MARCH IS A CHALLENGING MONTH to fish, and in 2019 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is predicting a wetter than normal March for the bays of Texas.
This will add to the usual challenges, but that is the fun of fishing, trying to figure out where to find hungry trout, redfish, and flounders despite challenges such as an overabundance of fresh water flowing into the bays.
When you plan your fishing trip, think about how long it has been since rain pushed fresh water into the bays and how intense the rain was. For example let’s say on Wednesday six inches of rain fell north of, and directly on East and West Matagorda Bays, and you are going fishing on Saturday.
Caney Creek flows into the east side of East Matagorda Bay near Sargent, mixing an abundance of fresh water with bay water. However, by Saturday, even though the water in East Matagorda Bay will be brown and fresh on top, the lower layer will be saltwater because it’s heavier than fresh water. Therefore East Matagorda Bay will be worth fishing.
West Matagorda Bay is another story. If a great deal of rain falls into the Colorado River Basin causing LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) to open dams, a huge amount of mud and log-laden water flows past the locks in Matagorda, through the Diversion Channel and into the east end of West Matagorda Bay—and it continues to flow for many days.
To check on this flow of fresh water into West Matagorda Bay go to https://lcra.hydromat.org. Look at stream flow values. Very low stream flow such as 350 cfs means very little fresh water going into West Matagorda Bay. On the other hand, If it rained six inches on Wednesday, and you look at the LCRA website on Friday evening when you are going fishing Saturday and see that the stream flow value is 27,000 cfs, don’t go near the Diversion Channel or the east end of West Matagorda Bay. However, you can still fish West Matagorda Bay, if the winds are light enough, by launching at Palacios instead of Matagorda.
Palacios has three launch sites, one on East Bayshore Drive on Tres Palacios Bay, another on 7th Street, and a third at the shrimp boat harbor. However, if the wind is strong out of the east, south or southeast, it is difficult to go to the south shore out of Palacios because of the 7.5-mile expanse of bay between Palacios and the barrier islands bordering the Gulf of Mexico.
The waves generated by strong south, southeast or east winds over this 7.5 miles expanse of bay can get up to four feet and be haphazard. You can go to the south shore of West Matagorda Bay from Palacios and fish the west end of Matagorda Peninsula on a wind that is under 10 mph, or ideally, a light northeast wind in the morning when you go south, followed by a southeast wind when you come home in the afternoon.
In the winter, cold water causes algae to fall to the bottom, making the water very clear. In March, the combination of clear water and warming temperatures creates algae blooms. Sometimes there is so much algae that you can’t run a lure through it. However, if you get next to a leeward shoreline you will have algae-free fishing as the wind will push the irritating algae away from shore.
Strong winds from the northeast are common in March. A strong northeast wind will push water into the backwaters of the bays and predator fish follow baitfish and shrimp into these backwaters. If you like to wade or kayak fish, you will find redfish and flounders in the bayous and lakes of the marsh. I have found that a northeast wind that is 10 to 15 mph is manageable in my 19-foot, flat-bottomed, Carolina skiff, but more than 15 mph from the northeast is more than I or my passengers want to deal with.
Water temperatures should be considered in March. Early in the month, typical water temperatures are close to 60°F and late in the month you will find water temperatures close to 70°F. When the water is cooler, slow your lure movement down and fish near a hole that is four feet deep or so. When it is close to 70°F, try running a gold spoon over flats in search of a marauding redfish.
Tidal movement is always a factor because water movement stimulates fish to look for food. However, if you go out on a day with very little tidal movement, but you have a wind over 10 mph, the movement created by wind will stimulate fish to bite.
Because of all these challenges, fresh water input, algae, strong winds, water temperatures, and tidal movement you might say, “I’m not going.” Still, for serious anglers, the greatest reward is not actually catching the fish, it is finding them. When you do that in March, and then you catch them, you finish the day with a feeling of satisfaction.
The Drum Run at the Jetties In March, black drums gather near the jetties to spawn. To fish for them from the Matagorda Jetties, use a medium to heavy action rod, a slip sinker from ¼ ounce to ½ ounce so the bait bounces just over the bottom with the current. Tie on a Kahle-type circle hook (size 4 or 5) with cut fish or shrimp for bait. When using a circle hook, wait until you feel the fish swimming, then slowly raise your rod and start reeling. The circle hook catches in the side of the fish’s mouth, and it is easy to remove once the fish has been landed. You can keep five black drum between 14 and 30 inches.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]