Most anglers would like a boat.
However, many cannot afford one. That does not mean they are exempted from quality fishing in the state of Texas.
The following are a few things that will make a gigantic difference in any bank-fishing venture, especially for anglers here in Texas .
Water Levels: Paying special attention to water levels and movement is crucial for anglers fishing from the bank. By virtue of fishing from shore, you are fishing across the very shallowest areas, and that can be a problem.
Coastal anglers should pay special attention to tide charts and focus on the last half of an incoming tide through the first couple of hours of a falling tide. Tidal movement is essential in getting specks, reds, flounders, drum and other fish to bite, but having enough water to fish in is equally important hence fishing near the height of high tide.
Inland anglers should strategically position themselves in areas with enough depth to get solid fishing action. The tip of piers as well as walking out toward points that extend into a lake or river offer a big advantage over simply setting up at a pretty spot on the bank.
The Right Line: This one might seem so important but it can save you lots of time and frustration in the field.
Avoid using fluorocarbon and braided lines that sink while fishing from the bank. Shorelines are typically lined with vegetation, trash and other obstacles. If you are making long casts and using a sinking lure or fishing dead bait on the bottom, a fluorocarbon or other sinking line will get you snagged all over the place.
I learned this the hard way fishing for crappie a few years back in Orange County at a favorite bank fishing spot. It was frustrating to say the least.
Most braided line floats (there are exceptions), and it also gives you a strength advantage. If you are fishing for catfish for example and hook a 30 pounder instead of the usual two to three pounders, it can pay off to have a strong, braided line.
Chum: While chasing fish from the bank is not an option, you can make them chase you. Chumming is an underrated method of fishing in Texas and can be used in both salt and freshwater.
Let us tackle saltwater first.
While fishing for Wels catfish in Europe, I learned about “ground baiting” where anglers use soured grain and prepared chum from the bank. They use slingshots to shoot it far into the water and also use a plastic device that rests above their leader. I have not seen these for sale in America, but there’s a homemade remedy.
If you can find an old 35 mm film canister or one of the soft-sided plastic aspirin bottles, remove the labels and poke holes all over it. Poke aligning holes in the top and bottom. Using a Carolina rig, slide the rig above your weight and leader. Open the lid, fill with chum and cast. This allows you to have a fish attractant right on your line.
Floats: In northern states, floats are considered precision bait and lure delivering instruments. In Texas we often look at them as child’s play, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Using floats while fishing from the bank gives you some wonderful advantages. For starters, if you have a good idea of the depth you will be casting toward it will allow you to fish above any cover or on the bottom (shell, brush) that could get you snagged.
Additionally, it allows you to keep an exact eye on your bait and position it over certain spots. Good visuals are extremely important for bank fishing. Little details like these can go a long way when you’re fishing these saltwater walk-up venues.
In saltwater, there are some awesome details few people ever consider.
Many anglers complain of rarely catching legal-sized game fish from the bank, and I believe a big reason for this is their choice of bait.
Dead shrimp is by far the easiest bait to get. It will catch everything, but that is just the problem. It catches hardheads, small croakers, sand trout and lots of undesirables. My advice is to bring one rod rigged with dead shrimp (let kids use it if they are fishing) and use the croaker, sand trout and piggy perch you might catch as live or cut bait.
Also, learn to throw a cast net to catch mullet, mud minnows and baby croakers. All of these fished on a Carolina rig will catch reds, specks and flounders. The beauty of using a cast net is you do not have to pay for your bait. Of course it is a lot of work, but it will save you money.
Something else to think about is to use a popping cork, not just a float if you are fishing in saltwater.
There are lots of snags along shorelines, and when fishing on bottom you are bound to get snagged. By using corks you can fish just above the bottom and avoid most snags. At the same time, you have the advantage of being able to draw attention to your bait by the popping action of the cork.
There are lots of good ones on the market, but I am a big fan of the Bomber Paradise Popper X-Treme. This one has a killer sound and a titanium shaft that survives plenty of punishment and is easy for casting long distance. Another good long-distance caster is the Outcast from Midcoast Products.
There’s a lot more to bank fishing than most would expect, and we will increase our coverage on it in 2018, here in Texas Fish & Game.
—story by Tf&G Staff