SOME OF THE PREPARATION that I do prior to a fishing trip is to make sure the hooks are sharp and the stringer (for wade and kayak fishers) is not tangled. I check for nicks in the leader and the braided line is not frayed, (if you use monofilament line, you should check the three feet before connecting to a swivel or leader) and the drag is set properly.
Proper Preparation includes using a checklist. If you don’t go through the list and look at each piece of equipment, you will probably forget something. But if you take five minutes to use a checklist and a little more time to make sure everything is ready to perform correctly, you will land that fish instead of losing it.
It is also good practice to have a system of handling the fish fixed in your mind, so that once hooked it actually makes it to your stringer or fish box. While kayak fishing in a lake on the west side of East Matagorda Bay, I casted a red and white Bass Assassin and felt a thump on the retrieve.
I set the hook and the fight was on. The redfish zoomed away, and the lightly set drag buzzed. Then the fish came back, causing me to reel like mad. Then it darted to one side of the kayak, then the other, pulling the kayak in whichever direction it was headed.
I finally worked the red up to the kayak and missed on my first try to net it. On the second try the fish was in the net and sitting in my lap. With my right hand I reached for the stringer and my left hand reached for the 24-inch fish. I was thinking of how good it would taste cooked on the half shell, instead of concentrating on the process, and it leaped out of the kayak.
“No problem,” I thought—it is well hooked I will just net it again, but putting it in the net caused slack in the line. The fish spat the hook, and swam off.
From this I learned that I had to concentrate on landing the fish 100 percent of the time. Now I lift the net with one hand and get a firm grip on the fish with the other hand before reaching for the stringer.
There are some real advantages to fishing in the month of April. I was fishing with Rockport guide Mike Caserta in March several years ago. The bite was slow to non-existent and the water temperature was in the 60s. Mike said, “When the water temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees the fish are really active.”
When I think about Aprils, I think about what Caserta said, because typically the water temperatures range between 70 and 80 degrees in April. Another “stimulate the bite” factor in April is that there are millions of bait fish in Texas’s bays. Two of the abundant baitfish species found in the bays in springtime are menhaden and striped mullet.
Menhaden begin their lives in the Gulf of Mexico between December and February. An average of 23,000 eggs are produced by each female. The larvae grow by feeding on plankton. Then they drift with the current until they develop the ability to swim and make their way into the bays and estuaries.
Striped mullet are another bait fish that arrive in Texas’s bays in large numbers in April. Mature mullet collect in schools and go offshore between October and December to spawn. Females scatter from one to seven million eggs on the bottom. The juveniles that survive return to the bays and estuaries in the spring.
Another common baitfish species found in East and West Matagorda Bays in April is the bay anchovy. One April evening, Jeff Wiley and I were motoring away from the south shore of West Matagorda Bay to head for home, when we came upon a phenomenal site. We were drawn to an area of the bay by terns and gulls frantically hitting the water.
What looked like thousands of bay anchovies had been surrounded by redfish, and the redfish were surrounded by trout. Fish were jumping all over the place. We knew that if we stopped to fish we would have to go home in the dark, but this situation was too good to pass up.
We dropped the anchor and started tossing spoons and soft plastics into the melee. The action was fast and furious. First we concentrated on redfish that were close to the center of the jumping and crashing fish. Then we worked the outer circle for trout.
We had gone out early that morning, and it was very late when we got home, but we both remember that April baitfish bash as one of the highlights of our fishing lives.
When we came upon that feeding frenzy we had four rods rigged and ready, but we lost lures, cut leaders, and tangled lines. So it wasn’t long before we had to re-rig tackle. If we had not had those four rods and reels all set to fish, we would have wasted valuable time tying knots instead of casting.
In fishing as in most of life’s endeavors, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Don’t hesitate to plan a fishing trip to East or West Matagorda Bay in April. The water temperatures are ideal and there are a lot of baitfish.
TURTLE BAY: Jensen Point at Turtle Bay is reached by going 2 ½ miles west of Palacios on Highway 35. Just after going over the bridge, turn left (south) on Jensen Point Road. At the end of Jensen Point Road you’ll find a launch ramp and dock. You can wade fish, or fish from the dock. You will have leeward protection from a north or northwest wind.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]