D ucks have piled into Baffin Bay, and the fall trout spawn is in full swing.
Wading jackets and waders are interspersed with fishing shirts and shorts. That’s because Texas’s Mother Nature can’t figure out if it’s summer or winter as the swings in temperature can be that dramatic.
Because of this, anglers need to do some fancy footwork and have a flexible approach to finding feeding fish under any and all conditions. Just about the time that late fall anglers key in on a fish pattern, the weather makes a quick turn-around and throws everyone a little curve.
Cold fronts are beginning to approach now, and some even make it all the way through. Stretches of warm weather, then a few cold, windy nights keep water temperatures fluctuating wildly.
Throughout the late fall and early winter fishermen must continually do the “Shallow Water Two-Step.” When it’s warm and summer-like, move up and fish the shallow water where the bait is congregated.
When bad conditions come along and it’s cold and windy at night, move back to a “winter pattern,” by fishing protected water close to deeper areas. This includes Starvation Point, East Kleberg Point, Tide Gauge Bar, Cat Head on the Intracoastal Waterway and the spoil islands that line it.
“Fishus Interruptus” can be frustrating, but until a weather pattern sets in for good, moving back and forth from pattern to pattern is essential to catching fish. Water temperature is everything, so keep a close eye on that variable. Keep in mind that shallow water cools off the fastest, especially on windy, cloudy days or nights. The good news, however, is that shallow water heats up the fastest.
So, on those days where conditions demand a re-visit to winter patterns, key-in on the warmer, protected water near deeper areas. The sunny, or protected side on any island of spoil is one of the first places to look.
Bait is still the best indicator of the right water temperatures, so if unsure, the saying, “no bait, no fish, move on” really does apply. If an area is not holding bait, it is most probably not the right water temperature.
Baffin Bay is full of warm, dark grass which holds the heat of the day if the sun is shining. Bait will be drawn there, and as a good friend of mine says, “the lions aren’t very far from the gazelles.” Big fish follow the bait, and bait is the very best indicator of the potential for good fishing.
As conditions moderate (or if they do), a pattern will slowly emerge. Anglers who key into this “pattern change” start catching lots of fish. Big trout are mostly looking for a bang for their buck, which means, when they eat, they eat big.
Redfish almost always eat smaller, but, at this time of the year, they are crashing into schools of finger mullet shallow, eating crabs, shrimp and even sand eels. Black drum are still marauding the sand, so look for the pock marks they leave to key-in on their favorite locations.
The one surprising thing that’s happened in Baffin this year is the abundance of really big flounders in the five- to seven-pound range. They like to hang out on the edges of the grass and sand or in a pothole, either deep or shallow. If they are in the feeding mode, they will inhale most anything thrown within their strike zone. It’s been great to watch the re-appearance of the flounder, and of course, they make some fantastic table fare as well .
Natural colors work best on nice days or clear water (we like variations of white). Cloudy days might require some adjustments, such as darker naturals, Chicken on a Chain or Morning Glory. Pink and chartreuse are the perfect accompaniments to any color as an attractant.
Presentations are important this time of the year. If you are looking for a big Baffin trout, low and slow is your mantra on most every day, except for the days that the top water bite is on. When top waters don’t work, I tie on a Saltwater Assassin five-inch Die Dapper in the “Snowstorm” color (which is a variation of white) on a Black’s Magic 1/32 ounce jig head.
This big-bodied paddle tail floats ever so slowly down to the bottom and once there, I make a series of slow lifts as it is retrieved back, once in a while letting it suspend just off of the bottom.
This is a killer presentation, no matter what lure is being thrown. The combination of the big-bodied paddle tail and the super-light, super-small jig head gives this lure the most natural presentation of a “right-sized” mullet to a hungry trophy trout.
Successful late fall fishing requires thoughtful adjustments and adaptations to catch fish under the variety of conditions that come along. Match your fishing style to the weather conditions, specifically water temperature. Master the habits of the late fall predator, and don’t be afraid to dance the “shallow water two-step” when Mother Nature cranks up the music.
Email Capt. Sally Black at [email protected]