to pick the right days according to the weather.

January begins with the Houston Boat Show, held at Reliant Center Jan. 6 – 15, the show hosts the newest boats, motors and campers for the coming year. There are numerous vendor booths, with a large section dedicated to the sportsman/fisherman. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth the first few days of the show. Stop by and we can visit about fishing, Galveston Bay, etc.

Yes, fishing can be good during this time of year. Fishing between the fronts will be the key to your success. The upper reaches of the bay system, namely Burnett, Scott and San Jacinto Bays, draw most of the attention this time of year. The bays offer shelter from the North winds and as long as the water stays salty, redfish and speckled trout can be caught. Sylvan Beach and Bayland Park offer the closest launches to reach these areas.

Other fishing grounds to consider are the NW/W shorelines of Galveston Bay. Sylvan Beach down to Eagle Point offers protection from a NW-W wind. The area is littered with structure like old pier pilings and numerous deep water shell reefs. The traditional winter time hotspot known as Galveston’s West Bay, will also see its fair share of action. Live bait supplies can be scarce this time of year. While most people will be throwing artificial lures, bait fisherman can check with Eagle Point at 281 339-1131 for live shrimp.

Last but not least, these months are perfect to have your maintenance completed on your rods, reels, and tackle. Also, schedule any service for your boat and motor now. Don’t wait for spring to get them in the shop. I will be in Costa Rica the middle of January catching sailfish! My boat goes to the shop soon after my return.

 I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday break! Tight Lines to all!

Galveston Bay Webcams at Saltwater-Recon.com

causeway cam Galveston Bay Webcams at Saltwater Recon.com

The Galveston causeway cam at saltwater-recon.com

By Urs E. Schmid, President/CEO of www.saltwater-recon.com

By utilizing the latest technology in live, high definition, interactive web cameras, Saltwater-Recon.com is becoming the “Know Before You Go” resource for millions of people. Whether boating, fishing, or observing real-time conditions, Saltwater-Recon.com’s array of coastal HD cameras, combined with expert boating, fishing and weather content will give visitors the information needed to plan a safe and successful day on the water.

In addition to aiding the public with their decision-making, Saltwater-Recon.com aims to provide government entities, such as NOAA, U.S. Coast Guard, N.W.S., U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, as well as local news, and maritime logistics companies the information they need to make time-critical, and potentially life-saving, operational decisions.

It has been a long-time dream of ours to be able to look at the water from the comfort of our own home. Not everyone has the luxury of living close enough to the bay to be able to pop over and check out the water before an outing. Well, we have made that dream a reality.

With the help of our site sponsors and the Saltwater-Recon Team, CTO, Broc Adams and CFO, Larry Perez, (both BOI’s), we are using industry-leading, HD cameras that pan, tilt, and zoom with the click of a mouse to provide our users with the highest quality video stream, and YOU control the cameras! Our site allows the user to point the camera and even adjust how close they want to get with 30X zoom capabilities.

We currently have cameras in three locations; Trinity Bay, the Galveston Causeway and San Luis Pass. We are currently working on adding another three camera sites by the end of March 2017. New camera locations will include a Galveston beach cam, Seabrook and two cams at Seawolf Park to give users expansive views of the Galveston Ship Channel!

Along with our HD, interactive webcams, we also have some amazing bay/weather content including tide charts, access to weather/water information from NOAA buoys, weather radar and wind speed maps. We also have a full-time meteorologist on staff to bring our users the best, most up-to-date conditions of greater Galveston Bay.

We are also working on a very exciting new algorithm to bring bay conditions and weather forecasting into the 21st century. But that’s all we can say about that for now… please stay tuned to Saltwater-Recon.com and our Facebook page for updates on all the latest happenings and tournaments around the greater Galveston Bay complex through our EVENTS page, or check out the exclusive offers and coupons on our DEALS page.

We are excited for the opportunity to continually expand our network of cameras to bring real-time, reliable weather and bay conditions to anglers, boaters, and saltwater enthusiasts.

