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What’s Behind Abnormal High Tide Levels in Galveston Bay

By Capt. Joe Kent

The most common question anglers have asked so far this fall is what is causing the abnormally high tide levels in the Galveston Bay Complex?

High tide levels are common all year long; however, their duration is almost always limited to the events that caused them, such as strong east and southeast winds, storms in the Gulf of Mexico and to a lesser degree the Full Moon Phase.

For most of October, the tide levels have been averaging two feet above normal all around Galveston Bay.  The most interesting part of this is that, while at times the normal triggering factors mentioned earlier were present, the high water levels continued after those factors diminished.

So, what is behind all of this?  Well, I checked with a Galveston area weather expert and asked that question.  The following is his theory on why the tides did not quickly recede to normal levels.

First, higher than normal tides is the new normal along the upper Texas Coast, at least for the time being.  October 2017 was one of the warmest ever in and around Galveston (since observations began in 1871).

This is reflected in the water temperatures in deep Gulf waters.  Since warm water expands, water levels will be higher than if the water temperatures were lower or in the normal range.

Also, we are seeing a residual run up of water along the upper Texas Coast, as there is some inertia built into the development of higher tide levels. Also, we still are getting a fairly robust fresh water flow from the recent record setting floods that are causing large amounts of water to flow from rivers between the mouth of the Sabine River to the mouth of the Colorado River.

Strong northerly winds will mitigate the situation by blowing the water out of the bays and back into the Gulf of Mexico.

It should be easy to conclude from the expert’s opinion given above that global warming is aggravating the situation as well.

Now, how does all of this affect fishing in the Galveston Bay Complex?  During September and October the higher tide levels hampered fishing.  Generally, when there is a change from the normal, fish react to it.  In this case we saw some negative effects on inshore fishing while the surf likely benefited from the longer stretches of water hitting the beaches.

The one area that saw the least effects was offshore where the summertime pattern continued.

For inshore fishing, the marshes and back bays were flooded and that drove redfish well into the normally shallow waters chasing bait fish and reaping the spoils of freshly covered ground where crustaceans and other small marine life were thriving.

Besides the abnormally high water levels, the record temperatures of October delayed our fall fishing patterns from getting underway.

Often I have mentioned that Columbus Day was a time when we saw signs of the onset of fall fishing patterns.  Not the case in 2017, as now I am leaning more toward Veteran’s Day as that pivotal time.

GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

flounder fall GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

The flounder run is coming!

By Capt. Joe Kent

Years ago by November, fall fishing patterns would be well under way and the annual flounder and golden croaker migrations in full swing.  This is not the case now and anglers have moved the time table ahead as a result.

While growing up around the Galveston Bay Complex, saltwater anglers looked to Columbus Day in early October as the time when they could count on the onset of fall fishing patterns.  For a number of years now, fall weather patterns have not set in until much later, usually close to November.

Fall fishing patterns are triggered by the water temperature in the bays and it is not until the readings fall below 70 degrees that we can count on much in the way of autumn fishing.

Sunlight or presenting it a different way, shorter periods of daylight, also influence fish to move into their fall feeding style.  Fortunately, while weather patterns may change, periods of daylight do not, so that is one constant we can count on in the equation.

An example of how our weather pattern has changed comes with the special flounder regulations that were set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to protect flounder from over harvesting during their fall migration or as anglers call it the Fall Flounder Run.

The dates for the special regulations that cut the bag limit to two per day and outlawed flounder gigging were Nov. 1 through 30. Those dates were chosen because historically the flounder run was in its peak during November and by December 1, nearly over.

Quickly TPWD observed that the flounder migration lasted well into December and amended the rules to add the first two weeks of that month.

Mentioned earlier was the fact that Columbus Day was looked to as the kick-off of the fall fishing season and now that has changed.  If I were to choose a holiday that better represents the time when fall fishing is in full swing, it would be Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

Now, with that background, what is the outlook for this year’s fall fishing?

Let’s take a look at speckled trout first.  The record floods of late August and early September likely will continue to affect speckled trout fishing through at least the early part of November.  Trinity Bay and the upper reaches of Galveston Bay continue to have enormous amounts of fresh water pouring into them. Until that stops and salinity levels improve, don’t look for the prolific fall trout action for which those areas are famous.

On the other hand, East and West Bays should be hot spots once the water temperature cooperates.  Hordes of specks migrated out of the lower salinity areas to locations closer to the Gulf of Mexico and likely will remain until the “All Clear” signal is given to migrate north.

The fall flounder run is shaping up to be a good one this year, as a good crop of quality flat fish is in the bays and, once a few genuine cold fronts pass through, look for the passes to the Gulf to be wall to wall with both flounder and fishermen.

Redfish action has been outstanding all during this fall season.  Reds of all sizes have been caught in good numbers in the lower bays and surf.  Look for that to continue, as reds are not nearly as sensitive to salinity levels as other fish.  Once the water cools, look for the back bays and marshes to turn on.

The annual golden croaker run, which usually occurs about the time of the flounder run, has been a big disappointment in recent years.  During November large golden croaker known as bull croaker make their run to the Gulf of Mexico for spawning and are easy prey for anglers fishing near the passes into the Gulf.

