I f you go offshore in June and catch a legal greater amberjack (over 34 inches), fishing regulations require you to release the fish, as the season is closed in June and July.
Late last June I was 43 miles offshore fishing in 160 feet of water with Brian Tulloch aboard his 27-foot World Cat, Gold Nugget II. Lain Gay and his 13-year-old son, Garrett, were fishing with us.
Garrett and I both caught and released amberjacks that were well over the minimum size. If you bring a fish up from depth quickly, they are sometimes bloated because their gases expand as water pressure becomes lower at shallower depths.
These greater amberjacks had no problem with gases expanding in their bodies. They quickly descended and swam off, but we also caught three red snappers that were from 23 to 26 inches, and they were bloated. The red snapper season last year was from June 1 to 9 so we were required to release the fish. Fortunately, we had a Sequalizer (www.seaqualizer.com ), a new, easy-to-use device that enabled us to quickly send the fish back to depth, recompress and release them.
The 2017 red snapper season will open June 1. To find out when it will close, go to www.gulfcouncil.org. On this trip last June, the fish story of the day was about a fish that you could keep—ling, also known as Cobia.
We saw a big barrel floating, moved over to it and observed two large ling swimming near it. Everyone got their lines in the water and Garrett hooked up with a ling that was about five feet long.
According to www.txmarspecies.tamug.edu, a sixty-inch ling should weigh 71 pounds 3 ounces. Brian said, “Play it for about 40 minutes to wear it out and then we will land it, otherwise it will break someone’s leg in the boat.” Garrett went all the way around the boat three times playing the fish.
While he was athletically handling his rod and carefully placing his feet I asked Lain, “Did you sign Garrett up for the CCA S.T.A.R. tournament?”
“The paperwork is on my desk,” he said, “but I haven’t sent it in.”
Finally Brian said, “OK, let’s bring it in.”
Garrett started working the fish up to the gunnel while I was standing by with the gaff, but the fish got off and swam away along with its mate that had stayed with it the whole time.
You will be able to fish for red snappers and other species at a new site that was recently completed 8.7 nautical miles offshore from Matagorda Beach, BA-439. You can keep up to four red snappers that are at least 15-inches at this location, because it is in Texas waters. To learn more about this near-shore reef, go to www.tpwd.tx.gov and search for near-shore reefs interactive mapping.
Go with the Flow
The incoming tide was so strong that I could feel it as I waded on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay. Under these conditions, predator fish like to settle on the bottom in a gut and wait for their prey to come by.
The gut in this opening between the bay and an extensive series of marsh, lakes, and bayous came out of the back water area. It dropped from three feet to five feet and curved to the west as it went into the bay, and became shallow.
I positioned myself on the marsh side of the gut so I could cast into the gut toward the bay. I let the lure drop to the bottom, and then swam the Egret Baits five-inch Wedge Tail Minnow into the marsh with the incoming tide, just off the bottom.
The first taker was a 17-inch red. This was followed by an 18-inch flounder. Finally, I caught a 21-inch redfish using this technique in the same spot.
On another June day on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay, a strong incoming tide was flowing through a cut between an island and the shoreline. The sides of the cut had oyster reefs and the center was three to four feet deep.
I approached the point where the strong current dissipated into open water on the down-current side. Suddenly, one-inch silver menhaden were flying out of the water as if a fire hose was turned on underwater spraying little menhaden.
I dropped my black and yellow Bass Assassin into the foray several times, but the trout that had caused all the jumping had moved on by the time my lure penetrated the water. Then I threw to the shoreline and felt a fish grab my lure and move.
I let it do as it pleased until I felt a definite purchase, and then set the hook. It was a healthy 19-inch trout. Next I cast into the deep section. A large trout took the lure and jumped out of the water. Then it leaped out of the water a second time, flared its gills, and shook its head. The hook came loose, and I lost it. A few casts later I caught another 19-inch trout.
Observe the current and position yourself like the predator fish, on the down-current side and fish both the deep and shallow sections of a gut, channel, or bayou.
Matagorda Beach: There are days in June when conditions line up for a good day of surf fishing. For example: look at the tidal movement for Freeport, which has tidal times very close to tides on Matagorda Beach. For June 1, 2017, www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov you will see that low tide, is at 3:19 a.m. and high tide is at 10:59 a.m.
The predicted water level change will be from 0.40 feet to 1.6 feet, which indicates a strong incoming tide taking place from before sunrise until 11 a.m. This is a major indicator for good surf fishing.
A strong tide moving in will push bait and predators toward the beach, and sunrise stimulates the bite. The other factor is the condition of the water. Ideally you want to see calm, blue water up to the beach.
For this to happen, winds should have come from the north or very light from the south for three or four days prior to your selected day to fish. Combine this tidal situation with pretty water up to the beach, and wade out with either natural bait or artificial lures. Chances are you will enjoy a good day in the surf.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]