Going Skinny

Four small skiffs for fishing Texas marshes and backwaters

east cape caimen2 Going Skinny

east cape caimen Going Skinny

EAST CAPE CAIMEN

A little skiff with attitude. This boat is the perfect blend of beauty and function.  It can comfortably cross open bays and pole after tailing reds. It is one of the  most versatile boats in East Cape’s lineup. The Caimen is synonymous with simplicity.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Length: 17’ 10”
  • Beam: 61.5”
  • Draft: 4”- 7” (Fully Rigged w/Two Anglers & Gear )
  • Recommended HP: 25-70

407.658.7933 | www.eastcapeskiffs.com

HELL’S BAY PROFESSIONAL

The Hell’s Bay Professional is a very versatile boat for fishing a wide variety of conditions. This skiff is the perfect blend of shallow water draft, dry comfortable ride and stability. The length to width ratio of the Professional allows for easy poling, responsive turning, and has the ability to handle a variety of water conditions. If stalking the shallow flats or fishing the backcountry is what you are after, then the Professional should be your skiff of choice.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Length: 17’ 8”
  • Beam: 70”
  • Weight: 550 lbs
  • Draft: 4.5” (with engine/fuel)
  • Recommended HP: 60 – 90

321.383.8223 | www.hellsbayboatworks.com

SABINE SKIFFS VERSATILE

When Brian S. Little designed his first aluminum poling skiff he had one main design feature he wanted to accomplish; NO hull slap. Hull slap is created by waves hitting the boat at a less than desirable angle. The Versatile is designed and built to counteract the waves that cause fish spooking hull slap.

The Versatile is also designed to pole straight and allows the guide to spin the boat easily when needed. This shallow draft skiff, with a zero dead rise hull, offers a deck layout with storage for six 9’ 6” fly rods and walk-around gunnels you can actually walk around.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Length: 17’ 6”
  • Beam: 78”
  • Recommended HP: 30 – 50

281-380-7304 | sales@ultralightboatworks.com | www.sabineskiffs.com

SHALLOW SPORT 15 CLASSIC

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Length: 15’
  • Beam: 86”
  • Dry Weight 650 lbs
  • Draft (rest): 6”
  • Draft (on plane): 3”
  • Fuel Capacity: 20 Gal.
  • Recommended HP: 90
  • Max Capacity: 3

POWER

956-233-9489 | www.shallowsportboats.com

Be sure to also check out skiffs and shallow draft boats from:

Out in the cold

winter marsh redfish Out in the cold

Capt. Steve Soule with a 37-inch winter marsh red caught on a MirrOlure She Pup.

By Capt. Steve Soule | www.theshallowist.com

Winter weather has arrived on the upper Texas coast and so comes the arrival of some very different fishing. Colder air, colder water, reduced number of prey species and a different range of comfort zones dictate the location and feeding patterns of redfish and trout during the cooler months.

Finding patterns that hold through winter will increase your fishing percentages, and of the long list of factors involved, I’ve consistently found a few that truly make a difference.

mullet baitfish 300x166 Out in the cold

Mullet are largely on the menu for winter redfish and trout.

Winter Food Sources

First and foremost, in finding predatory fish in cold water is understanding the primary food sources that they feed upon. Most of the shrimp have either left the bays or will spend the majority of the winter buried in the mud. Crabs similarly disappear from the shallows, moving to deeper waters and also burying themselves in the mud. Many of the small species of bait fish will remain, though they won’t stay in water as shallow as they do in warmer months.

There are numerous species of marine worms and other small creatures that remain in the bay, though we rarely see them other than when found inside the bellies of the fish we catch. So, the primary food sources for predatory fish are the remaining small baitfish, such as mullet, mud minnows and others that hang around the shallows.

Finding fish during winter is isn’t always easy, but understanding the food sources makes a huge difference. Mullet or other bait fish species that frequently swim at or near the surface and jump, are easy targets and help anglers in locating fish. This isn’t uncommon during warming trends. When water temperatures are colder or trending down, baitfish tend to stay closer to the bay bottom and move towards deeper, warmer water, making them much more difficult to locate. Much like every other season, native guides and even seasonal natives can shed some light on the location of the food sources and of course, the predators are usually close by. What I mean by native guides is birds.

American White Pelican

Winter Bird Signs

The birds that are good indicators are much different during winter than summer or fall. The gulls and terns that were such great indicators of migrating shrimp over the past few months are typically not the birds to follow or watch for during the cooler months. My focus changes to some larger birds and some that only arrive after significant cooling. Both species of pelicans, brown and white, are voracious fish eaters and will often gang up when they locate large schools of mullet or other baitfish. And if you find large concentrations of bait in winter, odds are good that you will find predators as well. My favorite migratory bird to watch during winter is the Loon. This bird at a distance may look like the common cormorant, but when you get a little closer, its not hard to tell that they are much larger and have a large white patch on their chest. They also make a very distinct crying sound. They are incredibly adept diving birds that can swim fast and stay under water for several minutes. Finding more than one in an area diving is a great indication of schools of baitfish and predators.