While there has been some good action during the run, it has not measured up to that of 20 years ago and beyond.

In summary, it is going to take a couple of things to really trigger some hot fall fishing and those are getting the water temperature down into the 60s and eliminating the heavy flows of fresh water into the bays.

Once the water temperature drops look out!  The action will be hot and heavy.

Galveston Bay’s Promising Outlook

jetty red Galveston Bay’s Promising Outlook

Jessica Riemer with a nice post-Harvey redfish. Redfish, unconcerned with low salinity levels, went on a feeding frenzy after the hurricane.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

“Hopefully we can dodge a major weather system and enjoy this amazing time of year in Texas and the Upper Coast”

Well, the Galveston area did dodge the destruction of Hurricane Harvey’s winds, but not the rainfall. The Houston/Galveston area received upwards to 60 inches of rain and Galveston Bay became “fresh” from all the runoff. Fishing in September was non-existent, with few folks even trying their luck. As October rolled around, fishermen began plying the waters, with catches coming from the Jetties, East Bay and south of the Eagle Point area. Every tide change in October pushed the saltwater farther north into the Galveston Bay Complex. The outlook for November/December at the time of publication is positive!

November will be the month of transition for those seeking speckled trout. The trout will continue to move farther north with each tide change, but will they be in the normal areas, like Jack’s Pocket in Trinity, Tabbs, Scott and Burnett Bays? I would guess towards the end of the month, anglers should be able to catch some fish from these areas. Until then look for trout to remain in the areas they have been in October. Don’t overlook the west shoreline of Galveston Bay from Eagle Point to Seabrook. Also the western side of Trinity Bay from Dow’s Reef to the HLP Spillway. The wells in the middle of Galveston Bay and Trinity Bay, along with West Galveston Bay have the potential to produce great catches this November.

November is also the traditional month for flounder. The so called “Flounder Run” is in full force this month. Any shoreline, along any bay where drains are located is where one should concentrate their effort. The well known Galveston Channel, from Seawolf Park to the Pelican Island Bridge should be loaded up this year with flatfish! Already, some really nice flounder have been caught this October. It should only get better.

By December, we should see the Galveston Complex returning to a normal fishing pattern. The fish should be in their regular areas. The far back end of Trinity, the NW end of Galveston Bay, and West Galveston Bay will be the areas to target.

Hopefully we can dodge a big freeze and have minimal rainfall with each passing cold front. Eagle Point Fishing Camp has had a great supply of live shrimp and croaker. Their goal is to continue to have live bait throughout this year. You can always call them at 281-339-1131 to check on their bait supply. This time of year bait can become scarce, it is nice to know that you can count them to have live bait.

Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

Advice from Phil and Joe Ortiz of Flounder Pounder Lures

By Capt. Joe Kent

ortiz Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

Phil Ortiz with a big Galveston flounder.

November is by far the best month for flounder fishing along the upper Texas Coast.  It stands out so much that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set special rules for that month that include a reduction in the daily bag limit from five to two and the limitation of hook and line (rod and reel) as the only means of catching flatfish.  With that restriction, flounder gigging is prohibited during November.

The main reason for the great fishing in November is the annual flounder migration to the Gulf of Mexico reaching its peak and flounder stacking up in such numbers around the passageways to the Gulf that they are easy picking for anglers.

Prior to the changes in the rules, anglers had a daily bag limit of 10 with a two-day possession limit.  This allowed the gigging crowd to take 10 before midnight and another 10 per person after the clock struck 12 a.m.

When the two-day limit was eliminated and the bag limit reduced to five per day, along with the November rules, flounder stocks began to rebound.

With the flatfish now back to good numbers, let’s take a look at some tips from an expert on how, where and when to fish for flounder.

Phil Ortiz, inventor and manufacturer of the popular Flounder Pounder artificial bait, is one of the noted experts on flounder and flounder fishing.  Ortiz has fished commercially for flounder and for over 20 years has devoted his time to producing one of the most prolific flounder baits on the market, the Flounder Pounder.

Recently, I interviewed Ortiz along with his brother Joe who assists him in manufacturing the baits.  We started out with what I considered the most important question and proceeded from there.

pounderlure Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

Kent: What would you say is the most important single factor in fishing for flounder?

Ortiz: When the periods of sunlight fall, meaning shorter days, signals go off in flounder to start moving.  The shorter days translate into cooler water and give rise to frontal systems making their way to the coast.  This has a snowballing effect in that the fronts move the water out of the marshes and back bays thus telling flounder to prepare for their move.

Kent: Now that we see the flounder beginning to move, what are other factors that affect fishing?

Ortiz: The next most important is atmospheric pressure.  A drop in pressure alerts flounder that change is on the way and the movement begins.

Kent: What about tides and moon?

Ortiz: Tidal flow, whether incoming or outgoing, is 99% necessary. The moon phases are not as important; however, the better action will be during major and minor periods.

Kent: What about the actual fishing?  What color is your favorite and how do you fish for flounder?

Ortiz: Color makes no difference; in fact the bait itself is not that important.  It is all in the presentation.  I once hooked a cigarette butt to one of my jigs and caught flounder by making the bait resemble a running shad.

