FALL IS THE PEAK fishing time along the Gulf Coast. Here are seven keys to helping you unlock those opportunities and maximize your time in the field.
Aim small, miss small: As cold fronts arrive and push baitfish and shrimp out of back bays and out toward the Gulf, it’s easy to get caught up in the vast amount of feeding action going on. Trout and reds will sometimes school in vast numbers under huge pods of shrimp and baitfish.
Much of the best action (for trout in particular) can be found on small pods of shrimp. If you see a few shrimp skipping across the surface perhaps with little surface action, try throwing a Gulp! under a popping cork or a topwater. You stand a great chance of getting it slurped under.
Flounder Funnel: With new regulations for flounder in effect for five years now, numbers of flatfish are increasing in a huge way.
After the first big cold front blows through (which should happen between the middle and end of the month), focus on the passes. Flounder will be migrating out toward spawning grounds. This provides you with a great opportunity to catch them on soft plastic curtltail grubs tipped with shrimp or live finger mullet.
Natural Colors: As water temperatures begin to cool, consider using more natural lure colors. This is important as the water can clear dramatically. As a rule of thumb, the murkier the water, the brighter the lures (chartreuse, pinks, etc). In clearer water, shad, shrimp and clear-colored lures tend to work better.
Live Croaker: Although the use of live croaker for trout is controversial, there is no doubt it’s effective. Here, however, I am talking about using it for bull redfish.
As the bull redfish hit the nearshore Gulf, tie on a large live croaker and throw it out on a Carolina rig. A croaker is by far the best bull red bait. The distressed, hooked croaker gives the bulls an audible target as well as something that smells appetizing.
Use circle hooks to reduce deep hooking and think about releasing the big bulls to fight another day. Despite the term “bull” many of the biggest fish are females that can produce lots of offspring. Plus, their meat is tough anyway.
Full Frontal Assault: Early cold fronts can be great fishing opportunities but they can also mislead anglers. When a front approach the barometric pressure drops, and the fish feed very aggressively. This usually means big winds, which can in turn discolor the water. Finding protected areas to fish before a front arrives can lead to incredible fishing.
The day after a front, however, can be tough because the pressure rises and the fish get lethargic. If this is the only day you can fish, use more finesse, employing smaller lures and a slower approach.
Many times, it takes two days for the pressure to drop a little and get the fish feeding again. At this point, baitfish and shrimp from backwaters are exposed in open water and opportunities abound.
Chumming Reds: Anglers in smaller boats who like to anchor up and fish over shell or around small passes can benefit from chumming. Redfish will follow a chum line right in, especially one consisting of mashed-up crab and shrimp.
Take any old frozen shrimp and mix in a few nice blue crabs (legal size of course) and put them in a chum or lingerie-washing bag on the side of the boat. As the tide moves, your chum slick will spread out and sound the dinner bell for roving reds.
Long Casters: Always have a rod rigged up that you can cast a long distance with a lure that complements it. I always have a silver or gold spoon rigged up during the fall. Sometimes the redfish in particular are moving so far, it’s a real challenge to keep up with a trolling motor.
A ½ or ¾-ounce spoon rigged on a 7.5- to 8-foot medium heavy spinning rod spooled with 30- to 50-pound braid is ideal. It will let you make those casts on fast-moving fall reds and allow you to horse the fish in, so you don’t lose the school.
TF&G Exec. Editor and flounder expert Chester Moore talks shows underwater footage of flounder striking baitfish.
This is a story that looks at the Southern Flounder here in Texas. From fishing to gigging to stocking, all things flounder. Texas Parks and Wildlife has started raising Southern Flounder at their coastal hatcheries. This also takes a look at those efforts.
—story by CHESTER MOORE