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Fools Rush In

May 3rd, 2017

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.

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.

Kayak Fishing at Night

March 3rd, 2014

nightyak Kayak Fishing at Night

Be it causeway bridge lights or canal green lights, kayak fishing at night is a great option for chasing down trout and redfish. A yak allows you the stealth to approach a light with caution and the mobility to fish a whole series of lights. Night kayaking can be an exhilarating experience but it is not for the novice, and requires some special care and equipment. It is a good idea to fish with one or more kayakers on your first outing. It also helps if you have paddled the area during the day. Things can look very different at night.

mtipfd 300x300 Kayak Fishing at Night

MTI Fisher PFD

Required Gear for Night Kayaking

Lighting System. Kayakers are required to display a white light with unobstructed 360-degree visibility. A quick visit to www.ACK.com reveals several options for LED/flag combos that get your light high above the water’s surface. You don’t want to be so stealthy that boats are running you down.

Personal Flotation Device. The USCG requires that a life jacket be readily accessible, but it strongly recommended that kayakers wear one at all times, especially at night. Plus, most type III fishing specific PFDs are riddled with pockets and double as a wearable tackle box.

Whistle or Horn. It needs to be audible up to a half a mile away. A loud whistle is easily kept in one of your PFD’s pockets.

Princeton Tec EOS headlamp

Princeton Tec EOS headlamp

Recommended Gear

Headlamp. This is crucial. A headlamp keeps your hands free and lets you see what you’re doing when tying knots or dealing with a landed fish. Choose a water resistant lamp like the Princeton Tec EOS.

Anchor. Spend more time fishing by keeping yourself properly situated with an anchor. This is a good strategy for relatively calm canals but keep in mind that not all locations are safe for you to set anchor. For example, there is debris below the Galveston Causeway that can snag your anchor; this combined with a fast flowing tide can flip you over. Try using a drift chute in this situation; it will keep you within casting distance longer without creating a dangerous situation.

Multiple Rods. If you have this luxury, and the rod holder space, it saves time to have two or more rods rigged with different lures if you encounter finicky fish. You don’t want to be bogged down changing lures when the bite is hot.

Cellphone or VHF. Carry in a waterproof bag. You never know what might happen out on the water.

greenlights

Etiquette

Neighborhood canal or pier lights. This is a touchy and heavily discussed subject that draws many opinions. But the fact is these lights are in public water and can be fished by the public. That being said, you are not paying the electric bill and should be respectful to these homeowners.

Be quiet. Tidal flow and moon phase is always a factor but some of the best fishing happens after midnight. If you are lucky and can fish on weekdays be as quiet as you can. Avoid pointing your headlamp toward properties. Don’t drop your anchor loudly into the kayak but rather bring it in gently. If you are with a group of kayakers do not yell or talk loudly. If the dog starts barking and won’t stop? It’s time to move.

Be friendly. If you come upon a populated pier or dock say hello and ask if it is okay to fish. Many bay houses are vacation rentals and the inhabitants may not be interested in fishing. But other times, people are waiting for fish to really crowd the light before they begin their effort. If they ask you to leave, be respectful, be courteous and move on.

Respect property. Never, ever tie off to any private dock or structure. The water is public but the dock is not. You could be mistaken for a thief and that is not something you want to do in Texas. Also avoid casting too close to any structure or directly to an underwater green light. If you snag these objects you lose a lure and piss off a homeowner in one fell swoop. Plus, the big fish are usually on the edge of the light’s reach.

Just Move. Some homeowners feel very strongly about you fishing their lights. Don’t feel too bad if the light you are fishing suddenly goes dark. It happens. It is the homeowner’s right to keep their lights on or off. Just move. If someone comes out and starts yelling, cursing or insulting all you hold dear, don’t get sucked in. Keep your cool and just move.

Causeway or “public” lights. Stay out of the middle of channels and high traffic areas. Be aware of fast flowing currents and tidal changes. If the light you intend to fish is occupied, find another one.