Kent: I recall you telling me that noise, if anything, helps flounder fishing.  Is that still true?

Ortiz: Absolutely.  Think about it, flounder lie on the bottom and any loud noise nearby will spook bait into running away.  During the exit, the spooked bait will run past an awaiting flatfish and an easy meal results.

Kent: Is November the best month to catch that big “saddle blanket” flounder?

ortiz2

Phil with another flatfish fooled by the Flounder Pounder.

Ortiz: There are a lot of large flounder caught during November; however, my experience has shown June through August to be the best time.

Kent: It is pretty well known that the smaller male flounder make an appearance first during the flounder run.  Why is that?

Ortiz: It is because they move slower than the larger females.

Kent: In closing, do you have any advice or recommendations to pass on to other fishermen?

Ortiz: Yes, I encourage fishermen to support regulations to increase the minimum size for flounder to 17 inches.  Why? Because most of the males are under 17 inches and it takes approximately four to six males to fertilize the eggs of one female.  Before recent research on this topic, it was thought that a one to one ratio was satisfactory.  Today we know otherwise.

For more on Flounder Pounder Lures, please visit www.flounderpounder.net




Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

big speckled trout Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

By Capt. Joe Kent

Lots of questions are being asked about the effects of the recent flood waters on the Galveston Bay Complex.  Most of the questions are centered on whether the floods have a beneficial or detrimental impact on the eco-system and what we can expect in the way of fishing this fall.

For a number of years, the Galveston Bay Complex was experiencing a serious drought that was beginning to change the ecology of the bay.  High levels of salinity and restricted flows of fresh water from rivers and creeks were taking its toll on the wetlands and back bays.

Concerns were mounting about a change in our fish patterns, in particular a possible migration of certain species of fish out of the bays and an influx of different species into the bays.  It certainly was a situation that warranted concern.

Three years ago, the first of a series of heavy flooding hit and eventually lowered the salinity levels and created some ideal conditions for growing our stocks of marine life, both fin fish and shell fish.

In most cases, flood waters entering the bays do a lot of good for the basic component of the marine life cycle and that is the estuaries.  The nutrients that are washed into the rivers and other outlets help the vegetation grow and in turn provide a sanctuary for newly hatched marine life.

This is obviously a real benefit to all who partake in saltwater recreational activities and most beneficial to anglers in all areas including those who fish offshore.

On the other hand, flood waters that contain heavy concentrations of contaminants can be detrimental to the estuaries.  Contaminants in the form of chemicals and metals are the most destructive, as they can and do kill the life line of the estuaries, the vegetation and in general pollute the waters.

troutrowan 300x141 Galveston Bay fishing after Harvey

“Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast.”

 

Just how our recent flood affects the sensitive balance in the wetlands is yet to be determined.

While it remains to be seen as to the effects on the estuaries, there are a few things that can pretty well be counted on as far as the effects on fishing and crabbing.

Following the floods and during the time when heavy flows of water continued to pour into the bays, we have experienced a welcomed dry spell with northerly and westerly winds dominating under low humidity.  This has helped to get the flood waters draining more rapidly. 

Most of Galveston Bay has been muddy and off color with little or no salinity.  How long this will last is anyone’s guess.

Most of the time, trout will move out of the upper reaches of the bay system and settle in areas that are closer to the Gulf of Mexico such as those around the passes and jetties.  In those areas, trout tend to stack up and become easy prey for anglers.

Using last year as an example, our heavy floods came early in the summer and were followed by a similar pattern of hot, dry weather.  It was at least two months before the bays started showing signs of improvement.

If that pattern repeats itself, it could be November before the water returns to normal around the Galveston Bay Complex.  This is especially true in light of the fact that this year’s flooding was more extensive and severe than in years past.

So what does that mean for fishing?  Well, for speckled trout especially they are going to be found in large concentrations closer to the coast.  The jetties, surf and lower Galveston Bay should hold the prized game fish for quite a while.

Reds and other fish likely will be the offering in the upper reaches of the bay system, as they are not nearly as sensitive to salinity as are trout.

Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

plaag trout stringer Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Capt. James Plaag with a good stringer of trout.

From trout to tarpon with Capt. Plaag, the 36 year master guide of Silver King Adventures

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Houston but I grew up down here near the water. My family has had houses here since the 1950s. So I spent all my youth down here. We had a place on Chocolate Bayou and in 1967 my family built a house in Jamaica Beach. I used to watch ZZ Top play down there on the weekends.

How long have you been guiding?

It’s been 36 years, man it goes by fast. Silver King Adventures was started in 1990. Things were tough with the ‘83 freeze when everything froze and died. Then with the ‘89 freeze everything froze and died again.

We had been trying to catch tarpon, but we didn’t know what we were doing at the time. But we had some people interested in going, and it took us a while to wire it up but we got it going. I was tarpon fishing in Louisiana some at that point too, and that’s how we started.

tarpon plaag Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

Silver King Adventures is no stranger to large tarpon.

So it all started with Tarpon?

Well, yeah that’s how the name came. One of our customers gave us that name and got roused a bit, and he made us a nice little ad. He was in that business.