I’m always on alert for shore birds such as egrets, herons, and ibis, though you won’t typically see them along the banks feeding unless we have a good warming trend going.

Winter is BIG trout time. Capt. Steve Soule caught this 27-inch trout on a Corky Fat Boy.

Temperature and Tide Factors

Most fish and marine animals spend their lives following just a few things; food, comfort and safety from predators. Temperature plays a huge role in the location and movement of both bait and predatory fish during winter. Temperature effects the food species and their movements, which in turn effects the movements of their predators. Much like us, if it’s cold, they seek warmth, which is why they inhabit certain areas during cooler weather, yet their range can spread widely when water warms. A great basic rule to understand is that if water temperatures are falling, fish will tend to mover to deeper water and as water temperatures warm, they will return to shallows.

Adding to that, this is driven by air temperature which takes time to impact the water. If temperatures are relatively stable, or the changes in temperature are not dramatic, the fish won’t feel the need to move as much as they will during more notable changes in temperature. There is an added important note, and one that we can feel and use to our advantage. As the air temperatures increase above the water temperatures, shallow water will warm fastest. As soon as this process begins, baitfish will begin to move to shallow, muddy and darker bottom areas.

Another important pattern to remember is that tides will still move fish, and can also adjust the temperature of the water in specific areas. If the air is notably warmer than the water, outgoing tides will carry warmer water out to deeper areas. In colder conditions, the opposite is often the case; incoming tides can wash more stable water temperatures into the shallows.

During the passage of winter fronts, especially those that have north or northwest winds, tides will fall sharply. The extreme low tides of winter tend to concentrate fish into very specific areas. In the marshes, the fish will fall into deeper creeks and bayous. In open water, guts, channels and soft mud near the edges of shallows will be the places to look.

Once you’ve found the fish, keep in mind that they are primarily feeding on other small fish, so use lures that imitate mullet or other bait species. Note the temperatures and the direction they are trending, either up or down. Knowing this will help determine the speed of retrieves when fishing. Like any other time when fishing, it may take some experimenting to determine exactly where the fish are and what type of presentation will work best. The good news is that once you find fish in the winter, they are typically concentrated in good numbers. Also noteworthy, if you find bigger fish, you often won’t find the smaller fish mixed in, and vice versa.

Braving the elements in winter is often rewarded with spectacular catches. Dress appropriately, take your safety and that of any passengers seriously. Dress in layers that can be removed or added as temperatures change, and get out and catch a few fish.

The Right Gear for Redfish

asoulered16 The Right Gear for Redfish

Alisha Soule with Galveston marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.theshallowist.com

This year has been one of the most inconsistent years, with regards to weather and conditions that we haven’t seen in a long time on the upper Texas coast. With flooding rains, high winds, high tides and just generally different conditions, fishing hasn’t been as consistent compared to recent years.

For those new to fishing the upper coast, I’m sure it seems like a very difficult fishery. For those with years of experience, it has taken a lot of work and effort to keep up with fish in shallow water. We have grasses growing that don’t normally grow, due to heavy rainfall. Our shoreline erosion is accelerating to an alarming rate with the constant high tides. Water clarity has been greatly reduced when compared to recent years. Fishing the marshes and shallow shorelines has just been plain challenging.

Redfish Gear

In an inconsistent year, being prepared and having the right gear in tip top condition can make all the difference.

With all of this change and challenge, every opportunity counts. The gear that we use, the lures that we fish and the way that we rig can help us capitalize on limited shots at fish.

Spinning Rods

Let’s start with the fishing rods. For spinning gear, my preference is a 6-7 foot medium to medium-light rod. The rod should have enough power, or backbone to battle the fish we target. Redfish, even the bigger ones, don’t make incredibly long runs, but they will try to get to the cover of shorelines and almost always try to go under the boat near the end of the fight. Be prepared with a rod that can help you prevent this.

Conversely, the rod tip still needs to be light enough to allow casting with 1/8 or even 1/16 ounce lures. Your reel should have a capacity of 150 yards of line, but don’t overdo this with a large, heavy reel. Lightweight is better. I have switched to braided line on all of my reels. For my spinning reels, I use 6 pound diameter that has a break strength of 20 pounds. The diameter of these lines helps with casting and the strength provides more than enough to battle the biggest marsh reds we see.

