S eptember on the Texas Coast is often merely an extension of August, with calm days featuring uncomfortable heat.
Fishing species and techniques are also usually the same as those that were best in late summer—but, this is a good thing, really.
I doubt that I am in a minority as I appreciate an extra month of summer—especially when it is a month after most school years have begun, meaning fewer folks on the water, or the beach, or the pier, or the jetties—or. . .
Usually, the weather really does begin to cool off some in September. Wet wading is still comfortable in the surf and on bay flats and reefs and can be very productive.
In my experience, August is the month when it really becomes worthwhile to seek bull reds in the surf, whether via a long cast from the beach or a drop off the end of a pier or rock groin. However, September is better.
Calm, green surf with large schools of mullet rafting in on every swell or wave has always produced better than the rough, muddy surf some “experts” recommend—although I have caught reds in rough surf. A live mullet of just about any size tethered to the bottom in a gut between sandbars by a good “spider” weight type surf sinker is something a feeding red just cannot pass by.
Of course, a fresh dead mullet with either the head or tail—or both—cut off to let juices drift in the current will often produce just as well.
Reds are the king in the surf, in my opinion. I rate them above the “silver king,” tarpon, because they are much more common and also can be fine eating. However, there are other levels of royalty. The jack in the deck is the jack crevalle, arguably the hardest fighting fish of its size that can be found in the surf. Although they’re not a food species, they make excellent cut bait for anything from sharks to red snappers.
Bluefish are often overlooked by Texas anglers, but are a hard fighting species that does have some food value. Blues seem to migrate to the Gulf in winter to spawn. We don’t see the huge specimens caught on the Atlantic coast, but I have seen some bruisers coasting in with rafting mullet in September.
Although I once caught a nice king mackerel in the surf on a cut mullet meant for reds, this is not a common thing. What can be common is to encounter large schools of Spanish mackerels. Although they’re smaller, they are better eating and have a much more liberal bag limit.
Spanish macks will readily hit small jigs on light tackle. When they are in mixed schools with small bluefish and large skipjacks (ladyfish), they can really make a slow day in the surf into a lot of fishing fun.
Of course, there are also sand trout, croakers and an occasional gafftop catfish to go in the frying pan. You’ll alsso find sharks from ankle biting sharpnose to hefty bulls and tigers.
Another often-undervalued large species is the Atlantic stingray. Reaching weights well over 100 pounds and willing to snatch up a redfish bait, “stinkrays” can be a challenging quarry. When a big one performs its suction cup imitation on the bottom and refuses to move, challenge can turn to frustration.
You can try various techniques, such as “twanging” the line or sliding sinkers down to strike the ray, but just putting the rod back in a sand spike and waiting the ray out works as well as anything.
Not all rays will hunker down, and when they decide to make a “run”, it will be a powerful one. The pumping action of the wings are hard to mistake for any other quarry. Rays are also fine eating.
My advice would be to ignore all the “legends” of using a cookie cutter to punch out scallops from the wings. Just skin them and cut into bite sized chunks for deep-frying.
Offshore, snapper season is closed, and amberjack season closed in March and will not re-open until January 1 of 2018.
Location: In daylight hours, the surf beyond the third sandbar and deeper channels are best.
Species: All warm water species will be abundant, specks, reds and flounders inshore, and an almost limitless variety offshore.
Bait: Live bait may be hard to get, and harder to keep alive. It is not a good idea, however, to put ice in your live well to lower the water temperature—unless it is encased in a plastic bag or bottle so the water stays salty.
Best Time: Early morning and late evening tides are best for inshore, but night fishing is even better, and also good offshore. Lights help attract both bait and fish. In addition, fishermen on an offshore charter boat with two licensed captains who are out overnight and have a receipt to prove it are allowed two-day limits of fish such as king mackerel, ling, and red snapper. Note that this does not apply to overnight trips in state waters, though
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]