What is your fishing specialty or target fish?

Right now we are tarpon fishing. We’ll still go trout fishing if the beach is no good but we’d rather be fishing for tarpon.

So you’re spending a lot of time a couple miles off the beachfront?

Sometimes we’ll get 10 miles out. I’ve caught them in 67 feet of water down to 7 feet of water; it all depends on where you can find them. They are the hardest fish on the planet to find and catch.

What lures/baits are you using for tarpon?

We quit fishing with bait maybe about 15 years ago. We make our own little lures. We still use Coon Pops. Coon is one of my best friends. I learned a whole lot from him; he’s probably the best tarpon fisherman I’ve met in my whole life. We make our own stuff, but we got a lot from him.

How did you get your start fishing?

I cut my teeth fishing the canals at my Grandma’s house in Jamaica Beach. I was about 8 and would ride my bike to the water. With dead shrimp I would catch croaker, hardheads and little redfish. If it bit, I would catch it.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

There’s two moments. We caught a really big tarpon one year. The fish was 6’9” with a 50 inch girth and weighed 238 pounds.

The other is from Panama. We were on the Gotcha in Panama City and we took it to Piñas. It’s probably the finest place I’ve ever been in my life. We saw about 15 or 16 fish, caught about 8 or 9. Half blues and half black marlin.

MirrOlure 51MR CH and Bass Assassin in Red Shad.

If you could only have one soft plastic and one hard bait, what would they be?

I’d take a 51 series MirrOlure in chartreuse/gold and a red shad Bass Assassin. I work for both of those companies, but if I didn’t, the answer would still be the same. I put my son through school on that red shad color.

What is the biggest mistake you see fisherman making out there?

They don’t put in the effort. There’s the old saying that you get out what you put in. Fishing is not just throwing your stuff out there and getting them; it doesn’t work like that. If just want a boat ride, that’s all good and fine, but if you actually want to catch something, you have to put in more than just a lackadaisical effort.

What are some things anglers in the Galveston Bay Complex should key in on during September and October to be successful?

September is a hard month for trout fishing. It’s a transition month. You have a major spawn in April and a little bit bigger than a minor spawn in September. September is probably one of the worst months to try and catch a trout. You can, and someone might tell me “Man you’re stupid, we kill them in September.” Yeah, well you might, but by and large it’s not that good.

If the weather is good then September is the best month to catch Tarpon. October is the same for those first three weeks if it’s calm. That’s when the big fish are there. It’s a really good month. October is also a good trout fishing month. Those birds will start working and it gets pretty easy. But September can be tough inshore. For me that month is made for tarpon fishing and dove hunting.

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

It depends on the time of year and where you are fishing.  If you’re fishing the marsh during winter, then you got to have an outgoing tide. If you’re fishing near the ship channel, deep water shell or well pads, then the fish will be biting on the incoming tide.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in our area from when you first started compared to today?

The biggest change? It’s a thing called a cell phone. It totally ruined fishing and I’ll throw croakers in there, too. It used to be that you could stay on a school of fish for two weeks, now you can’t stay on them for 2 hours before someone picks up the phone and tells the world “Hey I saw this dude on the fish over here and they’re getting them.”

The information highway brother…the coconut telegraph is a killer.

James with a 5 pound bass.

Do you have a new recently discovered lure or technique you’d like to share with our readers?

In these last three years we’ve been fishing a lot like they fish swimbaits for bass. Instead of jigging them, we use them like a search bait. That’s where the paddletail comes into play, like a Bass Assassin Sea Shad. Once you get your speed down and find the fish, whether it’s the bottom or top of the water column, it’s easy. That way you can tell clients to cast, let it fall for X amount of seconds and then bring it back on a medium retrieve.

Favorite place you have ever fished?

It’s definitely Panama.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?

Do away with the croaker. Sooner or later the guides are going to fish themselves out of business and everyone will be wondering why. What it enables you to do is to target the individual fish you wouldn’t catch otherwise. I could go out there with a lure and I might catch one and I may not, but you drag that croaker through there and you can target the individual big breeder fish.

So you’ll have one boat load up with 15 or more 3 – 5 pound trout before they head in. Then you’ll have 30 boats out there doing the same thing. Add it up in pounds and it doesn’t take long to see the problem.

If you want to fish with finfish, then get you some piggie perch. Put some effort into it. Piggie is a better bait than a croaker, but you have to put some more effort in to use them.

Another thing I’ve talked about is putting a slot limit on the trout. Knock the minimum length down to 14 inches so Joe Blow can go out and catch his 10 fish. And then anything from 20 to 25 inches just put them back. Most customers want fish they can keep, so they could box the smaller eating fish and let the big ones go.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

Dove hunting. But with fishing we go with the old saying “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” That’s what we do; we fish. Cameron, my son, is the same way. It’s what we do.

Do you fish any tournaments?

I’ve fished a couple tournaments this year. I’ve been lucky enough to place in just about every one of them. I don’t go after it hard anymore though. Them boys that fish those tournaments in wintertime, they’re good, they catch them. They’re young and they’ll make long runs.

