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Marsh Fishing in Spring

February 28th, 2018

redfish marsh fishing Marsh Fishing in Spring

Captain Clay Sheward hooked up to a redfish deep in the marsh.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

Spring may be the toughest season of all to figure out on the upper Texas Coast. It’s the first of our two annual transitional periods, and in my opinion, definitely the harder of the two to get a solid grasp on when it comes to patterning. With so many factors at play, March and April can wreck even the best made plans.

To gain a better understanding, we need to think first about where we are transitioning from. In a winter season like we’ve just had, the coldest in nearly 10 years, we truly put fish into a winter pattern. This is a pattern that can be predictable and reasonable easy to describe and understand. Fish tend to move slightly deeper and hold over certain types of structure or bay substrate. Food sources, though limited have become reliable and are somewhat easy to locate as they are larger and more visible than at other times of the year.

Temperature

At the first signs of spring, anglers can often do very well. Predatory fish move from deeper to shallower water as the air and water temperatures warm. The initial warming creates added temperature to the cold blooded fish as well as their prey. This change typically makes both more active and sends predators out in search of food. But this isn’t always the easiest thing for hungry predators to accomplish.

Everything is transient in spring; both predator and prey. Temperature and barometric pressure swings wildly during this period. Weather varies from mild to violent

and boating and fishing pressure is steadily increasing.

Wind, tide, temperature and timing; all of these factors play a major role in spring fishing. But the prevalence and types of available food for predators is still limited.

Spring Prey

Winter forage, like mullet and finfish are still present but the return, or emergence of other various food sources happens at a much slower pace than their departure during fall. Wintering crabs and shrimp that have buried in mud through the cooler months will be some of the earliest additions to the menu, followed by a slow trickle of various other small baitfish species. Keep in mind that this is a slow process that is triggered more so by the “photo period” or length of daylight versus darkness than it is by temperature. Many food sources don’t truly return in force until later in spring.

Wind

Wind is always a factor in spring, especially during the first half of the season. Light wind days are few and far between, and late season cold fronts can often push us well into the small craft advisory range. This doesn’t lend itself well to great fishing days and certainly doesn’t make spring inviting for anglers. With high winds come several other factors that influence fishing. High tides and rapid barometric pressure come to mind at the top of the list.

reds Marsh Fishing in Spring

Marcos Enriquez with a nice shallow water redfish.

High Tides

Discussions on high tides seem to happen repeatedly during spring. For those who fish open and deeper water areas, the significance is reduced dramatically. For those who fish relatively shallow waters, the impact is quite substantial.

Big rising tides push small prey animals deeper into marshes and other areas where they can find cover from predation. The host of predators, like redfish, trout and flounder, will follow. Often, this puts predator and prey out of reach of most boaters and increases the overall size of the area we have to search. Fish become like needles in a haystack.

It often seems like redfish enjoy exploring new territory, and high tides are the open invitation for them to take off wandering.

Pressure

The large swings in barometric pressure during spring can provide both good and bad fishing. Changes in pressure seem to create short windows of increased feeding activity, especially when they happen in conjunction with moving tides or a moon position that would already cause fish to hunt for food. We can’t fish purely around pressure changes, not predictably anyway. You can shoot for catching the big changes as fronts approach and pass the coastline, but safety and comfort are often compromised. More often than not, most of us as anglers are stuck with the days that we can get on the water. It’s interesting to note, that even small changes in the direction of barometric pressure movement can effect fish feeding behaviors. Steady pressure, or pressure that is steadily on the rise or fall, often yields stagnant fish feeding

Timing

Timing, as I mentioned earlier, can have a huge impact on our success rates in fishing. Knowing seasonal patterns is very helpful in understanding when fish tend to feed in certain areas. If you don’t have years of fishing log information, then you can only go and hope for the best in finding actively feeding fish or rely on local information. Often, springtime doesn’t follow the typical feeding periods normally associated with summer. Don’t be one of the anglers that hunt out a summer feeding pattern this early in the year.

Bottom line, springtime fishing requires more thought on average than any other season along the coast. Careful planning, understanding the conditions, researching or having years of experience can help greatly. Knowing the available food sources, and making appropriate adjustments in your lure arsenal can pay off with big dividends. Most of the new arrivals of prey animals are quite small, which often leads to day where even larger predatory species are focused on eating small but numerous meals.

With careful planning, and an educated approach, spring can pay big dividends of big trout. But, if you think that you’re going to find a summer pattern just because of the rapid warm up, you will be in for quite the surprise.

