Try to Stay Cool in ‘Hot’ August Fishing
A UGUST IS INDEED a “hot” month for fishing on the upper Texas coast.
Of course, this comes in both literal and realistic terms. It’s usually best to fish nights or the cooler portions of the day both for comfort and for health. Also, there is the matter of productivity to consider, as fish also prefer to feed during the hours of somewhat cooler water temps.
Obviously, these conditions are variable, as an overcast day with a decent breeze will be cooler than a still one with little, or no cloud cover. Early morning, of course, is the waning period of “night” for the fish that have been active while the sun was not beating down. Late evening signals the beginning of a new period of movement and feeding for marine denizens.
These conditions, of course, have more effect on shallow bay systems and the surf. In the bays, even during these cooler times, best fish action will likely be found fairly near deeper, cooler water. This is where fish either coming or leaving these sheltered areas might be intercepted.
Speckled trout probably move more seeking favored water temperature than redfish or flounder, – which might just find a suitable spot to “hunker down.” Panfish such as sand trout and croaker will also be more active in cooler water.
In the Galveston Bay system, the ICW is the main conduit for cooler water to connect the various regions of the water body. This offers at least some respite from the heat for most residents.
Fishing shallow reefs or bars in really hot weather in the open bay might be uncomfortable, as well as a waste of time. All things considered, bay fishing in August except during a cooling rain shower—or immediately before or following—is much better spent during cooler times of the 24-hour clock.
When cooler air and water does arrive, bait species come with it. Surface-feeding activity can be seen from some distance then —especially with binoculars. Shrimp are a main food source during summer months, but smaller baitfish such as shad also attract the interest of predator species.
Live bait fished under a cork, or free-lined when actively over feeding fish, is normally most productive, especially with bait captured “on the grounds”. If live bait – or “fresh dead” if reds are on the menu – is not available, soft plastic jog tails, either gold or silver spoons, and sometimes various top water lures might be productive. Sometimes, even fresh water spinnerbaits might be a good bet. Fly-fishing with streamers can also pay off in the calm waters before or after dark.
In the surf, the same time periods are best, although the quarry might run a bit larger. Bull reds are found in summer surf, along with many species—and sizes—of shark.
I have personally taken king mackerel and hooked tarpon in the summer surf. Also large rod-bending stingrays are prowling around. Except when you’re “monster” shark fishing, it’s always a good idea to use bait caught on the grounds— the fresher the better.
A live finger mullet will tempt about anything that swims in the summer surf, although fresh chunks of cut mullet can be almost as good at times, depending of the species of fish sought. The largest speckled trout I ever caught was in the surf on a strip of cut shark.
Some fish that might be caught in the summer surf are more popular to some of us than others. Big rays are one of those, and of course large sharks, but we also have jack crevalle that are pretty much NOT edible to most folks, but are a hard fighting gamefish much prized by “sport” anglers.
For those fishing from boats, whether surf-launched or heading out through a pass or jettied channel, a tremendous amount of sport is available. Fishing just outside the surf zone can be very good early and late. However, moving a bit farther out—especially when the sun is higher and hotter—can be VERY good.
Outside the surf zone, hunt around structure such as oil production platforms, marker buoys, and natural bottom formations such as “reefs” or holes. Currents come into play a lot here, and will have an effect on water clarity and temperature.
Drifting or trolling will usually be a “cooler” form of recreation than anchoring over a drop-off or tying to a rig, and it can be very productive, Water temps will be cooler even in the fairly shallow nearshore regions than in the bays because of depth and current.
When you fish natural baits around structure, live bait of about any type is good. However, fresh dead, cut to allow juices to escape and attract your quarry is also good.
Chumming with small chunks of bait, or whole small fish such as the tiny shad we often catch in large quantities will attract almost anything from sharks and kings to billfish. Offshore gamefish more often found in deep water are not out of the question.
I have hooked small billfish and wahoos within 30 miles of shore under these conditions, and “bull” dolphins will also show up occasionally. Around rigs and structure, snappers, ling (cobia), and a few other offshore fish might be found—especially when the water depth nears 100 feet.
Of course, for those with enough boat, the normally calmer offshore conditions in late summer can provide avenues of access to species such as wahoo, several species of tuna, some billfish, and other exotic and desirable species.
Such pursuits, of course, should only be attempted in dependable, seaworthy boats equipped with good radios and navigational equipment and with enough fuel range for safety. Cell phones are not perfect offshore, but certainly worth a try when needed.
THE BANK BITE
Location: Bay fishing close to the shelter (from the sun’s heat) of deep water, especially early and late in the day, or at night, can be good. The surf and offshore also run under the same time frames during periods of extreme August heat.
Species: Just about all common bay species will be available, when temps are to their liking.
Bait: Summer is a prime time for live bait when it can be obtained and kept alive. Fresh dead bait works under most conditions, and artificial lures geared to the expected quarry will produce.
Best Time: Early or late, or at night, unless during a cooling period brought on by rain or other forms of cloud cover.
Email Mike Holmes at ContactUs@fishgame.com