We fish the Seabrook Saltwater Derby every year.  We’ve won something in that one just about every time. I fish with Jason Nolan. He just called me about it, it’s coming up on September 29.

Uh oh, we got some competition (laughs). Team Gulf Coast Mariner will be fishing that one too.

Well I hope y’all do good, but I hope I do better (laughs).

How can someone contact you for a guided trip?

Give me a call at (409) 935-7242,  email info@silverkingadventures.com or visit www.silverkingadventures.com. Tarpon fishing will be hot and inshore fishing during the fall is the best all year.

Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

hillman speck Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

Steve Hillman with a mid October beauty, released after a quick photo.

Hillman Guide Service’s big trout buff on his early years and fishing favorites

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Galveston and grew up on Dickinson Bayou where my parents started a small seafood business in the mid-seventies.  When not fishing off of our little pier I would fish out in the bay with my dad, uncles and grandpa.  This was back when we didn’t have to venture far to catch trout, redfish and flounder.  Reefs in Dickinson Bay, Moses Lake and Todd’s Dump gave us all the action we could ask for.

It really wasn’t until my mid-teenage years that I learned how to read the water well.  I fell in love with wading and learned what slicks meant.  This is when fishing hit a whole new level for me.  I caught my first topwater trout on a chrome/ blue jumping minnow on Dickinson Reef when I was around 16 years old.  I still remember how rafts of mullet would mark the J-shaped reef.  No GPS was needed.

In 1996 I graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, then took a job in the chemical industry.  Within a couple of years I came back to my roots in the family seafood business to take over the marketing aspects of the business.  We would fly clients in from all over the country and I would take them fishing and golfing.

It was during this time when I realized just how much satisfaction I got from watching others enjoy catching fish.  In 2004 I obtained my captain’s license and started running trips.  Some folks told me to be careful taking something that I enjoy and turning it into a job.  I suppose this is true for some.  For me, it was the right choice.  I never intended on becoming a full-time fishing guide but the circumstances pretty much played out that way.  Now, I have some of the best regular clients that any guide could ever ask for.  Funny how things seem to work out the way you least expect.

When I started guiding I ran tarpon, bull red, shark, black drum, flounder and trout trips.  While I enjoyed all of that I realized that my true passion was fishing for trout and reds.  I’m a firm believer in sticking to what you know.  And, by doing the same thing day-in and day-out you can stay on the patterns and become better.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?

My favorite experience is when a young man from Idaho called to book a two day fly fishing trip with me in March of 2006 for him and his father.  The first day was spent wading coves in West Bay amidst typical March stiff winds.  The bite was tough on flies, but the trout and reds were cooperative (for me) on conventional tackle.  Kurt and his dad kept their distance from me despite me constantly waving them in my direction.  They caught a few undersized trout on seaducers, clouser minnows and spoon flies.  They seemed to be happy despite not catching a bunch of fish.  The wind gave us a break on the second day and the fishing was much better.  Once again, however, they wouldn’t wade over when I was on fish.  They caught some, but I was a bit perplexed and maybe even a little disappointed that they pretty much hung out away from me in their own little world.  I pulled up to the dock at Teakwood Marina and Kurt’s father headed for the truck as he was a little tired.  Kurt handed me my check and said the following; “Captain Steve, I know that me and my dad could’ve caught more fish had we spent more time by your side or used conventional gear, but I need to tell you something.  My dad has terminal cancer and the doctors only gave him a few months to live.  He started taking me fly fishing when I was a little boy and those memories are the ones I cherish the most.  We got to relive some of those memories the past two days and I want to thank you for that.  This may be the last time I get to fish with my dad.”

As Kurt walked towards his truck tears flowed from my eyes.  I drove home thinking about how blessed I was.  That two day fishing trip with Kurt and his father will forever be etched in my memory as well as my heart.

mirrolure27 Fishing with Capt. Steve Hillman

MirrOlure MirrOdine XL

What is your favorite soft plastic and hard bait for trout if you had to choose only one of each?

My favorite soft plastic would have to be a Limetreuse Saltwater Assassin and MirrOlure’s MirrOdine XL would be my choice for a hard bait.

What is the biggest mistake you see other fishermen make?

I would have to say that the biggest mistake I see on a regular basis is other fishermen motoring over fish.  Just the other day we witnessed a boat motor through several good trout slicks then line up behind us to make a drift.  He was more concerned with what was happening on my boat then what was happening in the water around him.  This has become a daily occurrence.  I would love to see more awareness and better etiquette.

Fat redfish like this one can be found schooling in open water, September through November.

What should anglers key in on during September and October in Galveston Bay?

The early days of September are usually similar to our late summer patterns which involve drifting slicks in 7 to 11 feet of water over shell and throwing mainly soft plastics.  Depending upon the timing of cool fronts, late September and early October can become more of a transitional pattern where trout are found deep as well as shallow.  Slicks and active bait are always good telltale signs but gulls hovering over migrating white shrimp can also lead you to the fish.  Wading near marsh drains is always a good plan especially during late October.  Trout can be somewhat spread out until a true fall pattern arrives which usually occurs in November.

Do you have a favorite tide stage to fish?