Baitcasting Rods

If you prefer bait-casters or casting rods, the set up is very similar. I prefer casting rods in the 6’6”-6’10” range. Again, they should have a very light tip section to allow you to cast well with lightweight lures, but maintain enough power lower in the rod to maneuver fish as they get near the boat. Reel capacity again, should be around 150 yards or a little more, but light weight is key as you will be holding and casting all day when fishing in shallow water. Again, use braided line, for abrasion resistance and durability. On my casting reels, I have found that 8 pound diameter, with a break strength of 30 pounds, seems to work very well. For a very experienced caster, the lighter line mentioned for spinning reels might work, but I have found that it will break more readily if you get a backlash. Don’t forget that you need to pick a reel with a very smooth drag system to handle the “burst” runs of bigger redfish.

 redfishfly 3 The Right Gear for Redfish

Fly Rods

If you prefer to fly fish, you should pick a medium-fast to fast action 8 weight rod with matching line. I almost exclusively use floating, weight forward fly lines designed for saltwater fishing. This can get a little technical on the Texas coast; we see more temperature change than most other redfish habitats. Generally speaking, the lines designed for tropical species are great in our summer temperatures, but will leave a lot to be desired in the cooler months. Most of the lines designed specifically for redfish work well as the coring material used is not as stiff and won’t cause excessive coils in the cooler seasons.

So, use weight forward saltwater or redfish taper lines matched to your rod. In other words, if you buy an 8 weight rod, use 8 weight line. Our leaders should be 10-16 pound tippet strength and of an abrasion resistant variety. Our redfish aren’t very “leader shy” like in some heavily pressured, clear water fisheries, so I tend to fish heavier leaders here, on the upper end of the range of what I mentioned. As for the fly reel, pick a reel designed for the weight line you are using. Most will have way more line/backing capacity than we will ever need fishing for redfish, but it will make for a great travel rod when you head to the tropics for longer running or more powerful fish.

The Things We Throw

Norton Bull Minnow in Roach

Norton Bull Minnow in Roach

When it comes to shallow water redfish lures, I keep the selection fairly simple. A small variety of spoons and soft plastics will work day in and day out for catching not only redfish, but trout and flounder as well. Because I’m primarily sight fishing, I rarely utilize a cork and prefer to fish soft plastics on a lightweight jig head.

Bass Assassin Lures 4" Sea Shad in Slammin' Chicken

Bass Assassin Lures 4″ Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken

Presentation is everything with this style of fishing. I rig with 1/4 ounce or less, typically 1/8, screw lock style heads, and utilize smaller swim tail or paddle tail designs in the 3-5” range.

For colors, I prefer the darker shades in most situations, especially in the marshes. Dark colors silhouette better in dirty water and have worked well for me for many years. Here’s my short list of colors; purple, dark blue, and “Texas Roach.” You may want to keep some light colors like white or bone on hand, but I’ve been very consistent with the darker shades. I especially like the blues and purples for the hint of crab coloration they provide.

Retrieves with soft plastics can be steady, as the tail vibration will help fish locate the lure. I often impart a bouncing or “jigging” action with the rod tip to help make the lure more visible in the water column.

Looking at spoons, I prefer to use weedless spoons in most situations, though in slightly deeper water, or when water is “off color,” I will use a sprite style or treble hook spoon. In very shallow water, under a foot, spoons don’t really require much added action on the retrieve. A steady and constant speed without added rod tip movement works very well.

The trick is to find the speed range for the spoon that you have tied on. You want to see that spoon wobbling or rocking from side to side, without turning full rotations. This retrieve gives the most vibration without causing line twist that can come back to bite you later in the day. You will find that this speed can be slowed to nearly a crawl, or sped up by adjusting the angle of the rod tip up or down. The key is to maintain the wobble.

When it comes to color choices for spoons, gold is my standard. I fish weedless gold, 1/4 ounce spoons more than any other, but occasionally need a 1/8 when fish are very shallow and spooky.

A Few Quick Tips On Maintaining Your Gear

All lures should be rinsed with clean fresh water. Rods can be rinsed as well. For your reels, I recommend that unless they get splashed or dunked in saltwater, they should only be wiped clean with a soft cloth dampened with clean fresh water. Excessive spraying of water can often force salt and dirt deeper into the reel which will cause problems later down the road. If you rinse down your fishing rods, take a moment to wipe them off after with a soft cloth to remove the water. Not all rod guides are designed to withstand saltwater, so the wipe down will help remove any remaining salt.

