Bait Galore

“F ind the bait, and you will find trout, redfish, and flounder,” said Jeremy Wiggins, a long time bay fisherman. I have heard Jeremy and other fishermen and women say the same thing, but I am a kayak fisherman, and my inclination is to head for the backwaters first, even if I see bait in the bay, and that is what I did one morning last April. We were fishing on the west end of West Matagorda Bay where there are several lakes adjacent to the bay. There were millions and millions of mullet, menhaden, glass minnows and other species of bait fish on the flats in the bay. Eddie Vacek said, “I think I know a good spot to fish in these circumstances, come with me.” I should have opted to go with Eddie and two other fishermen, but I headed for the back lakes in my kayak. 

Roger Hauck, Mike Miller and Eddie Vacek on West Matagorda Bay.

When I got into the lake, I saw a dozen redfish with their dorsal fins sticking out of the water and caught one 18-inch red on a Chicken on a Chain Bass Assassin. But I didn’t see any concentrations of baitfish and didn’t catch any more fish.

In the meantime, Eddie, Mike Miller, and Roger Hauck were wade fishing 50 to 100 yards out into the bay among the baitfish, and they were having a banner day. When they returned, their smiles were bigger than their faces as they went on about how many reds, flounders, and trout they had caught.

Starting in March and lasting into May, shrimp, crab, and finfish spawn, and their offspring end up in the estuaries and the bays. Eddie, Mike and Roger happened upon a massive concentration of these little critters with trout, redfish, and flounders feeding on them. The next day I opted to go wade fishing with Eddie. We went to the same places where they caught fish the previous day. Bait and predator fish were still concentrated over the flats, so I enjoyed a great day of fishing, but thunderstorms were a problem. 

The night before our first day on West Matagorda Bay, a severe thunderstorm with 85 mph winds had blown through. We opted to go even though the weather was unstable. While fishing on the second day we were standing in the water holding our lightning-attracting, graphite rods and looking at a dark mass of clouds. Eddie said, “If the storm is moving toward you, its lightning will be vertical.” It was vertical, and lightning strikes hit the water as the angry storm came toward us. Fortunately the storm moved on and everyone was OK, but standing in the water when a lightning storm comes over is not a comfortable place to be, and not a good idea.

Be sure to check the weather before you go out in April, a month when severe weather on the bays is possible. The reason that we decided to go on this unstable weather weekend is that Eddie has a cabin, where we knew we would be safe. On the other end of that weather equation, the unstable weather and the abundance of baitfish really stimulated the action. This trip was in late April.

Early April can be challenging because large schools of baitfish may not yet be in the bays. Even so, predators are hungry. If you can find them, you can still have a good day. My wife and I went to a deep bayou in West Matagorda Bay in early April on a strong incoming tide, and found hungry trout. 

Fresh water inflow is always a consideration in West Matagorda Bay. I fished in Maverick Bayou about half way between Matagorda and Port O’Connor, not long after several inches of rain poured muddy water into the east end of West Matagorda Bay. I only caught two small redfish.

The water was light brown-colored instead of the color I like, trout green. This indicates the presence of fresh water. While fishing, I noticed a white boat with a big black engine speeding west. When I got back to Matagorda Harbor, the fisherman in that boat asked how I had done, and I told him. He said, “I caught about 40 redfish in that pretty green water west of you.”

When you head for the bays in early April, hunt for baitfish. In middle to late April, you probably will not have to hunt for baitfish because they will be abundant, so look for baitfish being chased by predators. Check the weather and do your best to avoid thunderstorms—and look for trout-green water.



Location: Chinquapin feels like a really out of the way place, even though it is no harder to get to than many other bank and kayak fishing locations in Matagorda County. To get there, turn south off FM 521 onto FM 262 and then turn right on 237. The distance from 521 to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is 10.3 miles, and you can bank fish in several places on the ICW. Kayak fishers can launch near a bridge nine miles from 521. Stay to the right and you will get to the channel, which leads to Lake Austin on the left and the ICW on the right after a 15 minute paddle. There is no place to buy bait or anything else in Chinquapin.

Email Mike Price at ContactUs@fishgame.com

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