My favorite tide to fish depends on where we’re fishing but our trout seem to feed better during a tide change.  If we’re wading the mouth of a marsh drain then I like a high tide going to a low.  If we’re drifting open bay reefs then any tidal movement is best, regardless of direction.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Galveston Bay over the years?

I could write an entire article on this subject but I suppose the most noticeable change is the bottom landscape of the bay.  Many islands are now reefs and many reefs are now gone.  Through the years the bottom structure has changed from environmental changes and man-induced changes.  We have lost more than half of our live oyster reefs and all of our rangia clam beds mainly due to Hurricane Ike and other environmental changes.

I’ve also seen the number of boats increase dramatically over the years.

Do you have a recently discovered lure or new technique you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m pretty much a creature of habit who tends to keep things simple.  That being said, I seem to be throwing more waking baits such as Strike Pro’s Hunchback this year.  It’s a subsurface hard bait that wobbles from side to side.  It has a loud rattle that tends to draw strikes when sometimes other baits won’t.  Other than that, I usually stick to the basic soft plastic and topwater program.  It really depends on what I see while we’re fishing.

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?

Hands down, my favorite place I’ve ever fished is Baffin Bay.  I love catching legitimately big trout and Baffin has produced more big trout for me than all the other bays I’ve fished combined.  Galveston Bay has produced some big trout for us through the years but not as consistently as Baffin.

Steve’s 8.25lb trout fell for a MirrOdine XL.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the current regulations?

The jury is still out on this question for me.  I carefully observe the changes I see on a yearly and daily basis while running my charters.  I also study the data from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as others such as the Harte Research Institute.

My current opinion is that we’re struggling with habitat in this bay and fishing pressure has greatly increased.  Man-made and environmental changes have had a negative impact on our estuary.  I don’t think anyone can deny that.

The question is what changes should be made?  Is a limit reduction to 5 trout the answer?  I personally think it’s a good start.  Sustainability of our spotted seatrout as well as our habitat should be on the front burner.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

I thoroughly enjoy fishing but my biggest passion is spending time with my family.  My wife and I only have one daughter, and she turns 16 in January.  Time seems to pass faster than ever and I don’t want to miss anything that has to do with them.  We’re a goofy little family and we can rarely have a serious conversation, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

You can contact Hillman Guide Service by calling 409-256-7937 or by emailing captsteve@hillmanguideservice.com

 

Fall into Great Galveston Fishing

souleredfish 1 Fall into Great Galveston Fishing

Alisha Soule with a Galveston marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

After what feels like an eternal summer this year, I could not be more excited thinking about fall and cooler temperatures. There are so many great things that happen on the bays, and of course the cooler temperatures don’t hurt my feelings one bit.

In mid August its still hot but one of the first major changes happens; the kids go back to school. There’s a slight drop in fishing pressure as many of us have to change our focus from entertaining kids to keeping them on track with school work and other related activities.

Tropical weather from late summer is usually the starting point of some very slight bay water cooling. The increase in even daily thunderstorms and cloud cover starts the downward trend of water temperatures. This seems to in turn trigger some slight change in fish feeding and activity periods.

Extreme daytime temps of summer can reach well into the 90’s and often leave us with fish that are sluggish and less active during the mid day periods. Scorching heat and cloudless days can push fish to slightly deeper water and definitely seem to keep fish from high levels of surface feeding. Not to say that there won’t be activity in the heat but many days it can be reduced from other peak times. Add in some heavy cloud cover and you will notice a decrease in water temp even without rain fall. Mix in some solid rainstorms with the cloud cover and its entirely possible to knock several degrees off the surface and shallow water temps.

Short days, long stringers

By September, we have typically passed peak temperatures. It’s still hot for sure, but we are beginning to trend slowly downward. Shorter daylight “photo period” helps as there is a reduction of hours of sun heating. Another slight boost to fishing is the second annual reduction of fishing and boating traffic due the opening of some shooting sports season. Teal season does put some boats on the water in select areas, but they aren’t moving around much during the first few hours of the day. In general, the reduction of boats running around tends to help “settle” the fish and allow them to spend their time doing the feeding and moving habits that are normal and less of their time trying to avoid propellers and loud noises that our boats make.

Fish the outgoing tide

One of the biggest changes, and one that affects certain parts of the bay very dramatically, is the change in tides and timing. This is a known annual event, though there is no exact repeating date when it occurs. At some time in September, we will see this change, the change of having a typical daily incoming tide in the early morning hours. Eventually we see the early morning tide turn to an outgoing swing. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you understand the number, size and varying types of baitfish, shrimp and crabs that have grown through the warmer months and have spent their time deep into marshes and up rivers and creeks, falling tides tend to become the predominant feeding time.

Knowing where some of the big numbers of prey species are makes it easier to understand how an outgoing tide can spike feeding activity. Small baitfish and invertebrates are much more subject to being moved around by the force of tides, not to mention that their food sources are moved and easily available during periods of stronger tide movement. As these tides flow and bring food out into open areas, fish tend to binge feed on more available food sources.

Conversely, on incoming and higher tides, many of the food species are able to find cover and shelter in places that make it challenging for predators to reach them.

