AS AN ANGLER, if you could choose the most desirable conditions for your upcoming trip, what would those conditions be?
For most of us they would be—white shrimp moving out of the bays to go offshore and spawn, abundant grass shrimp in the shallow water, lots of blue crabs and bait fish, water temperatures in the 70s and 60s, daylight hours shortening, and fewer other people on the water. Is there such a fantasy month for fishing in East and West Matagorda Bays?
Yep! That month is November.
In November, white shrimp move from the bays into the Gulf of Mexico with the outgoing tide to grow and spawn. This shrimp migration, along with signs that winter is coming, such as shorter days, cooler water and weather, supercharge the predator fish to feed.
So when you see laughing gulls diving to the water’s surface, squawking, and coming up with shrimp in their mouths, you can bet that aggressively feeding fish are pushing those shrimp to the surface. Admittedly, they are not always trout or redfish, sometimes the fish are gaff-topsail catfish, but much of the time they are speckled trout and red drums.
If you see these excited birds hitting the surface and you are in a boat, approach so you don’t disturb the feeding frenzy. Go up wind, cut your engine and drift to the birds. If another boat or two are trying to work the same activity, be respectful.
If you can access the action without disturbing the other boats, go ahead, but it you will mess up their fishing, back off. You’ll find another group of feeding birds. I was in East Matagorda Bay in November on the south shoreline in my kayak, and I saw birds working a mile out into the bay, so I paddled out there and made a cast. I hooked and landed a 22-inch trout on that first cast and thought, “Wow what a great situation.” Then a boat came roaring right up to me and scared all the shrimp, fish, and birds away.
In the shallow backwaters in November, great numbers of grass shrimp are in the cord grass on the shorelines. On one memorable morning in West Matagorda Bay, the outgoing tide had moved much of the water out of the back bayous. This forced the shrimp to leave their hiding place and move into the guts. There, gangs of redfish were waiting.
When I paddled my kayak into the bayou I saw the backs of two schools of redfish smashing and bashing, chasing grass shrimp. All you have to do to catch one of those reds is get a lure, any lure, in front of them.
November is a good month to drift over the oyster reefs in East Matagorda Bay. You will catch some redfish and flounders, but the main fish feeding on those reefs will be trout. Often these trout will measure more than 20 inches.
Matagorda guide Al Garrison likes to rig popping corks over live shrimp so the bait is just off the bottom. He does so because when the shrimp aren’t being chased by hungry trout, that’s where they are. just off the bottom.
You can do well fishing with artificial shrimp under a popping cork in November, because the white shrimp are moving through the bays. Egret Baits, Vudu, Gulp, and D.O.A. Shrimp all have shrimp look-alike baits.
Another November adrenaline stimulator is the movement of flounders out of the bays to go offshore to spawn. Flounders gather energy by feeding up as they move along the shorelines. In addition to targeting flounders on the shorelines, try the intersections of draining bayous into the bays on outgoing tides.
Don’t forget the surf! Redfish move through the guts in November, and they are looking for food as well. Matagorda County Sheriff Skipper Osborne and his family do real well fishing the surf in November for redfish. He said, “We fish with cut mullet and cut cigar minnows for bait, use two circle hooks on a leader, and an eight-ounce weight on the bottom. Sometimes, when the current is strong, we use spider weights, and we never keep redfish over 28 inches.”
Even though November is the best month to fish in the bays, many people don’t take advantage of it because they want to attend a football game, go hunting, or go to other events when the weather is pleasant. This lack of fishing pressure, and all the great fish feeding activity in the bays make it a superb time to go fishing.
Wade or Bank Fishing in East Matagorda Bay.
One reason the water temperatures are decreasing in East and West Matagorda bays in November is that many northers come through. Usually these winds come from the northeast and are pretty strong, 15 to 20 mph. When you have these conditions, you can fish the back lakes and bayous in East Matagorda Bay. One place is Three Mile Lake, on the maps it’s Spring Lake. To get to this spot, take the road to the beach. When you reach the sand, turn left, go 1.2 miles and turn left. You will find multiple places where you can fish from the bank or wade fish.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]