Find a piece of shell, any piece of reef in Matagorda, and chances are there are fish lingering nearby. Bloated May tides coupled with ardent southeast winds raise water levels nearly a foot above normal.
When prime aquatic real estate like reefs become submerged with fresh saltwater tides, species like speckled trout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, flounder, gafftop and hardheads gravitate to the structure. Such is normally the case in May.
Professional captains regularly begin and end their day over oyster shell. Live shrimp under a popping cork is normally the chosen offering, however, when tides rise to extreme levels the reefs in the back lakes are better choices.
In Matagorda, skippers worked large pieces of shell like Oyster Lake, Crab Lake, Shell Island, Twin Islands and smaller reefs along the south shoreline of West Bay.
"The trout are normally fat and solid," said guide Lee Warmke of Half-Breed Guide Service. "We get on them pretty quick on live shrimp when we find shell with active baitfish."
Higher tides hinder waders a bit. Speaking from experience, trout are much tougher to pattern as they scatter on the flats with the overabundance of water.
Trout, reds and other prime fish gravitate to structure submerged by fresh saltwater tides. Photo: Bink Grimes
When water levels are normal, there are consistent hotspots on flats and shorelines where fish appear first on the incoming or outgoing tide. Thats not necessarily the case on flood tides like we experience in May, and catches suffer because of it. Waders who enjoy good catches on bloated tides concentrate tight to the shorelines or relocate to shorelines in the back lakes.
"Fish scatter with all of the water, but when it (water) falls out again the trout will show up where they always do," said guide Charlie Paradoski.
Dont be surprised to find sporadic bird action in May on outgoing tides. It may seem early, but some brown shrimp will be migrating through the bays; and, with calm conditions, you can work the birds like the fall of the year.
Light winds also give up good catches for drifters on deep reef. Find fresh fish slicks and work upwind with your favorite plug or plastic.
Another potential bright spot in May is the surf. Light winds and water temperatures in the mid 70s are a recipe for bent rods, especially if the surf is green to the beach with the morning incoming tide.
If the surf turns flat, drop everything, call in sick, head south and dont stop until you feel sand between your toes. Solid trout will be waiting to eat a topwater, soft plastic or live shrimp. Work the guts and bars and notice where finger mullet are staging - trout will be within a cast.
The first good catches of trout in the surf are caught every year in May. These solid stringers are a preview of what is to come for the remainder of the summer when winds subside and the Gulf becomes tranquil again.