ALTHOUGH SEPTEMBER IS “OFFICIALLY” the beginning of the fall season, most years on the Texas coast it tends to be simply an extension of the August heat.
To be fair, though, we do have a few weak “cool fronts” in the month that make open water more bearable, temperature-wise. Mostly, the best we can hope for is milder winds and predictable tide schedules.
When the air temperature DOES cool off some, so does the water. This gives us the double blessing of being more comfortable to the fishermen, and also jump-starting the feeding activities of the fish we pursue.
Water temps will still be warm (just, hopefully, not too hot), so the increase in tidal activity is sometimes the key to good fishing. Normally, the activity of a rising or falling tide is best. However, a high water mark that holds for a period of time can also keep fish feeding in areas that might be a bit shallow for them at dead low tide.
This advice applies to bay areas and coastal streams, but in the past I have seen some good activity in the surf on a low tide—particularly with “bull” reds. These fish were probably following the various forms of food being taken out by the tide. They were still hungry when the current slacked prior to changing directions and started the whole hunting/feeding process all over again.
Speckled trout fishing is also often very good on September tides along the beachfront, and this is the month to begin scouting for tarpon activity in the surf. The big silver kings will be crashing through rafting mullet. Yet, when the mullet seem to have moved on and surface activity has calmed down, fish might be feeding off the “left-overs” of the tarpon’s sloppy dining habits.
This could include a still-feeding tarpon, reds, jacks, sharks, and stingrays. A live mullet would be the preferred bait when fishing from a boat. However, beach anglers may find a large mullet with its tail clipped to allow for bleeding to be as productive as they need.
Big sharks hunt the surf at night during this time, and large bait beyond the third sandbar has a good chance of being taken. Tackling these big boys requires specialized tackle and terminal equipment such as gaffs, but I have taken and helped take sharks of close to 200 pounds. This was after long and careful battles on standard tackle intended for bull reds, usually a 14-foot, heavy-action rod and a reel loaded with 30-pound mono.
Inside the passes, bay fishing should be good for reds and trout, and also pan fish, such as croakers. Flounder can be good, especially on live shrimp or mud minnows. Night fishing under lights on piers, docks, or from a strategically placed boat can be very good anywhere from the back bays to the surf.
Offshore in September, spots in state waters will hold some red snappers, and trolling in the same depths might well produce catches of Spanish mackerel. Farther out will be kings, bonito, and ling—the last being more common around various forms of structure. Bottom structure such as rocks and reefs draw and hold fish of many species, as do oil production platforms.
Farther out there is always decent fishing for tuna, wahoo, and even various billfish, for those with enough time and boat to participate in this fishery.
Location: From back bays and tidal streams to the surf and beyond, there will be good fishing activity for at least some species most of the time—and a bit more pleasant working conditions than in late summer.
Species: All the more popular coastal species will be found in inshore waters and close offshore habitats, with larger and more exotic game available farther from shore.
Bait: All types should be common, and available. Live bait is almost always best, but when not available, fresh dead cut bait can sometimes be just as good. Shrimp, squid, mullet of various sizes, and other small baitfish are all good, as are artificial lures that imitate them.
Best Time: Somewhat cooler temperatures will make daytime more productive, but early and late are still best. Night fishing may be the best time period of all—but check the tide schedules.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]