THE EASIEST TIME, the best month of the year to have a successful fishing trip is October.
“A lot of white shrimp are coming into the bays,” said fishing guide, Tommy Countz. “The trout are herding the shrimp into large pods, and the birds are on a feeding frenzy, pointing the way to consistent catching. Easiest fishing in the world.”
They could be feeding anywhere in the bays; along the banks, but mostly you see the diving birds out in open water. “There are usually 20 piles of birds working,” said guide, Peyton Arrison, describing the action.
From a boat, the accepted method of fishing the birds is to use your trolling motor to move up on the birds, on the sides of the action, not right in the middle. Many times, the feeding action can be accessible to an angler wading or fishing from piers, jetties and rock groins sticking out into a bay.
You could cast a soft plastic shrimp tail into the melee and probably catch trout, but the tried and proven method is a popping cork dangling shrimp under it. The popping cork is meant to draw attention to the bait.
“I pop it pretty much every two or three seconds,” continued Arrison said. “They are listening to the pop. As soon as the cork hits the water, you could have a trout taking the shrimp.”
There’s a big variety of corks to choose from, pre-rigged or with everything needed to make up your own rig. Arrison likes the Reef Hopper, which features a stainless-steel sound chamber, combined with brass beads that “offers a sound no fish can turn down. It is the loudest sound around,” according to Reef Hopper website.
Arrison likes a three- to four-foot leader under the cork, and a white/pink or white/chartreuse Berkley Gulp tail instead of a live shrimp on the hook.
There are weighted and unweighted popping corks. Weighted corks have lead or metal weights in the bottom. The un-weighted variety are lighter, but they do not cast well and do not sit upright.
The hook can be a treble or a single long shank. When the action is hot and heavy, you will thank yourself if you tied on a long-shank, single hook.
Guide David Dillman likes the Attract a Fish popping cork made by former Galveston fishing guide, Wendy Marshall. “It has a colored sinker and rattlers in the cork,” says Dillman. “It comes pre-rigged, and it’s adjustable for a leader of up to seven to eight feet deep. That’s what makes it so good. It’s not a fixed leader.”
Dillman uses live shrimp. “A lot of times I will hook the shrimp toward the back of the tail because they will stay alive longer. When I locate the fish and the fish start to eat, I will hook the shrimp in the horn.”
Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Rockport and Upper Laguna Madre: Middle coast offers several places where you can try out the popping cork way of catching fish:
Bob Hall Pier: If the surf is green, anglers usually catch fish with live shrimp under a popping cork. In a murky tide, use live/dead shrimp combined with Fishbites fishing strips on the bottom for drum and redfish.
Red Dot, Cos Way Piers: Red Dot Fishing Pier is on the east side of the Humble Channel and Cos Way Fishing Pier Bait & Tackle is on the other side. Both are lighted for night fishing. Both are on the JFK Causeway, which spans the Upper Laguna Madre. Night fishing can be excellent for trout year-round.
Clem’s Marina & Fishing Pier: This popular bait house has the area’s only submerged green lights along its pier to attract fish at night. It’s within casting distance of the Intracoastal Waterway.
North Jetty: The north jetty in Port Aransas is accessible by taking the Jetty Boat out of Fisherman’s Wharf, in Port Aransas. Rent a jetty cart at Fisherman’s Wharf to carry equipment. Adjust the leader length under your popping cork to keep from getting snagged on the rocks.
Fish Pass Jetty: Near Mustang Island State Park, this remote, short jetty gives sure-footed anglers a high and dry perch to fish the Gulf surf. Fish live shrimp under a popping cork.
Indian Point/Sunset Park: If you don’t mind getting wet…This is a traditional wading spot in Portland for either Corpus Christi Bay or Nueces Bay. There’s a hard bottom with deep guts and oyster shell.
Packery Channel Nature Park: This is an easy-access spot on north Padre Island providing about 200 yards of shoreline for bank fishing or wading. These waters are fairly well protected from prevailing southeast winds.
Shamrock Cove/Wilson’s Cut: There are several dirt/sand roads westbound along Highway 361 on Mustang Island that lead to Corpus Christi Bay, which has many wadable seagrass flats, spoil islands, and bottom contours.
Nueces Bay Marsh Restoration Area: This spot is along the west side of Texas Highway 181 in Portland, across the highway from Sunset Lake. You’ll notice a series of grassy berms extended from the surface. The depth between these berms can reach five to six feet, providing dramatic bottom contours that attract fish. Outside a perimeter rock barrier is a six-foot-deep trench. Beyond there, into the bay, are platforms and shell reefs that can hold good numbers of trout.
If the birds and shrimp move, don’t sweat it. There will be more locations that will pop up. Let the birds point the way.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]