THE PRACTICAL ANGLER by Greg Berlocher

THE BASS UNIVERSITY by Pete Robbins
March 25, 2017
TEXAS BOATING by Lenny Rudow
March 25, 2017

Tumbling Dice

M ore big trout will be caught on the Texas coast in April and May than during any other two-month span of the year, but predicting springtime coastal weather is a crap shoot.

Seasoned anglers know that conditions will be “iffy” at best for the next 60 days. Your best springtime bet is to fish during the handful of calm days after a passing front blows through. Unfortunately this always seems occur during the middle of the week when most folks have to go to work—at least I do. That leaves fishing on the weekends for the majority of us.

Spring winds are unreasonably stout, leaving bay waters churned and agitated. Even when you can find a patch of clear water, the pumping breezes can make the fishing tough. But take solace. Fish still need to eat, even when the wind blows.

Protected shorelines near major passes are a good bet during April. Immature baitfish come streaming into the bays from the Gulf of Mexico by the tens of millions. Find the bait and the fish won’t be far behind.

Once through the passes, these tiny fish and crustaceans head to the shallows for protection. Yet, it takes a month or longer for these new arrivals to completely disperse throughout our bay systems.

Avoid fishing barren water by spending time scouting to increase your odds of success. Idling at a distance allows you to observe a potential flat before you invest time wading or poling in. A good pair of binoculars is invaluable, allowing you to glass a good area from afar. If there aren’t any signs of bait, move on.

Flipping and jumping bait is the best indication you are in a good location. A tight knot of wading birds clustered together in a small area is another good sign. Wading birds eat the same baitfish as speckled trout and reds, so when they are packed in tightly together it means there is bait in the area. Just be careful when approaching the feeding birds. If you move in too close or too fast, they will all bolt, thereby scaring any feeding fish in the area.

Unless you get lucky and your trip coincides with a calm, bluebird day, you can’t avoid the wind. Therefore, you have to try to minimize its effect. Seek out lee shorelines of spoil islands, especially those along the Intracoastal Canal. Those big piles of sand are great to hide behind, and you will probably find clear water there too.

Shallow flats adjacent to deep water are some of my favorite areas to target during the spring. Speckled trout and redfish will slide up onto the flats to feed and loiter in the sun-warmed water. However, instinct warns them not to abandon the safety of the deep water in case a late season cold front terrorizes the coast. On chillier days, trout will hang along the edges of canals, channels, and drop-offs, seeking the warmest depth.

Fishing afoot rather than afloat will significantly increase your chances of catching a big fish during April and May. Wind-driven waves pounding on the side of a boat, send out a staccato warning to every predator in the area: WARNING! HUMAN IN THE AREA!

Wading offers a handful of advantages over fishing from a boat. Stealth is the most obvious. The seasoned angler concentrates on masking their wading noise, able to slide through the water with a minimum of disruption.

Wade fishing also allows you to stop and work an area thoroughly before moving on. If you happen upon a school of feeding fish, you can drop repeated casts into the strike zone. Drift fishermen get one shot and then they blow past the action.

Drift fishermen are able to cover a lot of water, which sometimes is an advantage, but high winds make the drift speed unreasonably fast. I have fished in situations where multiple drift anchors couldn’t slow our drift speed enough.

Drift anchors will slow you down, but you must retrieve your lure quickly to take up the slack in your line caused by the moving boat. Wade fishermen have much more freedom in the retrieve rates of their lures. When the winds are really pumping, find a clear patch of water that is holding bait and hop out of the boat to fish.

Spring is here and the bays beckon. With any luck I will be able to spend a few days on the water when the conditions cooperate. But understand that any trip to the Texas coast during spring is a crapshoot. As the Rolling Stones’s song goes “You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice.”

 

Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]

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