Grinding through winter
This time of year can be down right brutal for a Texas coastal angler, having him or her ready to take flight a southward direction and not return for a few months. Lucky for us it has been a fairly mild winter and I hope I'm not jinxing it. Sure we've had some cold mornings and defiantly some windy ones but I'd say were doing better than last winter. The cold fronts have become very consistent and with good warming trends on the back sides.
The fishing this time of year can be very productive for the savvy native Texan with many winters under his or her belt. For starters you really have to slow down. The water is cold and there for the fish are too. If the fish are low to the bottom and in a negative mood throw lures and flies that sink to the bottom and stay there until moved. Throwing darker colors can also help feed a negative fish. I like to use very simple worm type lures and patterns in these settings with just enough action to get the fish to see the bait when they get close. When the weather goes through a warming trend and the fish raise into the water column adjust your presentations accordingly. Mullet patters and suspending plugs are go to choices for these days, again the goal to present lures that stay in the same zone as the fish want to be. If the wind really blows hard with an approaching front I'll often opt to throw paddle tails with spinning gear to maximize opportunity.
On days that are just unacceptable for fishing this winter take time to prep your gear for the better (warmer) days ahead. How's that fly line looking? A bit twisted and gritty from the abuse it received last summer? Stop by your local fly shop and pick up a new one. Bayou City Angler is a great one if your in the Houston area.
TRANSITIONING to FAll
Upon typing this the city of Houston has been hit by yet again by another massive flooding event. My local community dodged a bullet this go round (not the case during Harvey). Although it will put a hamper on fishing for a few days I have no doubt the redfishing will quickly recover in the Galveston area just in time for a great fall.
We are just a few days away from the fall equinox (9/23/19) but what does that mean for flats fishing? Well the immediate change will be higher than normal water, this will be compounded by the flood water in the upper Texas coast. The middle Texas coast which I also frequent is already experiencing high fall tides but not from flooding. Luckily there is still great fishing to be had. You must simply look in areas that are normally too shallow for fish to swim and feed. A redfish (or at least the ones I fish for) have a tendency to feed in waters from 5"to 2' of water. So that sand bar that you passed by for the last two months with birds standing high and dry on it may be good place to start looking. Backwaters this time of year will often be 1-2ft over predicted levels so this opens a ton of real estate. You will likely have to do more looking around than you normally do, but once you establish a pattern you can often duplicate it the rest of the day and have a successful outing.
In the following weeks we will also start to experience strong shifting winds from SE to N, NE, and hopefully NW as we start to get a few cold fronts pushing down. This particular phenomenon is when the fishing gets really good. The NW winds in particular will push out all that pesky high tide and the fish have no choice but to follow it out. Water will drop in the back lakes 2ft (or more sometimes)overnight. As a fly fisherman and sight-fisherman in general this is the time of year I live for. The days you can catch the water falling out hard can be described as catching more so than fishing. Schooling reds sometimes in excess of 100 or more move through the water aggressively eating every shrimp, crab, and small baitfish in their path. While they are in this feeding frenzy they will readily accept just about any small artificial lure or fly you can place in front of them. It makes for some truly memorable days on the water.
The best season of the year is right around the corner and its going to be a great one! Be sure to plan some days on the water in the next couple of months you wont want to miss it. I still have some dates available for fall redfishing trips please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info and follow on instagram @frigatebirdfishing for great fishing content.
October 24th, 2018
Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a few days on the always beautiful Lower Laguna Madre or (LLM). It had been quite some time since I found myself this far south and was anxious to see what all the mother lagoon had in store. However, this wasn't your average fishing trip. Recently one of my friends proposed marriage to his longtime girlfriend, which of course calls for a boy's weekend out. A bachelor party. The setting was all perfect except for the weather. The old saying that my uncle always told me "Port Mansfield is where God made wind" held certain truth. But this didn't slow down the crew of good Ol' Boys, the solid cloud cover and steady winds were only a minor speed bump in a long weekend of fishing and fellowship.
Day 1 ended rather quickly only after a few short hours to check some areas scouted by google earth weeks prior. I hadn't previously fished this far north in the LLM. Catching expectations were low for the first outing this was more of just "going to take a look see". The terrain was all I had hoped for and more. Beautiful grass beds and pot holes, with endless flats as far as the eye could see. The redfish although found immediately proved to be a challenge, which is typical in gin clear flats. This was nothing some minor tackle adjustments couldn't fix.
The next morning my fishing partner Justin and I were both a bit groggy from all the "excitement" the night before, what a great time for a long boat ride into the wind, Ha! After what seemed to be an hour we finally arrived. The only problem was so had four other boats, typical when fishing well known fishy areas on a Saturday. I look left, look right, and said nope, were moving. At this time I proceeded to go into one of my slow roll till something looks right maneuvers. Only a few short minutes of cruising the opposite direction of the crowd and bingo! A long line of small islands had all the right ingredients water flow, bait, and most importantly not a boat in sight. I jumped up to the poling platform push pole in hand to look over "the field" as would a quarterback coming out of huddle. This is gunna be good I thought to myself, and it was. The only difficulty was the 15 knot wind to my back causing my skiff to not want to track very straight. Once the boat control was better managed by shifting some cooler weight further aft things started to take shape. We began to spot redfish around every island we passed and developed a pattern rather quickly. These sand camo redfish were much more difficult to spot than their mid-coast brothers, but after being busted 3 or 4 times we got the hang of it. After making several short pitches and landing multiple fish, I spotted a wake. 12 O' clock 100 yards, do you see it? Now mind you that this was probably a bit exaggerated but this fish was a looong ways out. My buddy didn't see it and we were moving fast with this wind, so I decided to take the shot from the rear platform. 100 yards quickly became 50 and I let one rip. The 7'3" Down South Custom spinning rod with 10lb braid sent a missile so far that I actually over shot the fish. Once clicked into gear I began steering the bait towards the large wake. When the two met I felt that ever so welcomed sensation at my rod tip. "Holy crap what a shot," Justin exclaimed! Holy crap was right. This was hands down the furthest I had ever thrown to a fish. When we got the red boat side something was quickly noticeable. The fish only had one eye, so cool! I had never seen this in person only heard of tall tales. We let patchy swim free and cast our eyes to the horizon looking for our next set of fishing grounds...
USCG approved light tackle and fly fishing guide.