IN SOME YEARS on the Texas coast, September can be a bit slow to show significant signs of cooling weather.
Fall is definitely in its early stages. It will begin to show an effect on the weather and the fishing activity that coastal anglers await eagerly each year.
It can still be hot on the water in an open boat, but the water is still warm enough for comfortable wading in bays and surf. This results in a trade-off that can lead to the most productive and enjoyable angling of the year.
Most fish species find this season as comfortable as do most anglers. Bait and sport species will be abundant and co-operative.
The bays will be pleasant for drifting, and good wading areas easy to reach and fish. Offshore winds are normally much calmer than in mid-summer. This gives even small boat fishermen a good chance to safely “hunt” for offshore species. This includes mackerel as they interact with schools of bait on the surface over underwater structure or around near shore oil production platforms.
For anglers in larger vessels, calm seas put deeper water structure within reach. This can lead to amazing fishing for both reef and surface species from red snapper and grouper to amberjack and even billfish.
Oil “rigs” are easy to get “numbers” for, and can be seen from great distances—so this can be “easy” fishing. Good bottom structure is usually more difficult to find and fish, but spots are out there, and within reach of small vessels with offshore capability.
Those choosing to go this route should be careful to monitor fuel capacity and usage. They should also be familiar with their navigational and communication electronics, keep safety equipment well stocked, and ALWAYS keep a “weather eye” watching the horizon.
For adventure closer to shore, even “bay boats” can often be safely used to troll the surf line for anything from mackerel to tarpon. Fishing close to the beach can also be very good for shark—especially when chumming.
Of course, spending time on the beach watching a few long rods in sand spikes baited with cut or live mullet can lead to some memorable adventures. An encounter with a bull red, nice shark, or hard-fighting jack crevalle is always possible.
Location: Any water that is “salty” can be good at this time of year. The heat of summer will tend to linger, but when a bit of cool weather does make an appearance, it can trigger feeding activity in coastal fish not seen since the previous spring. Activity in the surf and nearshore waters usually “picks up” first, then “spills over” into bays and tributaries like rivers and other coastal streams.
Species: Just about anything that swims in salt water can be available. Inshore pan fish and “small game” species such as trout and redfish should be common—and hungry. Flounders and croakers will also stage “runs” between the Gulf and bays. “Bull” reds are commonly found in the surf and around passes. Species more commonly considered as “offshore fish” such as mackerel, jacks, and others will make visits close to the Gulf beaches when water and bait conditions appeal to them. An occasional ling will also be encountered.
Bait: Baitfish species are as common this time of year as they ever get, and huge schools of mullet “rafting” in calm surf will provide scenes of mass carnage as jacks, kings, sharks, and even tarpon feed heavily on them. Croakers, sand trout, and other small fishes will also be heavily hunted by predator species. Shrimp are also common. Various types of crabs and quantities of squid are also found on the “menu” for inshore sport species to pursue.
Best Time: Although early morning and late evening are normally best, night time angling can be very productive. On cooler days even mid-day periods with good tidal movement and bait activity can pay off.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]