Cool water feeding

The final change of the fall tends to come slightly later in September or early October, and is again temperature related. Though we will probably see some very mild cool fronts, the early “stout” fronts will make a huge difference in fishing. The smaller mild fronts will create small changes in bay temps and fish feeding, but as we start to see more significant fronts, feeding activity increases at a much more notable rate. Since these early fronts don’t typically bring huge temperature drops and are quickly followed by rapid warming, they don’t really cool the water that much. Stronger fronts that last longer, will create even more water cooling.

So, why does cooler water make the fish feed? In short, so many of the small prey species that arrive in the spring, have grown to maturity and are prepared to move out of the back bays, creeks and rivers and these movements are triggered by falling temperatures. Add the onset of outgoing tides and you have a perfect recipe for heavy feeding.

Fish are aggressive, food is more readily available, the boating and fishing traffic has reduced and the comfort level is significantly better to spend a day outside. Sounds like a perfect time to go and enjoy the outdoors.    

Fishing Galveston Bay in September and October

Eric Valentino dillman Fishing Galveston Bay in September and October

Eric Valentino and Capt. Dillman after a good day on the water.

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

All I can say is “Wow! It’s hard to believe that summer is over. I know it is not the official end according to the calendar, but I go by the start of the school year. What can we expect for September and October this year? Hopefully no more hurricanes and a little cooler weather would be a welcome change.

Most people have their own predication if we are going to experience an early fall weather pattern. From what I am seeing and hearing, all indicators point to an early fall here in Texas. Hummingbirds have made an earlier than normal migration, I have also heard of sightings of teal along the coast. Sand trout, and plenty of them, were caught in Galveston Bay the first week of August. Normally all this happens towards the latter part of August, not the first week.

September and October are what I would consider transition months along the Upper Coast for fishing. As the water temperature drops, fish begin their migration north into the back bays of the Galveston Complex. I have already experienced the migration pattern with good action in Trinity Bay during August. In September and October we should see a bigger push of fish into the northern reaches of East, Trinity and Galveston Bays. Why? Bait, bait and more bait! Tides will begin to drop with each passing front. As the shrimp and shad get pushed out of the marsh, they become easy prey for predator fish.

So what’s the best bait?

While some fish will still be caught on live croaker, live shrimp will be the go-to natural bait. Lure fisherman will also do well, with soft plastics being the lure of choice. Eagle Point Fishing Camp will carry croaker and live shrimp during these months.

September and October is also the start of hunting season in Texas. Dove and teal season open in September for the bird hunters. Deer season is around the corner, so now is the time to prepare your lease and sight in those rifles! A special archery season for deer opens September 30.

This time of year is special for the sportsman in Texas. Get out and enjoy this transition period. Hopefully we can dodge a major weather system and enjoy this amazing time of year in Texas and the Upper Coast!

Fishing with Capt. Bob Drisgill of Mangus II Charters

1780837 732578573430677 31827598 n Fishing with Capt. Bob Drisgill of Mangus II Charters

Captain Bob Drisgill

manguslogo Fishing with Capt. Bob Drisgill of Mangus II Charters

Interview by Kelly Groce

Captain Bob “Mangus” Drisgill is a guide out of Moses Lake fishing the Galveston Bay complex for over two decades now. Bob has led myself and teammates to two consecutive first place wins at the Galveston Bay Foundation’s Ladies Casting for Conservation fishing tournament. Winning these tournaments with Bob was a great experience, but having the honor to see his passion for fishing is the best reward. Bob has a contagious attitude and every fish caught is a special moment.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Baltimore, Md. Yup, I’m a yankee. I graduated high school in 1969.

How long have you been fishing? When did you start your guide service?
25 years at least. I’ve had my guide service for 16 years, but been doing it full time for about 11 years.

What kind of boat do you run?
A 21’ Mako Center Console with a brand new 200 HP Evinrude motor.

Do you remember your first fish?
My dad was an electrician on the railroad for 40 years. There were some docks nearby, so when I was a kid I would fish there. My first fish was a big perch.

What is your fishing specialty or target fish?
Speckled trout. I do catch a lot of redfish and flounder, but my main target fish is speckled trout.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment?
Every time I go fishing is a special moment. When anyone gets on my boat, I want to see them catch a fish. I get so excited when I see customers catch fish. When that feeling stops, I’ll stop fishing. I love catching trout, can’t get enough of that funky stuff!

Bass Assassin 4” Sea Shad in Texas Roach

If you could only have one soft plastic and one hard bait what would they be?
If I could only have one soft plastic it would be the Bass Assassin 4” Sea Shad in the color Texas Roach. It’s my favorite in off-colored water or clear water, it will catch fish. For a hard bait I would have to go with a good topwater in silver and black.

What is the biggest mistake you see fisherman making?
The biggest mistake I see is boaters not having respect for other boaters. There’s no etiquette anymore. Everybody’s got fish rage, it’s just like road rage out there.

Fisherman also need to educate themselves on how to handle and release fish the proper way. People take photos of fish and put it back in the water, which is fine, but who knows if it’s going to live. They aren’t freshwater fish, these are saltwater fish.

