E VEN THE MILD WINTERS we normally experience along the Upper Texas Coast have a negative effect on most saltwater fishing. Cooler water and lower tides reduce successful options to catch full stringers of sporty and edible fish—and to do so in comfortable temperatures.
True spring can be hard to nail down. Not every year warms from winter into spring on the same timetable, May is pretty much as consistent as we get for a true beginning of stable warm weather fishing action.
Bait is more plentiful now in most areas and this brings good numbers of sport and food fish. Surface water temperatures in bays and the surf are still a bit cool most days to enter without waders. However, there will always be days sunny and warm enough to leave them on the shore.
Sportfish such as speckled trout and redfish will leave the deeper holes they sought in winter and start to roam shallower flats, sandbars, and shell reefs. New crops of shrimp are available to fish and fishermen alike, and baitfish of all common species have returned to inshore waters.
Good action for reds and trout, as well as flounder, might be found in back bays and bayous. Yet, perhaps the best plan is to intercept them as they move back in from deeper Gulf waters. Fishing from boats can work at San Luis Pass and the Galveston Jetties. Deeper water is still available there to “shelter” fish from the occasional cold snap.
Of course, sand bars and other bottom formations on the bay side of passes are also good spots to try. The length of the Intracoastal Waterway as it travels through West Galveston Bay offers many fine spots to intercept feeding fish. The shoreline of the bay side of Galveston Island also had a lot to offer, and some of the top spots are best reached by boat.
For anglers without boats, this is a time of the year that can be your best bet. Jetties and piers offer fishermen on foot a chance to venture a short distance from shore to cast baits and lures beyond the surf zone.
Beachfront rock groins are simply smaller versions of jetties, and also pull in fish. These features are unique in being “vehicles” to help fishermen reach deeper water for more and bigger fish. They also function as structure that attracts and holds bait species as well as the larger gamefish that feed on them.
The surf itself is beginning to present itself as a prime fishing area this month. Specks are either already feeding along the bars, or will be shortly. Reds—and this includes big “Bull” reds—are roaming the beachfront bars and guts as well as along the jetties.
“Fresh dead” bait (and some that may not be) will hook quite a few of these fine fish. However, I have always had better “luck” with live mullet—from finger mullet-sized to even large baitfish. The larger mullet are often most productive with the tail cut off to allow some bleeding. I know some successful bull red anglers who remove both head and tail of decent sized mullet.
At this time of year, a hook in each end of these larger baits for bull reds is often the best tactic. Smaller hooks are better than the 7/0s to 9/0s anglers often use.
Some anglers prefer small, but stout, treble hooks on one end of the bait—as a “stinger.” I like circle hooks for their self-setting ability. Single strand stainless wire is an excellent leader material for the surf, but there are times when monofilament of 60- to 80-pound test brings more strikes.
Of course, when using mono leaders, one should always hope a school of hungry Spanish mackerel doesn’t invade the surf. Or if they do, that you thought to bring along some lighter tackle along with silver spoons to throw their way.
Location: The surf always issues a siren call in early spring, but deeper areas in bays and shallow bay reefs as well as natural and man-made passes will harbor fish.
Species: Reds usually show up first, followed later by speckled trout and flounders, then other warm water denizens.
Bait: Mullet might be the top choice, in various sizes, but mud minnows and shad or menhaden will produce, and are easier to find than live shrimp right now. Artificial lures will need to be worked slowly and carefully if they are to produce.
Best Time: During a moving tide is best. Although the best spot might vary a few feet either way, there won’t be that much difference between a a rising or falling tide. More noticeable will be the difference in success between a large tidal change and a slight one. Days with multiple tide changes are always the best.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]