Good luck and tight lines! Don’t miss out on what the shallows have to offer this fall and winter.

Tips For Catching More Fish

redflounderstring Tips For Catching More Fish

By Capt. Joe Kent

There is an old adage that 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish. Well, while not statistically proven, the odds are that the old adage has a lot of merit.

If you are one of those anglers who comes away feeling like everyone around you is catching fish while you are left with an empty or sparse stringer, hopefully some of these tips will help you join that exclusive 10% group that takes 90% of the fish.

While actively guiding fishing trips, there were a number of things I observed that definitely handicapped my guests from catching many fish.

Most likely the biggest obstacle was in casting skills.  Other fishing guides agreed with me that if there was one big fault it was in the lack of being able to cast a bait to a target and at the same time avoid another big problem, backlashes.

fancast 300x240 Tips For Catching More Fish

Good casting skills are imperative for fan casting or placing your bait precisely near structure or jetties.

Line Control

There are a number of other skills anglers need to address; however, accurate casting and controlling the line is at the top of the list.

Casting skills take practice and the time not to practice is when on a fishing trip with others.

Choosing a rod and reel you are comfortable using and is appropriate for where you are fishing is the first step.

Practice, practice and more practice is the key to developing your skills in the art of casting.

Once you have become comfortable with your choice of rod and reel and have developed control over where and how far you can cast, then attention can be given to a number of other problems that tend to plague those not bringing home stringers of game fish.

liveshrimphook

Hook live shrimp under the horn.

Bait & Tackle

While space does not allow an elaboration on each of the following, using the wrong bait for the occasion, hook size and hooking live bait, especially shrimp, are key issues.

For newcomers and those not seasoned at saltwater fishing, I always recommend using live bait, especially shrimp when fishing.

Hooking live shrimp involves practice and experience.  There is a small area under the horn on the shrimp’s head that is the appropriate spot to hook the bait.  Using too large a hook or hooking the shrimp anywhere else is going to kill the bait and render it in the same category as dead bait. Use a number 6 or 8 treble hook or a small live bait or kahle hook.

Once you have become comfortable with your casting skills and can hook live bait properly, then you are ready for the easier parts of this lesson.

sewind

A light southeast breeze is usually best on the upper coast.

Learn to Read the Water

Tide movement and water clarity are of utmost importance in triggering feeding among schools of fish.  Once you see those elements come together then you can start looking at the wind direction.

Along the Texas Gulf Coast, the southeast wind is called the fishermen’s breeze as it brings clear Gulf water into the bays and along the beachfront.  This is a big plus when choosing a time to go fishing.

The so called 10% group takes time to plan their trips and, based on the forecast, they know what the odds are for a productive excursion.

Hold Steady

Most of the seasoned anglers limit their fishing to given areas that they tend to get to know well and learn where the fish will be at a given time. Concentrating on a particular bay, the jetties or surf can do wonders for your confidence.

Patience is a major key to success.  Guides and other experienced fishermen choose a spot and will stay there knowing that the fish have appeared there regularly while often having to fight boredom themselves and the impatience of their guests.

There is no way anyone can expect to take home a big stringer of fish on each trip; however, following the steps mentioned above you should greatly enhance your chances of increasing your odds of catching fish when hitting the water.

Galveston Bay Fishing 2016

redcaldwell Galveston Bay Fishing 2016

Doug Cadwell with a Texas two-fer of redfish and speckled trout.

Recap of 2016 and a Look Ahead

By Capt. David C Dillman | Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

It has been said that the older you get, the faster time goes by. It seems like only yesterday I was penning my first article for 2016 and now I am writing the last one for the year. But 2016, for sure, is a year to remember.

Winter started off typically here on Galveston Bay. In between fronts, the fishing held consistent. The upper reaches of the bay, Scott, Burnett, Crystal and West Galveston Bay lived up to their reputation as winter hot spots. In March, and the first two weeks of April, fishing really turned on in the Texas City/ Eagle Point area for speckled trout. Great catches were coming from both locations. This sure did set the stage for Galveston Bay to have an epic year of fishing.

