BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 1 AND SEPTEMBER 30 daylight hours shorten by 50 minutes. This change, and the water temperature change from 85°F to 81°F, will trigger fish to move and feed.
I was kayak fishing in late September on the east shore of West Matagorda Bay, working a five-inch Saltwater Shad Bass Assassin close to the shoreline, when I felt a strong thump. Automatically, I moved to set the hook.
The fish pulled hard and then showed its large brown (flounder) side, but then, let go. I know that flounder, unlike redfish and trout, bite the tail end of a soft plastic. I should have had the presence of mind to let my line go slack—let the bait die. Then the flounder would have turned the lure around in its mouth and eaten it, but I set the hook too soon.
You would think I had learned my lesson, but it happened five more times, and I missed all of them. Certainly this demonstrated that in late September, flounder move along shorelines in schools. Learning from that experience, I now use a short lure to hook a flounder such as the Sparkle Beetle from H&H Lure Company, or a flounder pounder, a lure with hooks near the tail.
In middle September, redfish start moving in schools as well. I was about 50 yards off the shoreline over a flat on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay when loud, excited laughing gulls started diving to the water and coming up with shrimp. This was a sure sign that fish were pushing those shrimp to the surface. Redfish showed their dorsal fins as they aggressively attacked the shrimp, and they hit my soft plastic lure with equal aggression.
In late September, feeding fish tend to be found on the north sides of both East and West Matagorda Bays. One of my favorite drift fishing spots on the north side of West Matagorda Bay is: Half Moon reef. It is located a half mile south of Palacios Point and usually holds trout.
My first choice for September fishing is in the surf. You can fish the surf without getting tumbled by waves when the wind is less than five mph. If the wind is from any direction other than north, and is blowing more than five mph, the wave movement will most likely be strong enough and erratic enough to make the fishing challenging.
You can see where the waves are breaking, by going to: http://www.gomatagorda.com/matagorda-beach-webcam/. Another way to check the wave movement is to look at offshore buoy 42019 (you want to see two feet or less): http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42019.
You can get days in early September when everything lines up, a light north wind, low humidity, incoming tide, and clear blue water up to the beach loaded with baitfish.
On one of these rare days, I drove down the beach before daybreak to a spot that I had fished previously, which was a cove carved out of the beach. Small waves were breaking on the first sandbar, except for the break in the bar that allowed current to pass in and out.
On the beachside of this break in the sandbar, was an eddy (a circular water movement), and that is where predators were looking for prey. My first cast was near one of those corners and a 15-inch trout hit it. Catching a fish on the first cast pumped me up.
A couple of guys had anchored their boat just offshore and were throwing up against the ocean side of the second sandbar using live shrimp under popping corks. Fish like the ocean side of a sandbar because water movement pushes bait up against it. The guys in the boat and I caught three trout between 17 and 21 inches.
You can catch a variety of fish in the surf. One day my wife and I got into 12-inch crevalle jacks. Jack fish are super hard fighters and even though these fish were juveniles, they were great fun to catch and release.
On another day, Jeff Wiley and I hooked up with sand trout on every cast. Jeff took several home, as they are good to eat if cooked fresh. Lady fish are an annoyance, they bite your soft plastics in half.
Gafftop sailfish are good to eat, but you have to be careful of the spines on their fins. I carry a gripper to hold gafftop sailfish steady while I remove the hook with needle-nose pliers. Redfish and flounder tend to seek out deep spots between the sandbars.
Night Fishing: LCRA Nature Park at the beach in Matagorda has two lighted piers for night fishing. One is located in the Old Colorado River just north of the RV Park. The other pier goes into the Gulf of Mexico. Lights go on at sunset and stay on all night. Air temperatures are at their peak in early September, so fishing from a lighted pier at night is cooler. In addition, lights attract baitfish, which in turn, attract predator fish. When you fish from either pier, it is best to have a net that is made for pier fishing. This type of net goes under the fish, is on a long line, and allows you to bring the fish up to the pier. If you are fishing the Gulf of Mexico pier, you may want to fish with live shrimp under a popping cork. On the river pier, live shrimp is a good choice for bait, but you will need a weight, which is heavy enough— one to three ounces—depending on the strength of the tidal flow, to keep your bait on the bottom in a moving current.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]