Get out and enjoy the warmer weather, and don’t be discouraged by the difficulties. Instead, use the time wisely to cover more water and seek out the patterns hidden within the season.

Fishing Bull Tides & Spring Winds

February 26th, 2015

souleredfish Fishing Bull Tides & Spring Winds

Torrey Hawkins releases a 29-inch marsh red.

By Capt. Steve Soule

Spring on the upper Texas Coast brings the return of many things, sunshine and warming temperatures are what we tend to notice the most.

springmarshflies Fishing Bull Tides & Spring WindsAs much as those two factors make us rush to the bays, they are not the keys to angling success in the Spring. Though they do in fact play an important role, they are not nearly as influential as most anglers believe them to be.

Conditions, specifically those that we can easily detect above the water, are not the same as those that a predator like a redfish or speckled trout feels below the water’s surface. If I was to give my personal estimation of the two conditional factors that have the greatest influence, they would have to be water temperature and daily photo period. These are what both predator and prey feel, and are the factors that drive spawning and the return to shallow bays and estuarine waters.

Beyond sun and rising water temps, wind is probably the most notable factor for anglers, and probably the one that is the most discouraging. We can’t change the wind and it isn’t always easy to forecast, but we should all understand its impact and learn to use it to our advantage.

Strong southerly winds and powerful incoming tides of Spring are the arteries that deliver the life blood to our coastal bays and estuaries. These will typically start bringing new life as early as February, and continue well into April and even May. These bull tides bring numerous prey species, along with their food sources, back to the shallows. Each of the returning animals’ migration, whether large or small in distance, is timed perfectly by the return or resurgence of their primary food sources.

An entire article could be dedicated to prey species, their eating habits and preferred habitat, but knowing a few factors that play critical roles in locating and catching trout and redfish are worthy of mention. Blue and stone crabs, white, brown and to a lesser degree, pink shrimp, glass minnows, menhaden and shad, as well as sheepshead minnows and many more all make their annual return to the estuaries during spring. They wash inshore on incoming tides towards lower salinity estuarine waters where they can thrive and find abundant microbial food sources.

The Bass Assassin Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken is a good springtime marsh bait. Purple is a common color in juvenile blue crabs.

The Bass Assassin Sea Shad in Slammin’ Chicken is a good springtime marsh bait. Purple is a common color in juvenile blue crabs.

The Norton Bull Minnow in Texas Roach is good for low visibility marsh water. Use 1/16-1/8 oz jigheads with these soft plastics.

The Norton Bull Minnow in Texas Roach is good for low visibility marsh water. Use 1/16-1/8 oz jigheads with these soft plastics.

As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds.

Just as these animals arrive, due to abundance of food, so do their predators. In nature, every step of the food chain is driven by three basic, instinctual needs: food, safety, and reproduction. Knowing this makes it very clear that to find our target fish, we must find its target or preferred food. As anglers, we can all benefit from a greater understanding of the life cycles and influences within our chosen fishing grounds. We must accept that sometimes the things that frustrate us the most can provide the greatest advancement in our angling skills.

Wind can make our fishing days challenging; knowing where those winds deposit concentrations of prey species can make them more productive. West Galveston Bay’s notorious winter “moss” can frustrate us to no end, but the realization that its “decay stage” provides possibly the largest food source for many returning and emerging prey species, might well make you look more closely at the areas most inundated.

Knowing some of the favorite prey species and their preferred habitat and food sources are great. Now, it’s up to you as a successful angler to locate them. Most of these small species are difficult to physically locate. Thankfully, there are some larger and more widespread animals that can help us locate the smaller food sources that often lead to greater catches. Since most every angler reading this has likely experienced fishing an area devoid of prey species and the ensuing unproductive day, we probably all can now see the importance of finding the food source.

Focus your efforts, whether on open bay shorelines, or in the marshes, on the areas populated by mullet. They are not only much easier to see, but they also eat the same decaying plant material that most of the smaller prey species dine on. Also, take the time to explore every stretch of water inhabited by shore birds such as egrets, herons, ibis and spoonbill. Areas where terns and gulls are diving are likely to have juvenile surface dwelling animals, riding currents. Many of these are extremely small and hard to see, but don’t think that hungry predators would pass up on the opportunity to feast on these helpless little morsels.

Wendell Breazele with a nice fly caught trout.

Wendell Breazele with a nice fly caught trout.

Don’t let the most transitional season deter your efforts, use this season to explore and use your angling skills to locate fish in places you haven’t often looked. You will find, that even though spring fishing can be very challenging, it can also be very productive for those who armed with knowledge. You might just find some very aggressive fish that are waiting to reward you with explosive strikes.