Fish the Rocks
STRUCTURE…the difference between catching fish or not.
That’s an indisputable fact for the freshwater bass angler, but it’s important to the saltwater pro also. As Texas middle coast guide, Nick Mosley said, “target structure changes…sand to mud or mud to sand transitions, mud to scattered shell, sand to scattered shell, color streaks. A lot of times the fish will stage in those areas.”
A big piece of structure that you can’t miss is jetties. Jetties along the coast are great in May; you never know what might be nibbling on the end of your line, sometimes a large or weird surprise.
Live bait is in my opinion the best presentation to go with when fishing the rock piles. “I had a customer who fished with me about a month ago, and she brought this Corky out there,” said Capt. Benny Judice. “I tried to talk her out of using the lure, but she kept throwing it up there. Finally, she threw it too far and got hung in the rocks…gone.” Lures are expensive; hooks and maybe a few weights are a lot cheaper if you lose one. “If you are not experienced in fishing the jetties, you let the lure or bait go down too fast,” explained Judice. “The rocks are covered with barnacles and stuff. The lure gets hung-up in cracks and crevices between the rocks and the barnacle covering.”
Live shrimp, free-lined up against the rocks is the number one choice. Let it drift down real slow, no weight other than the shrimp and hook; allow the live shrimp to swim around. Pop it up off the rocks, let it settle for a second or two, and pop it again. He uses a 4/0 to 5/0 Kahle hook, never a treble. Trebles will catch more rocks than fish.
Capt. Nick Dykes uses a live shrimp under a popping cork fished as close to the rocks as he can without getting hung up.
Every jetty structure is a little different. The Port O’Connor jetties are “kind of stair-stepped structure…terraced,” said Judice. “Start off at the top level, bounce off to the next level, bounce off to the next one. Finding the fish can take a few fishing trips. Consider all the factors for that day…tide, current, wind and waves. Inside, outside, all depends on current and wind. If you have an east wind, fish off the westside. If you have a west wind, you fish off the east side of the jetty. Don’t sit there and get beat up by waves.
“I have spots that I’ve fished over the last years that I know I catch trout in, and I go to those rocks,” said Judice
Birds can serve as a pointer for possible lurking fish. “Look for slicks, birds working just like you would see in the bays. Also, you always have a bunch of birds sitting on the rocks, taking in the scenery. I thought to myself why when the birds can sit wherever they want, why do they pick that spot? If you watch them long enough, they dive down and pick up bait or a fish. Learn from the birds.”
Different times of the year the jetty will be better for different fish. Redfish, sheepshead, black drum, mangrove snapper…kind of like the produce department in the grocery store.
“We catch tarpon out there. When the water gets right in June, July and August we will catch King mackerel. Toss your bait in the water and wait to see what takes it, sometimes a big surprise. A friend of mine last year caught a sailfish at the jetty, a six-footer. He thought it was a Jack Crevalle. It took him about 2 ½ to 3 hours to land the fish.
“I caught a redfish a couple years ago, and while I was cleaning fish after the trip, I saw the gut looked kind of strange, misshapen in places. I opened him up and saw a fishing lure in his stomach. Then another lure, another, another, another. There were nine lures in total. How could he eat that many plastics and still be alive?
His final choice was a live shrimp. Most of the lures still had the hooks. People have caught redfish before and found lures, but nine has to be the record as far as the number of lures.”
I can’t promise you will find lures inside your catch’s stomach, but I do feel reasonably safe in saying that you will catch something along and off the rocks. Fish from a boat, but you might lose a few anchors.
I had a friend who made his own anchors out of rebar specifically for fishing the jetties. If he hung one in the rocks, a couple of strong pulls bent the rebar tines, and he pulled it loose. Reform, and ready to use again.
Some of the jetties have a paved surface that allows an easy walk, maybe pulling a wagon with your gear and bait in it. On others you learn how to be a cautious rock hopper. This spring/summer walk or drift along the jetties and see what you can pick up—fish and maybe even some lures.
Email Tom Behrens at ContactUs@fishgame.com