I t is hard to remember the drought Texas suffered through in the recent past, with heavy rain and flooding leading off the news most days.
Although there was a dry spell during the summer of 2015, it was squeezed between two periods of heavy, even excessive rainfall. Autumn was also very wet, so most rivers and coastal streams hit flood stage.
Luckily, our only real hurricane threat was from a storm in the Pacific that made landfall on the Mexican coast, setting records both for strength and intensity. It resulted in an amazing lack of real damage or loss of human life. Of course, Texas got more rain from this system. Even those who really wanted and needed rain were not prepared to handle it.
With rivers, bayous, and creeks running hard to the Gulf, the bay systems got the flushing they occasionally need. The removal of collected silt and sediment and the toxins they may have carried, along with the water exchange that helps maintain “proper” salinity go a long way towards keeping the bays healthy for all their inhabitants – from shellfish to finfish.
The downside might be off-colored water, but that normally bothers fishermen more than fish. The entire salt water environment exhibits many apparent contradictions, and muddy water is one of them.
For inshore locations, especially, the muddy, off-color water will often be freshwater runoff, and since freshwater is less dense than salt water, it may exist as a top level “layer’, with salt water beneath—and much less murky, maybe even clear.
Of course, this isn’t usually the case during a flood, but it happens more often after the flood currents begin to slow and tidal action works against them. We still won’t see the salt water “wedge” along the bottom common in drier periods that can extend many miles inland, but it does mean a lure or bait worked a bit deeper might be in water holding more fish.
This is not to say clear, green water should not beckon, in the surf, especially; and April is the month when these conditions become more common.
Coupled with warming currents and active tides – and we hope—with less flooding rainfall, speckled trout begin showing in numbers around jetties and passes, then along the beachfront. This happens before they might be found in the same quantities in the bays and inland streams.
Because the main food source drawing them in is probably a fresh shrimp spawn, shrimp should be the go-to bait—or lures that imitate shrimp. It has long been known that larger specks feed mostly on small fish. Lures designed to emulate mullet, shad, and piggy perch are good bets for targeting a “trophy” spec, but for numbers, go with the shrimp dinner.
Redfish and even flounders, will actually thrive in freshwater, if properly conditioned. They do not mind an occasional period of muddy, brackish water. For their normal manner of feeding, off color water is probably a benefit, because scent is more important to these hunters than sight.
An active, live bait is still the top tempter, whether mud minnow or finger mullet – we won’t discuss live croakers here, to avoid controversy. A fresh dead bait that releases its juices in the current is almost as good.
Although there are different theories about when and why adult redfish come to the surf —different from my opinion, at least—there WILL be some big reds prowling the guts and bars during April.
Along with bull reds, jackfish, and stingrays for those who like to fish for them (and I DO), some tarpon will visit the shoreline. Sharks will be common as soon as the surface water temperature range stays in the 70s.
April is the month to really gear up for coastal fishing—if you have not already.
Location: Surf, beachfront piers, jetties and rock groins. Fishing the shorelines of the passes would be considered “surf” for our purposes.
Species: Trout, redfish and flounders will all be on the menu, along with some sharks and various “panfish.”
Best Baits: “Match the hatch” both with baits and with lures. Shrimp and small finfish are most in demand. Live and fresh dead will produce.
Best Times: Because daytime temperatures are moderate to downright pleasant this month, time of day is not as important as tidal movement. Fish more seriously during times of peak movement, either in or out, and take a break during slack tide.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]