WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT TEXAS?!
Yes, I have been a proud native Texan my whole life, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with where I was born. I have digressed in this prideful mindset of late to an innate feeling, rather of being lucky I was born here in the Lonestar Stat.
The funny thing about it is, I was but weeks away from being a native Alaskan had my older sister not been conceived in Galveston, a place my parents elected to stay with a young baby girl. When I finally came kicking and screaming into this world, I was told I was a child who was easily bored.
Fortunately, back in the ’50s, there wasn’t the plethora of toys that kids have today. My mom said the only way to keep me occupied was to put me outdoors. Just simply plop me down into the dirt, and I was a happy little dirt dauber, whether I was in the woods or by a bay or lake or river.
My mom said these were Texas’s built-in babysitters. Even today I am a restless sort, but a person has to be half dead in my opinion to get bored here in Texas.
The diversity of this state is second to none. You like warmth? We got it. You like cold? We got it. You like salt water? We got it. Hunting for almost every species on our planet? We got it.
From the mountains of west Texas to the plains in the panhandle we have 188 major reservoirs of 5,000 acre feet and close to 7,000 that are 10 acres or larger. We have 367 miles of coastal shoreline and the second most diverse population of any state via census. Add in the illegal aliens and we are number one and not likely to give that top raking up any time soon.
I chose to be a fishing guide on the Texas coast many years ago; and as most know, I also guide bow hunts in our fair state. The main reason is I love the challenges our diverse state presents.
There are very few areas on the Texas coast I have not fished. Having spent the majority of my life in this pursuit, I am still amazed at how each of the thousands of fishing spots along our beloved coast requires a unique approach for you to be consistently successful.
Just in the Rockport area alone there are distinct fishing presentations required for anglers to get hooked up. Most of my guided trips are spent in a seven major bay area. Each deserves a unique bait and equipment approach.
Something as simple as line type can and does make a huge difference. Some areas are best fished with mono while others such as heavy oyster shell territory is best fished with braided line because of abrasion.
I am sometimes asked to assist in an area we call “down south” which means anything south of California hole. The trips I help with are usually for guides who, because of illness or boat trouble, simply can’t take the trip.
One time, a fellow guide and I both were asked to fish south of marker 37 (the south side or Corpus Christi Bay). Unbeknownst to me, the guide with me was relatively new to the area. He had filled his bait well with live shrimp; I elected for croaker and finger mullet.
At about 10 a.m. my phone rang, and he and I shared success stories. He didn’t have a fish. On the other hand, I had a respectfable box of trout and reds.
“What the heck are we doing different?” he asked.
“I’m on the bottom, first of all, so no corks, and absolutely no shrimp,” I replied.
“Oh Man! shrimp is all I have and am getting eaten alive by pin perch.”
Luckily, I had plenty of bait and shared some with him, so he ended on a good note for the day. There are times this same area is best fished with live shrimp. However, the middle of the summer is NOT that time. The geographic difference of just one nautical mile can mean a total rewrite in what one’s approach is for the fishing day.
Carbon leaders trump mono leaders in the gin-clear water. In the phytoplankton-rich waters of summer, one can tie a hook directly to braided line and not hassle with break offs, which are frequent in the oyster shell-rich waters around Rockport.
One client had a bad experience with another guide the day before booking me. Once on my boat, he began telling me about his dissatisfaction.
“The guide wouldn’t let me touch the rod,” he said. “He would cast out and announce for us not to touch the rod until it had bent over with a fish on.
“I told him I had fished with you. You believed in keeping the bait moving, and I had the rod in my hand the whole day. It was obvious Capt. Mac he didn’t know what he was doing.”
“Were you red fishing?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Well sir, if this was a court of accurate opinion you would probably be incarcerated. First, I know that guide, and I can assure you he knows how to fish.
“Second, you were bottom fishing a heavily shell-populated area, and any movement of the rig on the bottom is an almost guarantee to lose hook, line, sinker and bait. Did you catch fish?”
“Yes,” he said, “but I didn’t like fishing that way.”
“That’s another discussion,” I replied. “He did his job by putting you on fish, and as a fishing guide he has to employ the style/mechanics which work for that area.”
