I t’s true most of us who have a boat rarely give a thought to fishing from the shoreline. We have, we believe, graduated to the next level and shall never return to beating the banks for fish. If we think back, however, almost every one of us gained our love for the sport fishing with both feet planted firmly on solid ground.
For the purpose of this article I consider “bank fishing” to mean any form of angling that includes wade fishing, pier fishing, surf fishing, or most folks favorite—lawn chair fishing.
My introduction to fishing started on Onion Creek, fishing with my mom, and grew into a passion for the sport that still exists today. Although I must admit I seldom get to fish, as a guide I do enjoy seeing others enjoy the indescribable feeling of a bent pole and the tug of a fish.
A word of caution though—It’s been said “be careful not to turn your enjoyable passion into a job.” It truly can quickly go from a passion into an arduous pain in the butt.
In my style of guiding you will seldom see me pick up a rod to fish—cast, yes. A few times maybe, I’ll even set the hook, then quickly hand the rod to a client. I believe clients pay me to help them catch fish. not watch me catch fish.
This can make for some real fishing dry spells. It’s a bit funny, but often I’m asked at bait stands or other places I frequent, “Captain Mac you catching fish?”
“No ma’am or sir, I’m not.”
This moves some of my brothers in arms (other guides) who are within ear shot to say “He’s a bald headed liar! He cleaned a whole mess of fish just yesterday.”
My pat response is, “I didn’t catch ‘em, my clients did.”
“That’s splitting hairs, you just don’t want to tell where you caught ‘em.”
“I didn’t catch’em,” I persisted.
“Okay, so just where did your “clients” catch’em?” they say.
“Where did they catch most of them is that what you’re asking?” I reply. “They caught them in different places, but mainly in the corner of the mouth.”
I grin at that point, and put an end to the jibing. My point is I seldom fish, and when I do it is still immensely enjoyable.
If you’ve ever heard about the circle of life, there is a phenomenon called “the circle of fishing.” Although some feel the tug to prove they are Captain Ahab and become a guide, others usually migrate up the circle’s curve from bank fishing to boat fishing if the finances allow.
As time moves on, the effort it takes to own a boat, take care of a boat, trailer a boat, and store a boat often sends the angler back to a favorite shoreline to fish completing the fishing circle.
I am known often to stop and talk to what I affectionately call “bank beaters” (anglers that fish from the shore). More times than I can remember, they tell me how owning all the contraptions they think they need just took the enjoyment out of fishing.
To fish from a boat, a fisherman needs a motor, trailer, GPS, trolling motor, not to mention a vehicle to pull it with and the angst that goes with just launching a boat. On Copano Bay one poor fellow told me that he came down four different times with his boat and never got on the water. As he discovered sitting a boat at home for months at a time caused all kinds of gremlins to attack its mechanical ability.
“The last time it happened, I sold the piece of junk right there on the boat ramp,” the gentlemen said. “I told the young man who bought it the sale came with one stipulation, he had to take it right then and there. I literally lifted it off the ball of my truck and put it on his right on the boat ramp.
“I personified the saying ‘the two happiest days of an angler’s life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells the [email protected]#$%^&*@ thing!’” he said, with a smile. “My wife was happier with no boat in the yard and I didn’t have to mow around the damn thing anymore.
“That guy got a heck of a deal … even had a live well full of bait. Now I fish with just a rod and tackle box, and I enjoy the freedom of not being tied to all that boat stuff. Yes sir, son, if you own a boat and the junk that goes with it, sell it. Grab a rod and come take a sit and fish with me, as a lot of fish prowl the shorelines.”
There is truly an art to bank fishing, and I take particular delight in analyzing the different styles. You can tell a novice from a veteran right off, usually.
Look at the rods being used. There is truly no need for the winches and 15-foot broom sticks (very large rods and reels) that I see every week, especially in our bays. A medium heavy reel and rod is more than adequate for 98 percent of the fish one will catch in our bays.
Get one that will cast a country mile and that resists saltwater. Keep good line on it, lightly hose it off when you’re done and oil the moving parts often.
