M iddle Texas bays such as Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, Espiritu Santo Bay, and Mesquite Bay are all major producers of the highly sought after inland saltwater trio—speckled trout, red fish, and flounder.
Each of these bays possesses its own history and its own fishing secrets. However, one thing common to all of them is the level of trout fishing intensity that often starts during the month of July. This happens primarily atop shell, on mid-bay reefs, or along bayside shorelines containing intermittent shell pads. Regardless of where you might find the shell, July trout fishing can often become unmatched in numbers and in excitement.
Before all of the numbers and excitement can occur, however, you must first be out on the shell on a day without a lot of wind. Strong winds can sometimes muddy these bays quite rapidly. It’s imperative that you wait a day or two following a hard blow to allow the water to settle down a bit and regain its green-water composure.
Another reason to let the water settle is that it can be dangerous to navigate areas congested with oyster reefs in water that is off-color and dirty.
An undisputed favorite bay system for summertime shell fun is San Antonio Bay. It’s the bay that is readily accessible via the town of Seadrift, and it quite possibly holds more open-water oyster reefs than the other three mentioned bays combined. It also is a very large bay system, meaning there is plenty of room for anglers to share in all that it has to offer, especially the shell—it’s cluttered with oyster reefs of all different shapes and sizes.
There is a list of reefs in the waters of San Antonio Bay that are considered to be favored locales. However, you should never limit yourself only to what you‘ve explored in the past. You should always be looking for that next uncharted shell pad. It may have a lot to offer in the way of “fish signs”—bait, depth, contour, points, tidal movement, sand or mud, etc.
Learn to pay close attention to any noticeable differences between one reef and another. Take special note of any reef that shows signs of active bait movement or one that happens to be attracting activity from seagulls and pelicans.
As you begin fishing these reefs this month, don’t simply focus on whether a reef happens to be totally submerged, or totally exposed. Instead, look specifically for other things.
Look for whether the reef happens to be attracting and holding active baitfish. Check to see whether there’s mud mixed-in with the shell. Is the reef positioned to offer the fish some quick access to deeper water. These three things generally result in success in July atop open-water shell.
A number of just such reefs are located in San Antonio Bay. A few examples are Little Bird Island, Turnstake Island, and Chicken Foot Reef South.
Once you have settled on a reef, start fishing within casting distance of the peak of the reef, then slowly work your way outward along the tapering downslope of the reef. Working the reef this way allows you to cover most all levels of the water column in a fairly quick and efficient manner.
Your first cast should typically be with a standard plastic tail or mullet imitation tossed directly at the shallowest part of the reef then retrieve it back along the downward slope of the shell. This is a very effective method to locate the bite in summertime.
If you find the bite to be coming out of water that is a bit deeper, change your bait. Start throwing one of the slow-sinking, suspending lures like the Corky, or the Corky Fat Boy. Doing so slows your ability to cover the same amount of water, but once the bite is located with a slow-sinker there is little else that compares from an excitement standpoint (except for the presence of a top water bite, of course).
Another thing you may like to make a daily practice of doing in July is fishing during the earliest part of the day. It’s always more comfortable to be wading in the water before the sun rises. This allows you to take advantage of the cooler night time water temperatures of the shallowest spot on the reef. Fish swim along the shallow points above the reefs during the night to search for food and take refuge from predators of the darker, deeper water.
Even with all the rain that the coastal region encountered this spring, San Antonio Bay appears to produce good trout numbers above the shell. If you have never had a chance to try your luck in or around San Antonio Bay, then you may have missed out on the finest mid-bay reefs that the Texas coast has to offer. Come on down and give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose. Good luck to all, and keep grindin’!
Email Chris Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit bayflatslodge.com