M ay is the transition month between Spring and Summer, and can usually be counted on as the start of excellent fishing conditions.
The Texas coast again avoided tropical storms in 2016, which means the physical makeup of our bays and surf should not have changed much. This is not always good news, as those who love the San Bernard River can attest. That stream is still blocked from directly emptying into the Gulf, although aerial photography from November of 2015 revealed some signs the river was trying again to “cut” through the Cedar Lakes.
For the remainder of the Galveston-Freeport area, bait camps, fishing piers, marinas, and boat ramps escaped storm damage and are ready to greet a productive new fishing season!
For a happy period of my life I was solely dedicated to surf fishing. During this time, May was of special interest to me. For many years my first bull red of the year was hooked in early May. This included my career best, which weighed 41 pounds the morning after the catch. That fish bent some of my personal fishing rules by being hooked on a dead low tide period. However, it strongly re-enforced the old adage of the best time to fish always being WHEN YOU CAN!
After spending a lot of time studying big reds, I believe they do not come to the surf to spawn, but rather to feed. The warming water and fresh currents of May bring schools of baitfish and new crabs. This, in turn, brings redfish, jack crevalles, croakers, sand trout, speckled trout, and a few tarpons and sharks.
Of course, except for tarpons and sharks, a big red will also feed on smaller members of the other fish mentioned, but mullet and shad are the preferred baits. Live baits are generally best, but one night I watched some anglers I didn’t know drive up close to my fishing spot on the Galveston beach side of San Luis Pass. They threw out a line baited with a whole, dead shad, caught a nice bull red, loaded up and drove away. This, as I continued to fish with live mullet and no results.
There will also be mornings in May with a clear green tide and calm surf when speckled trout will hit nearly any lure offered as well or better than a live shrimp under a popping cork. This is especially true with a silver Johnson Sprite spoon keeping the red plastic tabs just above the hook. Many times this same lure will turn unproductive when repeated strikes cause that small piece of plastic to be lost. I suppose this is why they are offered for sale in replacement packages?
Boat anglers can also work the surf on calm days, either by launching off the beach where that is allowed, or by exiting through a pass. The term “weather eye” is especially important for boaters, as rough water can build fast and ruin a day of boat fishing.
Of course, the flip side to fishing from a boat is the ability to work inside the bay or in a river when conditions in open water are a bit “sporty.” Boaters also to have the ability to run a bit farther offshore than even the longest surf rod cast can reach, when the weather allows.
The flats and bars on the backside of Galveston Island and inside San Luis Pass are favored feeding spots not only for speckled trout, but for some nice flounders. In clear water, lure fishing for either species can be great sport. Floating a live shrimp through the deeper guts pays off as well, even in off-color water conditions.
With the start of really great fishing coupled with mild temperatures, May should be well-marked on any Galveston area fisherman’s calendar.
Location: Beachfront surf, piers, and rock groins, passes between bay and Gulf—both jettied and not, banks of river and creek outlets to the Gulf, bay reefs and flats.
Species: Redfish, speckled trout, flounder, croaker, gaff top catfish, and some sharks.
Best Baits: Live or fresh baits worked in a good current, soft plastic lures or flashing spoons. The natural baits can be shrimp or small baitfish. Even squid can work well at times.
Best Times: Tidal current is always important. A tide change can trigger a feeding binge, even when currents are rather weak.
Email Mike Holmes at
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]