In October, fall has officially fell! This means at least somewhat cooler temperatures, normally rather calm waters with good tidal movement and decent clarity - and redfish! Whether you prefer wading a bay reef, drifting the jetties, or long rod casting from the surf or a beachfront pier, reds of all legal sizes should be abundant and hungry. Although taking bay redfish on top water plugs is possible and very exciting, a reds mouth is actually better constructed for bottom feeding, which means they eat a lot of crabs, sea lice, and bottom hugging baitfish. For a red, it helps if that baitfish is either dead or injured, so fresh cut bait can be almost as effective as live bait. Almost, because a live finger mullet tethered to a hook appears crippled to a predator, yet it can still move enough to send out tantalizing vibrations. If that small mullet was to have his tail cut off - which I would never do for fear of angering "animal rights" groups and possibly being sued by a different sort of mullet than I am accustomed to facing in court - the scent attraction is amplified greatly and it no longer has to pretend to be wounded.
I have mentioned before in this column the extra attraction of dead shrimp at times over live shrimp. Many years ago I hosted a friend who had coached my high school football team in an afternoon of fishing on Chocolate Bayou, appropriately enough, in October. Since time was limited, I took him to a small cove on the east bank of the bayou, not far from the then Monsanto Chemical Company docks. Quite by accident, we found that reds seemed to be staging on a small gravel point, in very shallow water. A dead shrimp - which was the only kind we had by then - cast on top of the point, would almost immediately be dragged off by a decent red. Casting anywhere but exactly on top of the gravel would find the bait completely ignored. We were able to get quick limits of nice reds and be back at the dock well within our allotted time, with my ex-coach convinced I was some sort of hotshot redfish guide. That spot never paid off quite as well on other trips, but I could just about always pick up a good fish or two there on trips when a good fish or two made for a much happier day.
It would be logical to assume there are many spots like this one in the various brackish bayous feeding the Galveston Bay system, as fall is a prime time for reds in these transition waters.
In the surf, bull reds are more abundant now than possibly any other time of year. Common folklore has it that these breeder fish come to rough surf to spawn, but my own theory is that they spawn in deep water offshore, and come to the surf to feed instead. I base this partly on never having caught a "bull" containing eggs in the surf, and I have caught quite a few over the years. The near shore Gulf doesnt have a lot of structure to shelter bait - except for the sandbars and breakers just off the beach. The surf doesnt have to be off-color, either, as I have taken my largest reds in clear, green surf. Live mullet has been my preferred bull red bait, although I have caught some on skipjacks, and have seen them taken by others on large shad and even squid. Wire leaders keep sharks and other toothy critters from escaping, or a red from cutting the leader on a sharp piece of shell. Wire pronged "spider weights" keep the bait from moving along the bottom, yet pull free easily under the pressure of a heavy fish. Long rods are necessary to cast into good water, and reels with a minimum of 300 yards of 30# mono have served me best.
A bait offered to redfish might be picked up by a shark, stingray, tarpon, or kingfish - Ive seen it happen with all of these species. I also remember the day that my fishing buddy and I were napping after a night of fruitlessly watching the rod tips of our bull red gear when his wife woke us to show off a 17 pound red she took on a closed face spinning rig wading the first shallow bar - and dunking dead shrimp!
THE BANK BITE
Location: The surf, jetties, piers and rock groins plus wade able bay reefs. San Luis Pass can be good, but please watch the currents.
Species: Trout, pan fish and flounder are around, and will help pass the time while prospecting for reds.
Best Baits: Smaller reds will jump on gold spoons and sometimes top water lures. They also hit just about any jig, from large soft plastics down to tandem-rigged, nylon skirted "Spec Rigs". Bull reds want natural bait, from finger mullet to big "horse" mullet.
Best Times: Early and late in the day, or at night - depending largely on the tides.
Capt. Mike Holmes runs charters on a classic 31 Bertram. To book a trip, call