E arly in my surf fishing “career,” I can remember a nice, sunny Sunday evening in February near San Luis Pass—on the Galveston side.
After a chilly Saturday and a cold night, temperatures warmed enough to venture out in shorts and a Tee shirt, at least briefly—as long as you didn’t actually go in the water that way.
My friend. Dave, and I had gone to the shore mostly to “get away,” not actually expecting to catch anything. But with the warmer air and little wind we caught a few small stingrays and some hard heads —better than a sharp stick in the eye.
Later, Dave reeled in a decent sized “Gulf” trout, which would sort of be a sand trout caught in the Gulf, and not the bay. In better fishing weather at a better time of the year, this small fish would have been instant bait, but on that particular day it seemed special.
The attractive golden hue was especially welcome after a dreary start to the trip, and as it flopped on the wet sand just past the receding foam from the last wave there was a sense of promise, that spring—and better fishing weather—was actually on its way, maybe just around the corner?
Although February is hardly a prime month for surf fishing, I have caught, or have seen caught, bull reds in the suds in every month of the year—including February. Of course, I used to spend a great deal of my time surf fishing.
Besides reds and Gulf trout, I have seen large black drum, croakers, an occasional small flounder, and at least one smallish bull shark taken in the surf on warm February days.
The drum fishing was actually better on the other side of the Pass off the old bulkhead near the KOA campground. That property is now a nice County Park (Brazoria), with a store and boat ramp, but the Pass side before entering the park should still be a good spot to intercept migrating drum.
While we are on the subject of Gulf trout, boaters catching a calm day can hit near shore reefs and banks and sometimes find good concentrations of these often overlooked fish. There are no limits or seasons on Gulf trout, but there will usually be some smallish red snappers in the same habitat, and these are completely off limits in Federally controlled water beyond nine miles from the beach. Bluefish have no such restrictions, and fight harder than a small snapper.
Big blues can be found around rigs from just off the beach to 20 miles out or so, providing good light tackle action and decent eating. When bottom fishing in water over 50 feet or so in depth the sort of tackle used for snapper bottom fishing might be appropriate. Big blues fight hard, and on multi-hook leaders, more than one might join the battle.
Fishermen who venture into deeper water are always in a position to see or catch unseasonal sea creatures. I don’t advocate fishing for vermillion snapper any more, because there are too many red snapper that are caught incidentally and have to be released.
Red snappers—or any deep-water bottom fish—have a high release mortality rate, and are not good candidates for successful catch and release fishing. Still, there are tuna, wahoo, and even billfish in the waters along and beyond the 100-fathom curve, for those with the boat and the mind-set to go after them.
Location: Lighted piers and docks that allow fishing are good bets at night. Deep water in harbors or canals can hold fish day or night. In February warm spells, “meet” the fish in shallows near their deep-water winter haunts.
Species: Speckled trout and reds can be found. Pan fish such as croaker and sand trout will be more common, with some flounders as a welcome winter surprise.
Best Baits: Live bait is hard to come by this time of year, unless you catch your own—or use mud minnows. These hardy little fish will almost live without water, and will attract more than just flounders.
Best Times: Night fishing under lights can be good in cooler weather, but a warm, sunny day with good tidal flow can get them moving in shallower areas.
Email Mike Holmes at
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]