In mid-April of this year, an upper level low stalled over the Rocky Mountains. During the overnight hours of April 16-17 and into the morning of the 18, Houston received over 17 inches of rain, the most since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. The resulting runoff from this event flooded Trinity and Galveston Bay. This fresh water pushed the fish into lower Galveston and East Bay.

East Galveston Bay remained the best location until about the last week of May. The fish began to move back up north, following the flow of saltwater back into our bay system. Everything seemed to be getting back to normal until June 3, when the Houston area received even more rain! Another runoff event ensued, turning our bay fresh and off-colored. This time though, while some fish retreated back to East Galveston Bay and further south, lots of fish stayed in the area. They sought deeper water along the spoils and gas wells.

As we moved into June and August, the area along the ship channel spoils and gas wells, known as the A-lease wells, saw very good numbers of speckled trout and redfish. Limited supply of live bait was a problem for area fishermen during the first few weeks of summer, another adverse effect from the June flood. But by the third week of July, Galveston Bay and the fishery was back to normal. Towards the end of August, we started seeing fish make a move back into Trinity Bay and farther up the channel, a normal movement that happens every year.

September is a month of transition where schools of speckled trout are harder to locate. This certainly was the case this year. Scattered catches of redfish and speckled trout were the norm. By the end of September and the first week of October, as I type this article, fishing for trout has seen an upswing. But the problem we are experiencing is the size of the trout. Numerous undersized fish are being caught, compared to keepers. I believe this is due to the higher than normal water temperature and tide.

I am optimistic that November and December fishing will get us back on track for numbers and size of trout. We are finally experiencing some cooler weather with the passing of a couple fronts. Although a true cold front has not passed, water temperatures have cooled a little. The first cold front should help drop the tides and flush the bait out of the marsh and inlets of our bay system. This should help fishing tremendously.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp will maintain a good supply of live bait through the year. Remember to be courteous to others on the water. Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and Holidays to all!                                          

Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

lightfoottrout Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

Tom Lightfoot with a fat trout caught on a Slammin’ Chicken Bass Assassin Sea Shad.

By Capt. Steve Soule | theshallowist.com

September probably isn’t the first month that comes to mind for most people when it comes to great Galveston redfish and trout fishing on the upper Texas Coast. Most of us have other things on our minds, like avoiding the heat, or getting back in the swing of things with the kids back to school. Given these distractions, fishing doesn’t usually come first.

Yes, the heat can still be oppressive in September, but unbeknown to many, the fishing can be every bit as hot. Most years just surviving July and August is enough to slow down the average angler around the bay, with high temperatures and light winds. These dog days of summer can be very tough, if you’re a drift fisher; there is not much to move the boat, or if you pole a boat in shallow water it’s just downright hot. If you like to wade fish, you might find an advantage of at least being a little cooler.

The hot and dry temperatures of July and August can truly make anglers work for their catch. There are some definite differences in where the redfish and trout will be when we hit drought conditions. It’s quite frequent that the fish will move from open bay shorelines, where salinities sky rocket, to marshes, creeks and rivers where salt levels in the water are more comfortable and food is more abundant. The extreme hot and dry conditions common in July and August help set up the subtle changes that September brings.

Even though we may see some high temperature days, there are some notable differences that seem to bring fish back to open water flats and create even better conditions for fish to feed consistently. September tends to be a month when we see a good bit more Gulf moisture coming onshore. This rain helps a great deal in not only bringing down the salt levels across the bay, but also by cooling the water several degrees during the peak heating hours of the day.

These late summer rains do a great job of lowering salinity without the harm of runoff, which carries dirty water to the bay that is often contaminated with everything from our streets, lawns and anything else that is upstream. This also differs greatly from spring rains where we often see huge amounts of river and creek run off which can have an adverse effect on the bay. The major difference with summer rains is that they fall directly on the bay, causing an immediate temperature and salinity drop that seems to excite shrimp and small baitfish activity and in turn, accelerates predator feeding.

So, we’ve managed to cool off the bay temperatures during the highest heat of the year, we’ve also lowered the salinity, just after peak salinities. Those two changes alone would help kick up feeding activity a good bit. We also see the peak of baitfish and crustacean growth and activity. Shrimp crops have grown, crabs come out of the marsh, numerous small species of fish are reaching sizes where they migrate out into open water and this all adds up to some great fishing.

lightfootred Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

Brenda Lightfoot with a marsh redfish caught on a weedless gold spoon.