“But it’s the same area, not more than 10 miles from where we are fishing today—same fish, same bait, same rods and reels, heck even the same type boat!”
“Well, it’s the same except diferent,” I said to him. “Had it been me I more than likely would have been fishing the same way.”
“I have never seen you fish that way.”
“You are not with me 365 days a year,” I told him. “I fish the style that matches the conditions and geographic area of the waters I am in. You might not like that style of fishing, but don’t diss or ding him.
“He put you on, and caught fish. My advice is talk to the guide about his or her way of fishing before you book the trip. Out of the hundreds of miles of Texas coast line there is no one style that fits all. If you need to have a rod in your hand all day or just would like to sit back, watch the rod and sip coffee until a fish bites, see if the guide can accommodate.”
The “prank bait” angler (lure angler) is by far better adapted IMO to the vast differences our coastline presents. These gals and guys know it’s all about change.
Yes, it’s lure fishing, so in that respect it is the same, but each area requires different approaches. An experienced artificial angler adapts to the challenges these changes bring. There are so many approaches in their arsenal of lures that the chance of success when changing geographic areas is far superior to that of live/dead/cut bait.
If I were asked to fish the length of our coastline and could choose any bait and style and any rod and reel, it would be specifically designed for artificial (meaning adjustments for variable lure weights). The tackle box would be full of hard and soft plastic lures in a wide range of colors and scents.
If I had to pick two colors only, it would be morning glory and new penny, hands down. I have caught fish on these colors all over the world. Are they always the best? No, but they have been the most consistent for me over the years.
Put the best bass anglers, the best salt water anglers and the best fishing guides all in a room and tell them to agree on the single best style of fishing, the best bait for fishing, and the best lure for fishing, Then tell them they couldn’t come out till they all agreed.
If you did this, an undertaker would need to be called in. Why? because they are the same in their pursuit and passion, but very different in approach and style.
It’s just cold for us Texans right now, yet it’s a real good time to wade fish. Be wise though, file a float plan and check in regularly with a buddy or loved one as the fish day progresses.
If you are going to wade fish be aware of what the average water temperatures this time of year can do (average being 61ºF). If you have no protective clothing, at this temperature it takes just 30 to 40 minutes of exposure for loss of dexterity to set in, exhaustion and unconsciousness in two to seven hours and expected time of survival 2 to 40 hours.
All these times decrease the older we get. These water temperatures require a wet-suit-type thickness for waders, a jacket and a hat.
T EXTHERE TextHere
COPANO BAY: The islands between Swan Lake and Copano Bay are a good spot for reds using finger mullet on a light Carolina rig. Fish the cuts in this area between the islands. High tide is best. Shellbank Reef is a good spot for trout on warmer days. Live shrimp free-lined works best here.
ARANSASBAY: Deadman Island is still a good spot for black drum. Peeled shrimp free-lined on a light Carolina rig is best here. On warmer days, the drum frequent this area going from the ICW channel to the shallow water of the reef. In this same area, Long Reef is a good spot for trout using shrimp under a silent cork. Fish the deeper/outer edges of the reef. A falling tide is best here.
ST. CHARLES BAY: The area just off Bird Point is a good place for reds and black drum, using finger mullet and peeled shrimp. Free-line is best here, or a very light Carolina rig. Wades in the Hail Point area are good for trout and reds using soft plastics in new penny and Jerk Shad in blue pepper neon colors.
CARLOS BAY: The place to be here is Cedar Point. Finger mullet fished on a light Carolina rig is good for reds. Live shrimp will produce an occasional trout.
MESQUITE BAY: On warmer days, the Beldon Dugout is a good place for reds using cut mullet or cut menhaden on a fish finder rig. On cold days, fish the deeper edges. On warm days the shallow water close to the reef works well.
AYERS BAY: Second Chain is a good spot for reds and trout using new penny Jerk Shad or imitation shrimp under a bubble cork. The bite is better here when the water is murky. The east shoreline is a good spot for black drum using free-lined peeled shrimp.
Wades on the south end of LBJ causeway around Live Oak Point is a good spot for some nice trout. Gold spoons with red insets are preferred here. This is slow deliberate fishing, casting often. This area produces best with a moving tide.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]