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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.

Squarebill Crankbaits for Speckled Trout

June 30th, 2017

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

June 30th, 2017

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.

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!!

Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

February 25th, 2015

travistrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Travis Haight with a seven-pound speck.

By Capt. Joe Kent

We addressed the effects of oyster reefs on Galveston Bay fishing in the last edition of Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine and now we will expand on this by discussing fishing the reefs of Galveston Bay.

To begin, let’s take a look at the definition of a reef.  A reef is “a ridge of rock, sand, coral etc. the top of which lies close to the surface of the sea; a ridge or mound-like structure built by sedentary calcareous organisms and consisting mainly of their remains.”

In the Galveston Bay Complex we have both natural and artificial reefs.

The natural reefs consist of oyster reefs, clam shell reefs and sand reefs.

taylorhuntertrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Taylor Hunter caught this five-pound trout while wadefishing.

The artificial or man-made reefs consist of shell, sand and gravel beds associated with oil and gas production facilities or old tires and steel reefs that are mainly oil and gas wells. Artificial reefs associated with oil and gas facilities are not permanent and are removed soon after the well or platform is abandoned.

Tire reefs (chaining together old tires) are beginning to become more prevalent with the demise of so many of our natural reefs.  Lower West Bay is the location of one of the popular tire reefs.

Once, oyster reefs dominated the reef picture; however, following Hurricane Ike in 2008, that

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

domination ended and now oyster reefs make up a much smaller portion or our reefs and fishing grounds.

Clam shell reefs have a presence in upper Galveston and Trinity Bays; however, they are not as prolific as in other bay systems east of here.  The few we have do offer some excellent fishing much in the same manner as oyster reefs.

Sand reefs become more numerous the closer we get to the Gulf of Mexico especially around the passes. Sand reefs should not be confused with sand bars which are defined as “ridges of sand formed in a river or along a shore by the action of waves or currents”.

While artificial reefs do not initially meet the definition of reefs, after a time they become infested with barnacles and other growth that cause them to expand in size and come within the meaning of a reef.

Now that we know more about reefs in Galveston Bay, let’s discuss how to fish them.

Reef fishing is productive in all but the coldest months of winter.  They are most productive in the spring and fall, two seasons when tides run unusually high.  The reefs most affected by this are the shell and artificial reefs.

Deeper reefs are productive all year, especially in the summer when trout go to deeper waters.  A high percentage of the deep reefs are artificial and associated with oil and gas facilities.

The best of the reefs for fishing are the live reefs that have a wealth of small marine life around which in turn starts the food chain to moving.  Farther up the food chain are the predator fish which come to feed on the lesser species such as crustaceans.

The shell and artificial reefs offer hiding places for the lower of the food chain that is until the tide begins to move and that is when the action turns on.

Fishing the reefs is best when using a float to keep the bait from snagging on the rough foundation. Live bait is the choice of most anglers.

Speckled trout have sensitive skin and are most often caught around the edges of the reefs.  On the other hand, fish with scales and strong jaws or teeth are found feeding on the bottom eating crabs, live barnacles and other residents of the reefs.  Sheepshead and black drum are two examples of the mid-reef bottom feeders.

Other fish are found feeding on the food chain as well.  Panfish are usually thick around reefs.

Sand reefs are fished mostly by wading.  Fish feed on the wide variety of marine live that burrows into the sand for shelter and, as with the shell reefs, tidal movement sends them running for safety and again that is the best time to be fishing.

Without our reefs, fishing would not be as good in Galveston Bay.  Hopefully we will see an aggressive program get underway to restore our oyster reefs and add more permanent artificial reefs.

Submit your fishing photos for our print and web editions to art@baygroupmedia.com




Which is the Best Trout Bait? Live Shrimp vs. Croaker

April 28th, 2014

liveshrimpcroaker Which is the Best Trout Bait? Live Shrimp vs. Croaker

By Capt. Joe Kent

For years Galveston Bay anglers have debated the topic of whether live croaker or live shrimp is the best trout bait. Each side of the debate has experience on their side and neither seems willing to compromise.

So, let’s take a closer look at this topic and present some facts that will allow those not intimately involved in the debate to decide for themselves.

Many of you have experienced the same situation that I have in that, while out on the water fishing for speckled trout and the other two of the Saltwater Big 3, flounder and reds, we would be fishing near another boat that was taking trout right and left while nothing much was touching our live shrimp.

After all, live shrimp has been known to be at the top of the list for game fish for years and here we are anchored over a reef, around the jetties or other popular fishing spot and that boat next to us is hammering trout.  After careful observation we discover that the anglers have a little fish on their line and are casting and working it like bottom-bumping live shrimp.

The little fish on the end of the line is a small live croaker and for some reason the trout schooling in the area seem to find the bait irresistible. Our live shrimp are attracting a variety of fish including a few specks; however, the big girls, yellow-mouth sows are hitting croaker.

It wasn’t until about 20 or so years ago that anglers began using live croaker for bait around the Galveston Bay Complex and, since then, the bait has competed with shrimp for the livewell.

This brings us to why croakers have become such a popular bait and how live shrimp have held their own with the competition.

sowtrout Which is the Best Trout Bait? Live Shrimp vs. Croaker

Jason Williamson with his personal best 8.69 pound, 30” trout caught in Galveston Bay.

Croakers are the natural enemy of speckled trout, especially the large sows.

For starters, it wasn’t long ago that rumors circulated that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was going to propose outlawing the sale of live croaker for bait.  Two reasons were cited, the bait produced easy limits of specks and their popularity was pressuring the stocks of croakers in the bays. That rumor fueled interest in using small live croaker for bait.

While it is a debatable topic as to whether live bait catches more fish than artificials, it is something to consider that most successful fishing guides rarely leave the dock without it. The reason is that live bait tends to catch fish when artificials will not.  This tends to please their customers as well.

Speckled trout have an assortment of marine life in their diet; however, the age of the fish dictates its food preference.  Smaller specks tend to prefer shrimp while the larger fish choose bait fish. This is a general rule and an example to the contrary is during late spring when large trout along with other sizes concentrate on migrating shrimp.

Croakers are the natural enemy of speckled trout, especially the large sows.  During the spring spawning season, croaker will often feed on trout eggs and that does not sit well with mamma trout. The result is that sow trout will feed on croaker as a defense when the occasion rises.

Live shrimp on the other hand is debatably the most popular bait along the Texas Coast. Practically all fish have a taste for the lively crustacean and they generally are more widely available at bait camps.

While shrimp will attract larger numbers of fish, croakers tend to appeal mostly to trout, especially the larger fish, and virtually eliminate the bait snatching pan fish.

Croakers are a hardier bait and can with stand more casts than live shrimp before rolling over.  Lesser numbers of croaker are wasted as a result.

What other factors should you look for when deciding on which bait to use? If possible, from late spring through fall take both along on your fishing trip. Just do not mix them in the same live well.

The warm months tend to be best for croaker while shrimp are a year-round choice for bait. Deeper waters vs shallow shorelines favor croaker.

If croakers are not available, try small pinfish (often called “piggies”) or fingerling mullet if finfish is your choice for bait.

It is hard to go wrong with either croaker or live shrimp, so the choice is yours.

 

Catch a big trout? Send your pics to art@baygroupmedia.com or post to our Facebook.

The best photos will be published each issue.




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.