CAST AND BLAST

TEXAS BOATING by Lenny Rudow
September 25, 2016
COASTAL FORECAST: Lower Coast
September 25, 2016

Texas offers many great hunting and fishing opportunities beginning this month.

For the outdoors lover who likes to do it all there is plenty of chances to hunt in the morning and fish in the evening or vice verse. A bowhunter scoring on a big doe in the morning on their Llano County lease could easily drive over to Lake Buchanan for example and chunk crankbaits for largemouths or go to the South Llano River and fly fish for Guadalupe Bass.

On the coast you can score on doves in the fields and trade out for the bay to sight cast to reds.

This Special Section gives you some options and tips to find action this month and also to adjust your strategies as fall turns to winter.

Enjoy!

Archery Whitetail

The archery-only season for whitetail deer kicks off Oct. 1

For archers, bow season offers two major advantages.

Bow season starts just as the rut is gearing up in parts of the state.

The first is getting to hunt deer in the rut (breeding period) which begins in October in certain parts of the state. Whitetails in the southern part of the Pineywoods in particular start rutting in October with heavy activity centered toward the end of the season.

The rut offers the best chance to score on a big buck as their defenses go down while they are in pursuit of does.

Secondly, it gives those hunters who pursue deer on public land a great chance at targeting prime areas. The National Forests and numerous wildlife management areas are packed with hunters during the general season but see relatively few bowhunters.

The acorn crop in much of the region should be strong which could keep many deer from hitting feeders. Targeting natural food sources during bow season is often best anyway and is certainly more consistent for taking big bucks. They don’t get big by running straight to a feeder when it starts dispensing corn.

This of course is not legal on certain public lands but if it is allowed, then use a little.

Otherwise do your best to scout both in the field and using tools like Google Earth to check out travel corridors and food sources.

Set up your blind with the wind in your face and hopefully the deer coming out in front and you’ll be just fine.

Take time to enjoy the woods. Listen to the sounds of morning breaking as the birds send out their wake up calls and squirrels scurry up the trees.

If you choose to bowhunt, it is obviously not just about the kill only. Statistics show a low rate of success for archery hunters due to the challenging nature of the sport.

Remember you are being an active participant in nature and let the world’s worries drift away for a few hours. There is great adventure to be had beyond the pavement beginning this weekend.

Dove

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) for the last couple of decades has been doing something that allows hunters to access hunting at an affordable rate, especially when it comes to dove hunting.

Public dove hunting is big in Texas: 900,000 acres big.

For $48, hunters can purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit (APH) and have an opportunity to pursue their outdoor passions on more than 900,000 acres of land.

The program’s many accomplishments include the following:

• Since the first year, the program has found acceptance from both hunters and participating landowners. Participants are enthusiastic.

• The program has grown to from 10 units in six counties and 4,375 acres to many times that amount.

• Youth hunts were added in 2002 TPWD now offers Youth Only and Youth Adult areas 

• Numerous leases are available near San Antonio, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas.

A new 90-day season this fall means hunters will have 20 more days of opportunity compared with previous years. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is integrating those additional days early in the season to take advantage of mourning dove migrating into the state, as well as at the end of the season in the Special White-winged Dove Area to offer more bird hunting opportunities.

“Hunters will now be able to take advantage of those northern birds riding early November cool fronts into Texas, without sacrificing days of opportunity early in the season,” said Dave Morrison, TPWD Small Game Program Director. “We’ve also tacked on extra days to the back end of the season in late January when South Texas prospects are still pretty solid. It’s a win-win for dove hunters.”

Dove season in the North Zone runs Sept. 1 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 1, 2017; in the Central Zone from Sept. 1 – Nov. 6 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 8, 2017; and in the South Zone from Sept. 23 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.

In the Special White-winged Dove Area, the season runs Sept. 3-4, 10-11, Sept. 23 – Nov. 9, Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. During the early two weekends in the Special White-winged Dove Area, hunting is allowed only in the afternoon and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.

Ducks

If we get a winter, this year should be solid for ducks in Texas.

Overall duck numbers in the survey area are statistically similar to last year and remain steady according to officials with Ducks Unlimited.. Total populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 38 percent above the 1955-2015 long-term average. Last year’s estimate was 49.5 million birds. The projected mallard fall flight index is 13.5 million birds, similar to the 2015 estimate of 13.8 million.

