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Galveston Bay’s Promising Outlook

October 31st, 2017

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.

Fishing with Capt. James Plaag

September 6th, 2017

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.

Fall into Great Galveston Fishing

September 6th, 2017

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.    

High Tide Redfish Hunting

June 30th, 2017

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.

Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

January 3rd, 2017

big speckled trout Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

Finding trout and redfish when the water goes cold

By Capt. Joe Kent

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

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

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

corky 300x197 Galveston Winter Fishing: Deep Or Shallow?

Paul Brown’s Original Suspending Twitchbait in Copper Top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shell bottoms also are popular especially in deeper waters.

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

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

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

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

Galveston Bay Winter Fishing – What to do?

January 3rd, 2017

By Capt. David C Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures409-632-0924

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

Windy Marshall with a cold weather trout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out in the cold

January 1st, 2017

winter marsh redfish Out in the cold

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

By Capt. Steve Soule | www.theshallowist.com

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

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

mullet baitfish 300x166 Out in the cold

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

Winter Food Sources

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

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

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

American White Pelican

Winter Bird Signs

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

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

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

Temperature and Tide Factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Right Gear for Redfish

October 31st, 2016

asoulered16 The Right Gear for Redfish

Alisha Soule with Galveston marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.theshallowist.com

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

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

Redfish Gear

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

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

Spinning Rods

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

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

Baitcasting Rods

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

 redfishfly 3 The Right Gear for Redfish

Fly Rods

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

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

The Things We Throw

Norton Bull Minnow in Roach

Norton Bull Minnow in Roach

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

Bass Assassin Lures 4" Sea Shad in Slammin' Chicken

Bass Assassin Lures 4″ Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Quick Tips On Maintaining Your Gear

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

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

Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

August 31st, 2016

lightfoottrout Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

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

By Capt. Steve Soule | theshallowist.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

lightfootred Galveston Redfish and Trout Tactics in September

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

Pick your species and pick your poison

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

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

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

Galveston Bay Fall Transition Fishing

August 30th, 2016

spectroutstring Galveston Bay Fall Transition Fishing

Gary Speer and Randy with a good trout stringer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight Lines!!

Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

March 3rd, 2014

galvestonbaycomplex Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay Complex

By Capt. Joe Kent

Earlier this year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducted scoping hearings around the state to present their ideas on long-term management of our fish stocks and to receive input from sportsmen on their views about changes in size and bag limits for certain fish.

While the stocks of our big three, flounder, reds and trout, currently are in good shape, biologists feel that long range planning needs to start in order to assure adequate stocks of that resource for future generations.

Of particular concern to the biologists is the forecasted future of the Galveston Bay Complex and the potential changes that lie ahead for that body of water.

The cause of the immediate concern is the reduction in quantity and quality of fresh water forecasted for Galveston Bay.  With rising populations along the feeder rivers, water consumption will continue to increase thus reducing the amount flowing into the wetlands and bay itself.  Of equal concern are the multiple treatments the water goes through before it reaches the coast.  Each treatment process adds chemicals to the water and filters out nutrients.

One of the detriments to the reduced flow of water will be an increase in salinity levels through-out the complex.  This will have an adverse effect on the wetlands.

marshshrimp Changes Ahead for the Galveston Bay ComplexApproximately 98% of all finfish and shellfish are dependent upon the wetlands either as part of their life cycle or as part of their food chain.  This does not take into account the role of wetlands as part of the life cycles of waterfowl and other forms of life.

The marshes, swamps and other forms of wetlands offer a filtering effect for water and, through the filtering process, collect microscopic marine life that feeds the next layer in the food chain.  The wetlands also are a buffer when hurricanes hit the coast and absorb part of the brunt of the storm before it reaches higher land.

Last, but not least, the wetlands offer recreational aspects for fishermen, hunters and nature lovers, including bird watchers.

An increase in salinity along with less water will further reduce the ever shrinking acreage along the upper Texas Coast.

So, what do biologists foresee will happen?  During a visit with Lance Robinson and other personnel connected with the TPWD’s Dickinson Marine Lab we touched upon this topic.

First, Galveston Bay, unlike fresh water reservoirs, will retain its water levels due to tidal ebb and flow from the Gulf.  The difference is going to be in higher salinity levels and less wetlands.  So, how will this affect our fish?

It is foreseen that different species will begin appearing, much like the presence of mangrove snapper in the bays over the last three years.  Mangroves are warm water fish and one of the first to be affected by cold weather.

During the 2012 light freeze along the coast mangroves or gray snapper as they also are called were the primary fish, besides bait fish, that were found floating after the cold spell.  No significant kills of game fish occurred although speckled trout are close behind mangroves in their lack of cold water tolerance.

Beside mangroves, the higher than normal water temperatures attracted offshore fish such as gag grouper that were rarely seen in the bays in earlier years.

Another factor with potential fish changing effects is the proposed deepening of the Houston Ship Channel up to Pelican Island.  The deeper channel from the Gulf of Mexico likely will bring in more species that are typically found offshore and add to the flow of Gulf waters into the bay.

So, what can we expect in the future?  Change is about all that can be counted upon at this stage.  Some fish will adapt while other will not and the survivors migrate to other areas.

All of this leads up to support of conservation efforts to protect our current stocks.  Catch and release along with limited retention of fish is a practice all anglers are going to have to employ if we are interested in our future generations enjoying this sport.