Pick your species and pick your poison

There aren’t many techniques that aren’t effective in September, whether you choose to fish with live bait, artificial, or even fly, the bays are alive both shallow and deep. I don’t really spend much time out in open or deep water, but the change in the shallows is nothing short of exceptional. Early September is almost always a great month for finding tailing redfish, not just single fish, but schools that are often bigger than other months of the year. September is also one of the peak months for me to find larger trout in shallow water.

My approach changes little throughout the year, but for those who aren’t as familiar with shallow water, take your time in your search. Don’t run your boat directly up onto the area that you intend to fish. Come off plane early and use a troll motor, push pole or wade into the area. When looking for signs of activity, shore birds are a great sign, with active mullet being equally important. Often times these fish will slick, and redfish will stir up mud. When you get into the area you want to fish, continue to take your time and cover the water thoroughly. There are a lot of days when schools of feeding fish just don’t make a big commotion. If you’re looking for tailing reds, keep in mind that they don’t usually make much noise and the surface disturbance is minimal.

One last thought, having a shallow water boat is a great thing and opens up lots of new territory that isn’t available to many people. Keep in mind that fish are shallow for several reasons; availability of food sources, protection from larger predators and possibly at the top of the list is shelter from the noise and danger of all the boats that run in open water. So, if you choose to operate your boat in shallow water at speed when looking for fish, remember that even though you may gain some short term satisfaction, in the long run you are doing more harm than good to both the fish and the habitat. Fish tend to operate mostly on instinct, but they do get conditioned to their environment and repeatedly getting run off of their shallow feeding grounds only moves them to areas that afford greater safety.

Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

gbftrout Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

Team Gulf Coast Mariner with the winning stringer. Colie Blumenshine, from left, Debbie Salisbury, Kelly Groce and Capt. Bob Drisgill.

July 23, 2016 at Stingaree Marina, Crystal Beach, Texas
kellytrout Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

Gulf Coast Mariner’s Kelly Groce with a 5.9lb East Bay trout.

By Kelly Groce

When the Gulf Coast Mariners Team – Debbie Salisbury, Colie Blumenshine, and myself, Kelly Groce – hit the water early that July morning on a mission to find and catch big trout, little did we know what lay ahead in the Galveston Bay Foundation Tournament.

Our guide, Capt. Bob “Mangus” Drisgill of Mangus II Charters, took us to our first spot over a reef. After a few minutes, I hooked on to what felt like a decent trout. The fish was pulling drag and giving a fun fight. We got it to the boat and it was a nice 23-inch trout. A few more 18-20 inch trout were caught at a variety of other locations.

manguscolie

Colie Blumenshine and Capt. Bob ‘Mangus’ Drisgill with a nice speck.

The weather was beautiful and there was barely any wind. We went to our last spot of the day and immediately hooked on. Captain Bob got on a nice drift over reef, which produced great for us. I ended up reeling in my personal best trout, which was 25 inches and 5.9 pounds! Our ice chest looked like it was in good shape, so it was time to hit the weigh in. Once we arrived at Stingaree Marina, we weighed in our three best trout, which totaled 16.20 pounds.

Thanks to Captain Bob and the fish gods, the Gulf Coast Mariners won 1st place Guided Heaviest Stringer. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our team’s faces after a fun filled day of Captain Bob’s jokes, catching beautiful Galveston Bay speckled trout, and winning 1st place in the tournament.

Thanks to the 60 participants and 22 teams, this year’s Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament raised over $35,000. The proceeds will support the Galveston Bay Foundation and help preserve and protect Galveston Bay. Thanks to the Galveston Bay Foundation for putting on such an awesome tournament and for the beautiful plaque. This tournament was a blast and we can’t wait to participate next year. Tight lines!

Crevalle Jack Fishing

jackfish Crevalle Jack Fishing

One of the most underrated fish on the Texas Gulf Coast

By Capt. Joe Kent

tarpon Crevalle Jack Fishing

Jacks are a common bycatch of tarpon fishermen.

Before we talk about crevalle jack, or jacks as they are more commonly called, let’s get an insight into tarpon, or silver kings as they are also known.  Tarpon are very popular game fish and we will be comparing them to crevalle jack.

The tarpon’s fight is among the best of any fish anywhere and anglers will spend hours trying to get a hook-up with a fish that many say resembles a shot in the dark to catch.

From Memorial Day until mid-October, tarpon roam the coastal waters not too far from the beach.  August and September are prime months for getting a hook-up; however, the odds are not great unless you are using an experienced tarpon guide.  While the odds improve considerably with a guide even then the chances are on the tarpon’s side not to get caught.

