The visiting Fisherman
I n early March last year, the wind was coming from the east at 25 mph. An east wind is to be expected in March and usually you just have to fish a leeward shoreline, but this wind was too strong and I should not have decided to go fishing in West Matagorda Bay.
However, I was anxious to share our Texas bay fishing with my brother-in-law from Wales, Owen Williams. So we went. Usually an east wind blows water into the bays, but as we motored down the Diversion Channel I saw very little water on the mud flats. At this point I should have turned around, but we proceeded to enter West Matagorda Bay, using the PVC posts as a guide to stay in the trench, which is usually 18 to 24 inches deep.
The water was low because of a very low tide, and the east wind was so strong it had overpowered incoming water and pushed water out of the east end of West Matagorda Bay.
There was a boat stuck sideways across the running lane, and I thought I might be able to help them. I knew that the water on the flats was even shallower, so I powered down. The water in the trough was only four-inches deep.
Neither boat was able to use its engine. The other boat’s V-bottom hull was stuck in the mud, and they had to wait for the wind to calm down and water to rise on the incoming tide.
My boat has a flat bottom, so we got out and proceeded to take one mud sucking step at a time, and after 1 ½ hours of pulling, we managed to reach foot-deep water where I could use the engine.
The bay was an ugly brown color, but the day wasn’t a total loss because we found green water in a bayou adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway that held redfish and trout. Most of them were undersized, but we went home with two trout, 16 and 23 inches.
Owen has taken me on some fine fishing adventures in Wales, and I really wanted to show him a better day. So the next morning I launched in Palacios to avoid the Diversion Channel entrance to West Matagorda Bay, and headed to the south shore. The wind was reasonable: east south east at 12 mph.
We paddled kayaks into a lake that was about five feet deep, whereas the surrounding bayous and flats were from one to three feet deep. The water temperature was 65°F, but in early March a front can rapidly lower water temperatures, so fish like to be near a deep hole where they can find slightly warmer water on the bottom.
Owen and I were drifting in kayaks when we both hooked up. My speckled trout was a respectable 18 and ½ inches, but Owen’s trout weighed six pounds and was 26 inches. Most experienced anglers have caught trout over 26 inches, but they will tell you that it is rare.
A 26-inch trout is a female because males don’t get that big, and it takes five to six years to grow to that size. We were both realiy pleased with his catch, and the next time he takes me to a cold water lake in the hills of Wales for rainbow trout, we’ll both think back to Owen’s special speckled trout catch in West Matagorda Bay.
When I took Owen fishing in early March, trout and redfish were feeding on fin fish that had spent the winter in the bay, so we used five-inch soft plastic lures. Feeding options change as bay water temperatures increase from around 60°F at the beginning of the month to a little over 70°F at the end of March.
This increase in temperature facilitates spawning, and the tiny fish, crabs, and shrimp move with tide from offshore into the bays to seek shallow water grass beds, oyster reefs, and shorelines for protection. In addition flounders begin to return from offshore and, along with redfish and trout, they feed on this abundance of small bait.
If you fish in the bay and you come upon millions and millions of tiny fish and shrimp exploding because predators are attacking from underneath, you cannot help but to stop, gaze and appreciate this marvel of nature. Of course, you should use a small lure and place your bait or lure near the action.
One way to do this is to pause before you cast and observe with your arm cocked in a casting position. When you see little critters jumping out of the water in all directions, drop your offering in that area.
March is a month of big change in the bays. At the beginning, look for lone mullets fleeing a predator, or a disturbance in the water; but as the month progresses and water warms, fish the concentrations of bait.
THE BANK BITE
Matagorda Jetties: March is the ideal time to fish for black drum from the jetties as this is when these fish gather at the mouth of the Old Colorado River in Matagorda to spawn. Cut mullet, live or fresh dead shrimp, or menhaden are all good bait for black drum. I was walking near the jetties in March when seven young fishermen proudly showed me their full stringer of 35 black drum. They had all the fish on one stringer which they stretched out and held up. The limit is five, between 14 and 30 inches.
Email Mike Price at ContactUs@fishgame.com