by Capt. Joe Kent
Capt. Joe Kent and Gulf Coast Mariner’s Director of Art, Brandon Rowan with a 65-pound ling. This big fish was found on a small, sparse patch of weed 50 miles out of Galveston.
We often read about the prolific offshore fishing Texas offers during the prime months of July and August; however, not much is mentioned about the fall fishing offshore Texas, especially in September and October.
One reason fishing articles no longer mention much about offshore fishing during the fall is because red snapper are one of the prime targets, or at least they were before Federal regulations limited the fishing season to just a few weeks beginning June 1 each year.
This year, deep-sea anglers may have an opportunity to fish for the prized table fare during October if the Gulf Council of the National Marine Fisheries Council has its way. The council was to make its formal recommendation in Mid-August, after press time for this article.
If the recommendation is approved and added days are set for October, this will be a bonus for offshore fishermen in Federal Waters. Regardless, red snapper fishing is open year-round in state waters. Fall is prime time for this species to be found in the shallower waters controlled by the State of Texas within nine Nautical Miles of shore.
The populations of snapper have increased dramatically over the past five years with the quality and quantity of the fish resembling what I recall from 20 years ago.
One of the advantages of fall snapper fishing is that the distances needed to travel are much less than in the summer. During the warm summer months, most of the better snapper fishing takes place beyond 40 miles out of Galveston, while during the cooler months decent-sized fish can be found in state waters and in the near Federal waters nine to 20 miles out.
Even though we talk about the virtues of fall red snapper fishing, the pelagic fish still are around. While perhaps not in the concentrations as in July and August, king mackerel, ling, dorado, bonito, sharks and others continue to roam the near shore waters of the Gulf.
Tasty mangrove snapper make an excellent subsitute when red snapper is not in season.
One of my best days ever for dorado came in late September of 2000 while fishing approximately 30 miles out of San Luis Pass. At the time, red snapper season ran from June 1 until September 28. While anchored near an offshore platform, a weed line drifted by and behind it was a large school of dorado in the 10 to 18-pound category. Every line on our boat had a fish on it and the dorado stayed around until we had boated 12.
Other species of reef fish including vermilion snapper, mangroves, grouper and others are in close preparing for winter and are easy targets for anglers fishing the bottom.
One pattern that I have observed is an inverse relationship between pelagic fish and reef fish with each passing cold front, less pelagic fish are around yet the populations of reef fish tend to increase.
By now most of you have thought of another big plus for fall fishing offshore and that is the pleasant conditions in which to fish. The extreme heat of summer is behind us and pleasant temperatures are usually the norm.
Offshore anglers are encouraged to brush up on the Federal Regulations before making a trip as they do differ from the well-published state rules. For example, there is a two-fish bag limit on red snapper in Federal Waters compared to a four-fish limit in state waters.
Snapper Slappers are effective for a variety of species found in the Gulf. Try a brightly colored 1 oz. lure tipped with squid for dorado on weedlines, or drop a big 5 oz. slapper with a sardine on the circle assist hook for that sow snapper.
Recently, the Federal Government removed the requirement for having a deflating device on board and reduced the bag limit for vermilion snapper from 20 to 10 per day. Circle hooks are required for fishing for reef fish in both Federal and State Waters
In the fall, there is less boat traffic offshore which is good for fishing but a problem if you get stranded. This time of year it is especially important to leave a float plan with someone onshore who would be one of the first to be aware if you were not back on time.
Take advantage of our great fall weather and make it out to one of the wells and platforms out of Galveston, you might be surprised at what is waiting for your bait.