What are some things anglers should key in on during September and October to be successful fishing?
September and October is a transition going from summer to fall. It’s like February to March in the spring time. I’d say key in on bird action, especially in October. Seagulls will start working early morning in the bay system, which will tell you where the trout are. Not as much big trout action in September or October, but should be able to find plenty of redfish. You’ll catch the occasional flounder until late November, when it starts getting colder outside.

Capt. Bob Drisgill’s target fish is speckled trout.

Do you have a favorite tide stage for fish?
A good incoming tide with a light southeast breeze, which you rarely get, but that’s my favorite. I will fish either incoming or outgoing, but I like incoming the best.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in our area from when you first started fishing?
There has been an explosion of the amount of people on the water. There’s nothing secret anymore with cell phones and social media, it wasn’t like that 15 years ago. Environmentally wise it’s changed, especially with the power plants over the years. They dumped a lot of stuff in the water that wasn’t supposed to be dumped.

Favorite place you’ve ever fished?
My backyard, Moses Lake.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the regulations or conservation efforts?
Well, people are pushing for this 5 fish limit for speckled trout. I don’t see a problem with keeping the 10 fish limit on the trout. The population of specks in Galveston Bay is plentiful. And as far as redfish goes, we have a 3 fish limit with 1 oversized that I think is a good deal.

As far as conservation goes, I really appreciate what the Galveston Bay Foundation does to help our bay prosper.

Also, if people stop throwing stuff like fishing line and other trash in the water, that will help out. It’s bad for our wildlife and can cause problems for boats. Everyone needs to be more conservative.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?
If I’m not fishing you can find me in the poker room. I love to play poker. I have a passion for competition with myself and amongst others. That’s why I like fishing so much.

Contact Capt. Bob Drisgill by phone at 409-682-9106 or go to www.mangus2charters.com.

 

Choose the right fishing weight

fishing weights Choose the right fishing weight

The different types of fishing weights.

By Capt. Joe Kent

While writing the fishing report each day for the Galveston Daily News, there are many questions that readers ask about fishing and fishing equipment.  One question that crops up fairly often has to do with fishing weights.

The inquiries are generated by anglers who shop at tackle stores or bait shops and see a wide variety of weights on the shelves and are curious as to how to distinguish between the choices.  Another common question about weights has to do with a recommendation of what weight or weights should be used for a particular type of fishing.

Hopefully this article will shed some light on those questions and provide some useful information about how and when to use the various weights.

Browsing around the fishing weight displays in tackle shops can be a confusing adventure, as most of the larger operations have dozens of different types on display with only a few being popular with fishermen.

Determine Your Use

Before getting into the various weights available, let’s address a basic question.  For what type of fishing is the weight designed?  Casting for trout and reds involves different types of weights than say surf fishing or offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.  Pier fishing also has its unique type of weights.

For most types of fishing, the objective is to get your bait down with the least amount of weight.  Currents, wave action and wind all effect the choice of weights.

When viewing the choices of weights at most tackle stores there are several that stand out and for purposes of this article we will focus on the most popular along the upper Texas coast.

croak 153x300 Choose the right fishing weight

Photo of Atlantic Croaker caught on a headboat off the coast of Ocean City Maryland.

Pier and Bank Fishing

For bank and pier fishermen who cast baits with a double drop leader and weight at the bottom, the most popular are the bank sinker, pyramid and bell weights.  All come in varied sizes and are designed to get the rig (leader, hooks and weight) to the bottom quickly before the “trash fish” attack on the way down is successful.

This type of fishing is great for pan fish and is the most convenient and popular style when fishing from piers, rock groins and jetties with dead bait.

Live shrimp is a top choice for speckled trout.

Live Bait

When using live bait, other weights are the answer and again the objective is to get your bait out there and to a depth where the fish are feeding.  This is much more challenging than just getting your baits to the bottom.

Current strength is the key to choosing the right weight and just as important, the type of weight.  When fishing for most game fish, whether from a pier, wading or a boat, a slip weight is the best choice.  Slip weights include egg weights and the easily changeable rubber grip weights and pinch weights.  All are found in various sizes and again the choice is determined by where you want your bait in relation to the current flow.

Another of the detachable weights is the split shot which is easily attached and removed from fishing lines and is one of the smaller weights.  This weight is popular with anglers free-lining bait with little resistance.

Surf Fishing

One weight that gets more attention or curiosity than most is the odd looking surf fishing bait called the Sputnik.  The name comes from its resembling a satellite with antennas.  This bait is popular with surf fishermen as it digs into the sand and is not nearly as affected by wave action and tidal flow as other weights.  It also is popular with anglers fishing rocky or debris filled areas, as the wire protrusions we call antennas are much more easily removed from being stuck in the rocks or debris.

Red grouper

Offshore Fishing

Finally, we deal with offshore weights.  While heavy pyramid, bank and egg weights are popular for getting baits down to the reef fish, the trolling weights have been found to move the rigs faster to the bottom.  The reason is their slim design that does not displace as much water as other bottom weights.

While there is a desirable and proper weight out there for whatever your choice of fishing, remember the key to all of this is to get your bait to its desired location with the least amount of resistance.

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.