Spring on the upper Texas Coast brings the return of many things, sunshine and warming temperatures are what we tend to notice the most.
As much as those two factors make us rush to the bays, they are not the keys to angling success in the Spring. Though they do in fact play an important role, they are not nearly as influential as most anglers believe them to be.
Conditions, specifically those that we can easily detect above the water, are not the same as those that a predator like a redfish or speckled trout feels below the water’s surface. If I was to give my personal estimation of the two conditional factors that have the greatest influence, they would have to be water temperature and daily photo period. These are what both predator and prey feel, and are the factors that drive spawning and the return to shallow bays and estuarine waters.
Beyond sun and rising water temps, wind is probably the most notable factor for anglers, and probably the one that is the most discouraging. We can’t change the wind and it isn’t always easy to forecast, but we should all understand its impact and learn to use it to our advantage.
Strong southerly winds and powerful incoming tides of Spring are the arteries that deliver the life blood to our coastal bays and estuaries. These will typically start bringing new life as early as February, and continue well into April and even May. These bull tides bring numerous prey species, along with their food sources, back to the shallows. Each of the returning animals’ migration, whether large or small in distance, is timed perfectly by the return or resurgence of their primary food sources.
An entire article could be dedicated to prey species, their eating habits and preferred habitat, but knowing a few factors that play critical roles in locating and catching trout and redfish are worthy of mention. Blue and stone crabs, white, brown and to a lesser degree, pink shrimp, glass minnows, menhaden and shad, as well as sheepshead minnows and many more all make their annual return to the estuaries during spring. They wash inshore on incoming tides towards lower salinity estuarine waters where they can thrive and find abundant microbial food sources.
As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds.
Just as these animals arrive, due to abundance of food, so do their predators. In nature, every step of the food chain is driven by three basic, instinctual needs: food, safety, and reproduction. Knowing this makes it very clear that to find our target fish, we must find its target or preferred food. As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds. We must accept that sometimes the things that frustrate us the most can provide the greatest advancement in our angling skills.
Wind can make our fishing days challenging; knowing where those winds deposit concentrations of prey species can make them more productive. West Galveston Bay’s notorious winter “moss” can frustrate us to no end, but the realization that its “decay stage” provides possibly the largest food source for many returning and emerging prey species, might well make you look more closely at the areas most inundated.
Knowing some of the favorite prey species and their preferred habitat and food sources are great. Now, it’s up to you as a successful angler to locate them. Most of these small species are difficult to physically locate. Thankfully, there are some larger and more widespread animals that can help us locate the smaller food sources that often lead to greater catches. Since most every angler reading this has likely experienced fishing an area devoid of prey species and the ensuing unproductive day, we probably all can now see the importance of finding the food source.
Focus your efforts, whether on open bay shorelines, or in the marshes, on the areas populated by mullet. They are not only much easier to see, but they also eat the same decaying plant material that most of the smaller prey species dine on. Also, take the time to explore every stretch of water inhabited by shore birds such as egrets, herons, ibis and spoonbill. Areas where terns and gulls are diving are likely to have juvenile surface dwelling animals, riding currents. Many of these are extremely small and hard to see, but don’t think that hungry predators would pass up on the opportunity to feast on these helpless little morsels.
Don’t let the most transitional season deter your efforts, use this season to explore and use your angling skills to locate fish in places you haven’t often looked. You will find, that even though spring fishing can be very challenging, it can also be very productive for those who armed with knowledge. You might just find some very aggressive fish that are waiting to reward you with explosive strikes.