Turn a Hit into a Catch
I FOUND FISH IN A four-foot-deep trough that was up against the side of a bayou in the backwaters of East Matagorda Bay. The opposite side of the trough came up to a foot of water that covered an oyster reef.
Using an H20 shrimp, I felt a bite and left it. When the fish started swimming, I set the hook and caught a 15-inch flounder. A short time later, I felt another bite and did nothing except make sure the line was taut. The fish did not swim, but still, I did nothing. Finally I pulled slightly and got an opposite reaction, so I set the hook. This was another 15-inch flounder.
That is what some flounder do, hit the bait, and hold it. If you set the hook as soon as you feel the hit, most likely you will lose the fish, because it does not have the hook in its mouth, just the lure’s tail. That’s why when you fish with soft plastics, you retrieve only half a lure, or the lure is pulled off the retainer on the hook.
Then, using the same lure, I hooked a redfish in the hefty category, but the leader broke. Of course this happened because, on previous casts I had felt my lure coming in contact with the oyster reef, but I had not run my fingernails over the leader line to find the nicks.
I knew the fish were turned on and did not want to take time to put another leader and lure on, so I switched to my other rod that was set up with a chicken on a chain colored (green and white) Bass Assassin. I caught a 20-inch redfish with that lure, and then the bite stopped.
The bite happened at 8 a.m., within 45 minutes of a “minor” period according to the Sportsman’s Daybook tables published in Texas Fish & Game.
While you’re fishing, you can do a few things to ensure that once you get a good hit, you will land the fish. Checking the leader for nicks is one. Checking your hook for sharpness is another.
When you hook up to an oyster reef or rock, you might dull the hook if you try to set it. Run the hook over your fingernail to see if it makes a scratch. If it doesn’t scratch your fingernail, contact with the rock or oyster has dulled the hook, and it should be sharpened or replaced.
Have a net handy, especially with a flounder. Many times when I put a flounder in the net, the hook fell out. This happens because flounder have a boney mouth and sometimes the hook does not penetrate the soft part of the mouth.
If you’re fishing with a hard plastic lure that has multiple hooks, you don’t want to use a net. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much time untangling your hooks from the net. So, carry a gripper and keep a tight line. Work the fish up to you and wear it down some, then grip the fish’s mouth. If you intend to keep it, make sure the pointed metal part of your stringer is sharp so it easily slides through the soft part of the mouth.
Using a checklist before you leave home will also help you land fish. I was getting ready to wade-fish at Boiler Bayou on the south side of East Matagorda Bay when I realized that I had forgotten my net, pliers, and stringer.
I got pliers from the truck, borrowed my dog’s leash for a stringer, and went without a net. I caught a feisty 21-inch trout and an 18-inch flounder, and the dog leash worked pretty well.
Now I go through the checklist and put my eyes on each item, never assuming it is there. Rig your rod at home, so that the precious time on the water is spent fishing, not rigging.
The water temperature in the surf from middle to late May is usually above 80°F, a comfortable temperature for wade fishing. Plenty of fish are in the surf in May. So, if you come to Matagorda on a day when the sea is calm and clear, give the surf a try.
A few years ago, on two days in early May, I witnessed large trout feeding on shrimp in the surf near the jetties and between the jetties. This happens every year, but the specific days vary. One way to find out if you have arrived on those special days is to go to the Matagorda Bay Nature Park parking lot. It’s located where FM 2031 meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Focus your binoculars on people fishing the jetty. You will know whether the big trout are there, because every other jetty fisherman will be hooked up.
THE BANK BITE
Chinquapin: This town lies between Sargent and Matagorda on the north side of East Matagorda Bay. To get there, turn south off FM 521 onto FM 262 and then turn right on FM 237. The distance from FM 521 to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is 10.3 miles. You can bank fish in several places on the ICW. Kayak fishers can launch near a bridge nine miles from FM 521. Stay to the right, and after a 15-minute paddle, you will get to the channel which leads to Lake Austin on the left, and the ICW on the right.
Email Mike Price at ContactUs@fishgame.com