Perfect water conditions and select baits are a must and once you land one of the big fish it has to be quickly released as they are under the catch and release rules.

Unless it is one of the scales you are after or a 100-pound plus fish for the resume, then try fishing for crevalle jack.

Crevalle jack are caught in all sizes along the coastal waters and have many of the same traits as tarpon.  Both fish offer poor table fare; however, while tarpon (except for one over 85 inches) must be released, jacks can be retained with no bag or size limits. The tarpon exception is to allow for a new state record tarpon to be set.

Jacks are found in a much wider area than tarpon, as the larger of the silver kings confine themselves to the Gulf waters.  Jacks can be found in the inland bays as well.  Fighting ability is an understatement for both fish, as both are known as ferocious fighters.  Just ask any surf fisherman who had his reel stripped of line by a fast attacking jack.

Tarpon require clear or green water with light winds and slight seas for increasing the odds of a hook-up.  Jacks on the other hand are not as particular and are caught in lesser quality water under almost all conditions, especially favoring the same type of water in which reds and specks thrive.

Tarpon fishermen frequently hook up with jacks while drifting their baits for the prized silver kings.  While the jack may present a comparable fight, it is usually disappointing to the tarpon angler when he see what is on the other end of the line.

Certain select baits are required for a good chance at enticing a tarpon while a variety of baits from live to natural to cut baits work on jacks.

Jacks, like tarpon, are most likely going to be caught near the surface so for that reason drift lines tend to work best.  The best baits are those used for any pelagic fish offshore. Sardines, ribbonfish, shad and strips of bonito are among the best baits.

During periods of nice conditions in the surf, meaning light winds and seas, beachgoers and surf fishermen will see schools of jacks attack pods of mullet in the surf.

If this article stimulates your interest in catching a jack, here are a few tips that will enhance your chances.  The jetties, especially out from the rocks rather than in close, are where they are likely to roam.  All along the beachfront, from near shore to eight miles or so out, also offers good opportunities.

One of my favorite spots to find jacks is near anchored and working shrimp boats within 8 to 10 miles from shore.

Once you hook a jack you will not forget it and any angler that has caught a few can tell right away when one is on the line as soon as it strikes.  When the strike occurs, the reel starts spinning and newcomers learn quickly not to put their thumb on the spooling line.

If big time action is what you are after, go for the jacks.

Galveston Bay Fall Transition Fishing

spectroutstring Galveston Bay Fall Transition Fishing

Gary Speer and Randy with a good trout stringer.

By Capt. David DillmanSpec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

Summer is close to being just a memory. It sure did fly by fast! Now we await the arrival of Fall. September is the month of transition and October is the first month of fall. Lots of folks put the boats and rods up in favor of guns and hunting, but not me. I just get ready for some of the best fishing of the year in Galveston Bay.

In September, speckled trout and redfish scatter as they begin their movement to the back reaches of the bay.

Black drum, sand trout and croaker start to show up in abundance. These fish can be caught along the deeper reefs, passes and the jetties. Fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom is the top bait when fishing for these “panfish.” They make for excellent table fare and provide lots of fun for anglers of any age. There is no size or number limit on croakers or sand trout, but the limit on black drum is five fish per day, between 14-30 inches. One fish may be retained that is over 52 inches and it counts toward the daily bag limit.

Those anglers in search of specks and reds during this time of year will see a different pattern from summer. In my experience, is it fairly difficult to catch good numbers in any one place during the first few weeks of September. But the fish will settle into a fall pattern by the end of the month.

Usually by this time, we should see the arrival of our first cool/cold fronts. Fish will congregate towards the northern ends of our bays where baitfish will depart the marsh. Falling water temperature and tide levels flush bait out of the marsh, where they are intercepted by waiting schools of hungry trout and redfish. We will see our first bird action, where seagulls and terns will pinpoint the schools of fish.

Every angler, no matter if they are using live bait or lures, should see plenty of action. Live croaker will take a backseat seat, as live shrimp fished under a popping cork will draw more action for live baiters. Any type of soft plastic will be a top lure for artificial anglers.

Weather this time of year is nearly perfect with cool mornings and highs in the mid 80’s. Eagle Point Fishing Camp will stock up on live shrimp this time of year for the angler. Get out on the water and enjoy the fishing and weather.

Tight Lines!!