IN JULY IT IS BEST to go fishing early in the morning because that’s when the fish will most likely be searching for prey—and you will not get too hot.
Early in the morning the water temperature in East and West Matagorda Bays will be about 83°F. By 4 pm the water temperature will have increased to 88°F. Consequently the fish move to deeper water and stop feeding.
Shortly after first morning light, you may find redfish feeding off the shorelines. You may also find flounders, but redfish feeding signs are different from flounder. Redfish trap bait fish or shrimp against the bank and create a big commotion when attacking.
When you see this, watch which way the reds are going, be very quiet, even though they are being very noisy. Position your soft plastic or gold spoon in front of the redfish. If your lure lands over shell, you will have to reel immediately.Keep your rod tip high to prevent it from getting hung up on oyster shell, and hope it is a perfect cast.
If your lure lands on sand or mud, you can leave it until just before the redfish gets there, and then start moving it.
Flounders usually feed right next to the shoreline. When they attack prey, you see a burst of little baitfish or small shrimp. When that happens, watch that spot and be ready to drop your lure right on it when the burst happens againYou know that’s a flounder, so be prepared to play the strike as a flounder.
When fishing a soft plastic, after you feel a hit, wait until you feel the flounder swim, then set the hook. Many times, a flounder will strike the back of a soft plastic lure, missing the hook. They do this to stun their prey. Then they turn the “fish” so it goes down headfirst.
If you’re using a spoon, set the hook when you feel the bite. In contrast to reds and flounders, although trout sometimes work the shorelines, they are usually found in the guts or in the open water of the bay.
If you intend to fish the surf, try to time it so that you’re fishing at first light on an incoming tide. If the incoming tide is later in the day, you may find that the fish are still biting.
Fishing an incoming tide yields more action. Baitfish are being pushed into the guts along the shoreline by the water movement, and predator fish follow the bait.
If the surf is calm and the tide on the beach is incoming, you will probably fare better fishing the surf than in the bay. Wave action in the Gulf of Mexico and cooler water coming up from depth mixes with warm surface water oxygenates the water, whereas water in the bays on a hot, calm day is oxygen deprived.
If the surf is too rough to wade-fish, you can either fish the surf from the beach using live or fresh dead shrimp, or you can fish the bay very early in the morning.
Jeff Wiley and I were catching trout, hardheads, whiting, and small sharks in the surf shortly after first light. He caught a small hammerhead and netted and released it with no problem. But when I hooked and then watched a three-foot blacktip shark jump high out of the water, my desire to net the shark did not work out.
With the net deep in the water at the ready, I worked the shark up to it, but the blacktip shark avoided the net and darted past my right side and came around my back to my left side where my leg and butt meet and clamped down. I felt the searing pain and reached down and grabbed the shark on its underside, just below its mouth, which was not letting go, and tore it off. Then I removed the hook and turned the little blacktip loose.
What did I learn from that experience? I am not going to try to net a shark; instead, I will cut the line. I was glad I had a first aid kit in my truck. An open wound in warm salt water should be treated immediately.
In the Gulf of Mexico in July you may see a concentration of diving birds and jumping fish over a large area. This is most likely Spanish mackerels rounding up a huge school of sardines.
I was offshore in late July and witnessed this, sardines jumping as Spanish mackerels and bottleneck dolphins attacked them. We tried to catch Spanish mackerel by using light tackle and running a silver spoon through the melee quickly, but we could not get the boat in a position to make continuous casts before the whole business moved.
However, if you see king mackerels jumping among baitfish and birds attacking, there is a good chance that you will land some of those kings. We had that situation and positioned the boat to troll near the action and caught several kings that were acrobatic jumpers.
Red snappers will be in season in federal waters throughout the month of July. Usually snappers will be found below the thermocline, which can be seen on the boat’s fish-finder.
I like to drop my bait to a depth which is a little below the thermocline and wait about a minute. If no bite, I’ll drop another 10 feet. I’ll continue to lower the bait until I feel a bite or until I feel the weight hit the bottom. Then I’ll bring the weight up a little and wait for the bite.
Be sure to bring a device to deflate the expanded bladders of red snappers that you return to the water and use circle hooks. Circle hooks catch in the side of the fish’s mouth and are easily removed leaving the fish undamaged, whereas J hooks sometimes hook deep inside the fish and kill it.
The Surf If you have a calm day give the surf a try. You can fish from the beach if you don’t want to wade-fish. In July, the surf is loaded with baitfish and predators. A surefire way to attract the bite in the surf is to use live shrimp under a popping cork.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]