Duck numbers are down in many cases this year but not enough to make a big impact.

“What’s not reflected in the report is that there was fairly significant improvement in habitat conditions after the surveys were completed,” said Scott Yaich. 

“In some key production areas, heavy June and July rains greatly improved wetland conditions. This could benefit brood rearing and the success of late nesting species, as well as give a boost to overall production through re-nesting by early nesting species.

Redfish

Redfish action runs hot and heavy especially around the jetty systems from Sabine Pass to Surfside.

“A lot of people overlook the bull redfish run of the fall and while it peaks in October, bull reds can be caught throughout fall and winter,” said Marcus Heflin of Christian Surf Fishing Adventures.

Heflin said anglers should target deep holes and boat cuts and be aware of tide swings and the presence of mullet.

“You typically get the best action when a tidal switch occurs especially on that incoming tide when water that is a little warmer starts coming in from the Gulf. If you find a bunch of mullet you should have reds. If you don’t see them on the surface dolphins are a good sign. They feed on them and are actually a pretty good sign of reds.”

A medium to deep running crankbait fished tight to the rocks or a live mullet fished on a Carolina rig can produce reds up to 40 pounds.

“If you can’t get excited about catching reds that size…well…I just don’t know.”

Flounder

It’s flounder fishing time.

Most of them migrate begin migrating out of the bays and into the Gulf at the end of this month.

In the early part of the month target the cuts draining marshes in the bay. The southern tier of bay systems in close proximity to passes and the Intracoastal Canal are key spots to seek flounder later in the month. Look for flats with muddy bottoms close to drop offs and water flowing from canals into the channel and passes for the best results as winter rolls in.

Small shad imitations and curl-tailed grubs tipped with shrimp and fished on fluorocarbon line are the ticket. Natural colors like shad, smoke and salt and pepper are the best when the water is running clear and pink when the water is running stained.

Drag slowly and pay close attention for any kind of pressure on the line. Once it gets cold, flounder often bite very lightly so it is important to be very aware of any strange feelings on the line. If you think you have a strike, count to 20 and set the hook. That might sound extreme but I have found waiting a long time on light bites makes a difference. If you happen to feel the classic hard “thump” count to five and set the hook.

Speckled Trout

Look for specks under the birds during October and November.

Drifting the bay is a great way to score on specks, reds and flounder this month.

Diving gulls lead to good catches of trout feeding on shrimp. Throw silver spoons, soft plastics and live shrimp under popping corks for best results.

Much like flounder, anglers can find them where mud flats intersect with channels, especially on sunny days as winter arrives. The mud retains heat and baitfish and in turn trout move onto the flats to feed.

Swimbaits that imitate mullet are great for fishing these spots because they allow anglers to cover water and still work a good portion of water in a slow determined fashion. If you find fish, it might pay to switch to a slow-sinking soft or hard plastic lure and pick apart key areas like small shell reefs and transition zones from deep to shallow.

Also like flounder, big trout hit light so pay close attention and feel free to set the hook on anything that feels unusual. 

 

Largemouth Bass

Bass fishing gets overlooked in the fall.

And that’s a shame since some of the best bass fishing of the year happens during autumn.

Fall is prime time for bass in Texas.

Main-lake points and creeks entering the main body of the lake are the important areas to fish at this time of year as they give the fish access to shallow and deep water and hold fair to good amounts of shad. Throw large Beetle Spins and wacky worms during the midday period; fish topwaters and buzz baits early and late. Another viable option is to fish the riprap and bulkheads along some of the big marinas, especially in the evenings. These areas will hold many bass, especially after a front blows through. 

If the bites don’t come easy, use a slow-sinking lure like a Senko because they appeal to both temperature stunted slow moving fish and aggressive feeding fish as well. 

Between fronts, look for shad bunched up around the secondary points and start fishing a crank bait like a Bomber 9A with a slow retrieve. If you find fish and they are active, switch to something like a Rat-L-Trap and boost the retrieve up to medium speed.  Sometimes the shad are spread along the shorelines, stacked horizontally instead of vertically. If this is the situation, the bass can be scattered as well. This is a good time to throw a square bill crankbait since you came cover lots of water. If the fish are a little deeper try something in the medium-diving range.

If the water is high as it is on most East Texas lakes due to the epic rains we’ve had use spinners when the shad are clinging tightly to the shoreline. Cast parallel to the shore and work it back at a medium pace for best results

 

 

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