That’s not to say surf rods don’t have their place. Watching an experienced surfer (Texas term for surf angler) fishing on the Gulf side of the barrier islands is poetry in motion. This is bank fishing on steroids and has a cult-like following.
Most of these guys and gals are hard core and take their fishing very seriously. They are easy to identify. Some/most have rod holders built into their vehicles for expeditious mobility, and it’s not always a four wheel drive skyscraper (jacked way up) truck.
Just a few months ago I saw a Toyota Prius with built in rod holders and an anemometer mounted on top, whirling away. I mean who would think of such a thing?
The length of a rod can help casting distances, but often much past seven feet long equates to diminished returns unless one has experience. I’ve seen some of the veteran surfers cast so far with 13-plus-foot rods I swear they almost hit the Yucatan peninsula. A good bank fisherman can read the water and conditions. The really good ones know when to go out and when to stay at home. It can take years to develop these skills.
It is often said that people who fish from the bank are not really interested in catching fish. Don’t believe that, even for a minute. Some of these folks catch more fish than most boat anglers.
Another interesting breed of bank angler is those that we affectionately call wharf rats, jetty rats, and/or pier rats. The experienced ones have homemade devices designed for fishing off of these various structures.
For example, a pure pier angler usually has a landing net adapted for netting fish far below the surface of the pier where the water level is. Some use old bicycle rims outfitted with nets and a long rope used to drop the net. Others use long-handled versions of the typical boat net.
The jetty folks use rod holders and nets adapted to the large granite slabs that make up most of our Texas jetty systems. If you have a notion they’re not serious about fishing, just throw across one of their lines, and you will get a real jetty education.
Some of these anglers start fishing at sun down and don’t quit until sun up. Having spent many nights on jetty rocks and countless piers, and having waded the bays of Texas as a boy, I can say their commitment level is no less than the most avid boat angler.
I have a soft spot in my heart for these folks, for I can relate to the joy and excitement of this type of fishing. I have a feeling one day I, too, will find myself having gone full circle, rod in hand back enjoying my favorite shoreline.
Copano Bay: The mouth of Copano Creek is a good spot for reds using cut mullet or finger mullet on a light Carolina rig. Incoming tide is best here. Wades down Egery Island are good for trout using soft plastics in morning glory and nuclear chicken colors. The mouth of Mission Bay still good for black drum using peeled shrimp under a silent cork.
Aransas Bay: The mouth of Turtle Bayou is a good spot for reds using free-lined mud minnows. Mud Island point is a good spot for reds and trout using free-lined shrimp. The reds will be closer to the point, and the trout out in deeper water.
St. Charles Bay: This bay was heavily oystered early in the year, and the multiple oyster reefs in this bay that draw and hold the fish are compromised to some degree. This will make this bay hard to target fish. At this writing the bite has been unpredictable and slow. The mouth of the bay between Aransas and St. Charles is the best bet for now.
Carlos Bay: Spalding Bight is a good place for reds using free-lined live shrimp. The shoreline of Dunham Point is good for trout using mud minnows and a popping cork and shrimp. On low tide Cape Carlos Dugout is good for trout using rattle traps in white and red and blue and silver colors.
Mesquite Bay: Third Chain is a good spot for reds and trout using croaker free-lined. Red action is good close to Roddy Island using cut menhaden or cut mullet. Slow drifts across Bray Cove are good for flounders using new penny jerk shad or live shrimp.
Ayers Bay: Wades on the east shoreline are good for reds and black drum using free-lined shrimp bounced along the bottom. Move slow about 20 yards off the shoreline. Be careful here, the bottom can get very soft. If the wind allows, Ayers Reef is a good spot for reds and trout using free-lined croaker.
Here’s wishing you tight lines, bent poles and plenty of bait!
Location: Live Oak Point — Wades from the south end of the LBJ causeway to and around Live Oak Point is a good place for trout and reds using live shrimp free-lined. The construction on the new bridge area is still underway, so exercise caution.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]