I PADDLED MY KAYAK into a bayou on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay, stopped 50 feet from a bend where the water dropped off to four feet deep, and cast my soft plastic lure into the undisturbed water.
My lure was hit, and I got a glimpse of silver, so I thought it was a trout. Then it jumped and I realized that it was not a trout, but I could not identify it from that fleeting leap.
Finally the fish hurtled 10-feet high and 20 yards horizontally over water and grass, landing in the grass. I reeled in the acrobatic 18-inch ladyfish, thanked it for a good show, and released it.
You will probably never catch a tarpon in West Matagorda Bay, but you will probably catch a ladyfish. The primary difference between a small tarpon and a ladyfish is that the small tarpon has an elongated ray on its dorsal fin.
The thrill of the fight to the angler (if the tarpon and ladyfish were the same weight) is about the same. The ladyfish rarely exceeds three pounds, but it is also called skipjack and ten pounder because of its jumping and fighting ability. It does not have enough meat to be considered tablefare, so when you hook one, enjoy the experience and turn it loose.
Ladyfish are abundant in West Matagorda Bay and in the surf during warm water months. I have never caught a ladyfish in East Matagorda Bay.
Brown shrimp migrate offshore to spawn in the spring. My wife Janet and I had quite the brown shrimp experience in the middle of May.
We were fishing Shell Reef on the north side of West Matagorda Bay, and I noticed birds working about one and a half miles away, so I paddled toward the action. The birds kept on squawking and diving. I continued to paddle until I got close enough to see what was happening. Laughing gulls, sandwich terns, and caspian terns were excitedly grabbing shrimp from the water and one another, while trout were forcing shrimp to leap out of the water.
A laughing gull plucked a 3½-inch shrimp from the water and was immediately confronted by two other laughing gulls. One of the interlopers stole the shrimp and flew off.
Then a shrimp jumped out of the water followed by a silver flash. The birds would gather in one place on the water, each one trying to out shout the other. Then they would lift off in unison fighting over shrimp.
Into the foray, I lobbed my red and white Texas Trout Killer, with a little piece of Fishbite attached and got a hit almost every time. Using a rod with a sensitive tip, I could feel the lure bumping against fish or shrimp as well as the slightest bite.
Janet came over after doing battle with redfish on the oyster reef and she started catching trout as well. When the brown shrimp moved, the trout, birds, and the two of us, moved along with them, and we stayed with the action for over an hour and a half.
The fish weren’t big, but some were keepers and it was a marvelous fishing experience. Using a kayak was, by far, the best way to fish that situation. The kayak allowed me to move over the shallow oyster reef, and stay with the action without disturbing the shrimp, fish, or birds.
Wade and kayak fishers on the south shore of East or West Matagorda Bays when the tide is high have the option of wading or kayaking into the winding bayous of the marsh. Redfish, flounders and the occasional large trout like to hunt in these flooded backwaters.
At points where a bayou meets the marsh you will usually find a hole, a place where currents have hollowed out a spot a couple feet deeper than the surrounding area. Approach a spot like that quietly until you are in a position to cast your lure into the hole.
You might hook a large trout. In the sometimes flooded marsh area, water will only be one to two feet deep and you might be able to sight-fish reds. If you see little grass shrimp popping up repeatedly next to shore, drop a lure in there, as that’s most likely a flounder feeding.
Some speckled trout move into the Gulf of Mexico when the temperature of the water in the bays goes down and then come back to the bays when water temperatures increase. This movement, sometimes, happens in May.
In early May, I was walking on Matagorda Beach near the weir jetty when I stopped to watch two guys who were having a great time catching big trout. They had eight trout over 23 inches lying on the sand.
Scott Mayotte and Mark Bailey were fishing with live shrimp, using three-foot leaders attached to their lines with small swivels. Six inches down from the swivel, was a size 3 split shot. Between the weight and the swivel was a bead. This allowed them to produce a clicking sound (shrimp sound).
Scott and Mark were in the surf casting their baits near the pier pilings. Scott put a large. lively shrimp on his Kahle VMC 3/0 hook, tossed the shrimp out, let it drop and held his rod tip high with a tight line and waited. He would feel a tap-tap, then move the rod tip back. while reeling to set the circle hook on the big trout.
Carancahua Bay at Highway 35: West of Palacios, Highway 35 goes past the north end of Carancahua Bay where there’s a boat launch and parking lot. Bank fishers can fish from the east side of the launch ramp by walking out on some rocks, or the west side by taking a trail to the water. This is also a good place to wade or kayak fish for redfish.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]