T he sun is riding lower in the sky and the colors of the shorelines become more vibrant. A few ducks are straggling in and some migratory bird species begin to arrive.
That’s the beginning of fall in South Texas and it starts to appear ever so slightly in September. Even though the temperatures are still in the 90s, those little hints of the coming change are evident and signal all anglers and hunters to begin preparing for the next phase of outdoor activities.
Besides legendary fall fishing, the opening of dove hunting is upon us. Once the shotguns are out of their cases, duck season is just around the corner. When the guns come out, your Labrador retrievers start going out of their minds with anticipation of hunting, after the long drought between the end of last year’s duck season and the beginning of this year’s dove season.
Old dogs already know and young dogs can only imagine as they begin their long lives doing what they were bred to do. It’s “all of the above” that keeps the love of wingshooting alive in all of us. We are just as bad as our Labs, if you think about it.
Shallow water fishing is at its peak right now as the bait concentrations and selection becomes overwhelming. Finger mullet, pin perch, shrimp, all kinds of crabs and other snacks fill the grass shorelines and sand strips to attract big predators.
It is prime time for fly fishermen as the water is clear and the weather is stable and usually sunny. The only reason for a big predator to be meandering in ankle deep water is to eat. So if you get your fly to the fish, it will result in a big, giant strike, especially if there’s any competition around. Get two redfish swimming together down the shoreline and it’s guaranteed that one of them is going to get the fly.
Any shrimp pattern, any crab pattern or clouser will catch a fish. Well, pretty much any fly will catch a redfish if it’s in the “dinner plate” zone, which is a two, or three-foot wide half-circle starting at their eye and going forward, encircling their head to the other eye.
A fly, a gold spoon, a Gulp three- or four-inch chartreuse “Swimming Mullet” curly-tail grub, a four-inch “Sugar and Spice” Saltwater Assassin paddle tail on a Black’s Magic 1/32 ounce jig head, whatever is your personal confidence lure, toss it up there and be prepared for the fight.
Black drum really don’t like to pursue their food, so to catch one, silently toss your lure or fly across their path by a foot or two, then, drag it where they will find it. Once they come upon it, move it about a half-foot. When their tail comes up, they’ve got it. Set the hook and hang on.
Black drum have a great fight in them, with their big side fins that act as “brakes” while reeling them in. Great to eat, black drum in the shallow water are an underrated game fish for all anglers, whether fly or lure.
Baffin’s south shoreline is filled with grass, from White Bluff all the way to Penescal Point. It’s ripe for the picking for anyone walking, stalking or poling and looking for a sight casting opportunity. The Upper Laguna Madre, right out of the mouth of Baffin Bay, all the way up to the sand on the back of the Padre Island is holding lots of shallow water fish. They’ll be tailing in singles and groups, patrolling the sand, or laying in the pockets.
Feel like an adventure? Take the trip to the Land Cut and walk or pole the west side of the Intracoastal. Look for seagulls hovering over tailing reds.
Drifting the flats and tossing to potholes (those round light-colored sand spots in the sea of grass) is very effective, if staying in the boat is your thing. Top waters, soft plastics, flies, and those same curly tailed Gulps will bring home some delicious saltwater fare.
For beginners, drifting the rocks with the Cajun Thunder popping cork and a Gulp “Swimming Mullet” under an 18-inch leader can catch a trout on every cast. Try the rocks at Center Reef, Three Sloughs in Alazan and the “A” Pole for some easy places to drift and catch fish.
The Meadows is great for long drifts, as are the flats north of Yarborough near “Little Grassy”. The Nine-Mile Hole is epic most of the fall, but usually only accessed by a boat and is great for drift fishing. Because the water is usually low, it’s important to know where to go avoid getting stuck. It’s a long, long way back to the boat ramp.
The much anticipated “end of summer” begins this month and crescendos with the opening of dove season. Even though the weather is still overwhelmingly hot, the end is near. Anticipation of duck season will bring everyone to the sporting goods store to buy big camo jackets, gloves, hats and technical clothes for upcoming cold weather hunting and fishing.
It’s how we live—by the seasons of the year, fly fishing season, trophy trout season, duck season, dove season, deer season. You get the picture.
Email Capt. Sally Black at [email protected]