SCHOOLING REDFISH, rutting bucks, and whistling widgeon are things that inspire hunters to hit the field in the fall.
Fall is not only the best time of year for hunting, but it also offers the best overall fishing for many species.
The following are key things to watch for when in the woods and on the water that can make your Texas outdoor adventures more successful.
During the early fall acorns are a top food item for whitetails, turkey, and hogs. Not all acorns are created equal. The game will have their favorites. By learning preferred local mast, you can have a much better chance of scoring. In some areas, it’s pin oaks and in others it’s white or red oaks.
Scout and ask questions of veteran hunters in the area. Even corn feeders can’t draw deer away from their favorite acorns.
Boars will often rub trees to sharpen their tusks and mark territory. This is a great way to tell how big the hogs are in your given hunting area since the bigger the hog, the higher the tusk mark will be.
Some hunters like to target big boars by searching out these hog rubs. The best way to find them is to focus your efforts on aromatic trees such as cedars. Hogs, much like whitetail deer prefer rubbing on them. It’s not an exact science, but it is an excellent guide for beginning your trophy hog scouting.
Hunters pursuing deer and hogs on public land should be especially mindful of the prevailing winds in the area.
Baiting is illegal on public land, which makes getting the game even harder than on private property. Losing a shot because a deer or pig winded you could spoil your season.
Keep an eye on the prevailing winds in the area and use various weather apps to monitor wind direction the day you plan to hunt. You might need to adjust where you plan to pursue—or abandon a hunt altogether if it means spooking deer.
On public land scouting is everything, and scouting the wind is rarely given any attention.
Duck hunters along the coast will want to focus their efforts on freshwater close to the bays if they are seeking puddle ducks such as gadwall, green-winged teal, and widgeons.
Public land hunters who can find those often hidden freshwater ponds full of vegetation will find ducks when others fail.
Few anglers pursue crappie on brush piles in October, but it can be an incredible month for fishing action. Most of the action this time of year has shifted to deer hunting, and fall bass.
The crappie bite, however, is on for anglers fishing brush piles on the open water of Texas reservoirs.
One of the telltale signs of trout feeding action is slicks.
Slicks are oil slicks on the water’s surface caused by the feeding of predatory fish. Fish, especially speckled trout, regurgitate while on an aggressive feeding pattern. So, when the prey is something oily such as menhaden, a “slick” may form.
Slicks can lead you to speckled trout, but you have to pay strict attention to detail, or you are wasting your time, especially in the Sabine area.
The first obstacle to overcome is crab traps which are common, especially the closer you to get to shore. The Louisiana side of the lake has plenty of them.
Crabbers bait these traps with menhaden, which is very oily and produces slicks as soon as they put it in the water. Running across the bay and blindly looking for slicks can drive an angler crazy.
Thousands of crab traps are out there, and they all are prone to producing slicks.
The most obvious way to tell if a slick comes from a crab trap or feeding fish is to see whether a crab trap is nearby. If it is coming directly from a trap, do not bother fishing there. Chances are you are not going to catch anything.
Another way to tell whether a slick is coming from feeding fish is to see it as it is emerging. Emerging slicks are small and usually round. If you see one about the size of a garbage can lid, it probably just formed, and your chances of connecting with big fish there are excellent.
The fall flounder run is set to kick into high gear in the latter part of October.
Flounder are already starting to trickle from the marsh down into the channel and out toward the Gulf of Mexico. There has not been any big movements but migrations always start slowly. We need a “blue norther” to blow through and kick it into high gear.
I have uncovered some tips for catching really big flounder that has paid off well and this week I would like to share them with you.
Think Small: Big flounder can eat bigger fish than smaller ones but they often do not. Unlike speckled trout, which start seeking out bigger baitfish than their smaller counterparts do, flounder are opportunists that eat what is presented them and typically just keeping eating more of the same size prey.
Go Deep: The biggest flounder tend to hang out in close proximity to deep water. Target a large percentage of efforts toward deep-water access points in ship channels and in areas where passes and channels intersect with bays. This is true year-round.
Territory: Tagging studies have shown flounder are at least semi territorial and this author believes they stay in a small area throughout their tenure in the bays. Before that big norther hit keep this in mind. If you have lost a big flounder in a certain spot keeping going back there. Chances are the fish is still close by.
When the run begins this changes but keep this in mind.. If you miss a flounder at the boat throw right back to where you last saw it. That fish has probably not moved very far. I have done this on numerous occasions.
Line Shy: All flounder are line shy when the water is clear but big flounder are super line shy. Always use fluorocarbon leaders or pure
fluorocarbon line is you can see more than about 18 inches in the water when in pursuit of monster flatfish.
Chumming: If you are fishing deep water where you have shallow flowing to deep or into a tidal marsh pool you cannot reach consider chumming. It is possible to bring flounder to you and in areas where their numbers are not necessarily high this can be an advantage. Flounder have large olfactory glands that allow them to smell so give chumming a try and see if you can bring in the big ones.
Large Texas reservoirs have many coves, fingers, and shorelines. In any given area the best cover will be the area that draws in the bass, particularly during the summer and early fall period according to Texas bass pro Russell Cecil.
“I love punching the ‘hay’ or the thick grass that will grow up in mats sometimes in the middle of the lake on little islands or humps and shorelines,” Cecil said.
“When that kind of cover is prevalent in an area you can bet there will be bass there. One of the keys is to have a good pair of polarized shades with superior lenses such as the new Sunrise from Costa to look down in the pockets for fish and movement.”
Then it’s time to “punch.”
That means rigging up a soft plastic, usually some creature bait, on a heavy weight.
Cecil’s favorite rig utilizes a snell knot with an Owner Jungle Flipping Hook rigged on 80-pound Ande braid. Flip this rig into pockets in the grass or any penetrable area. Most bites are a few seconds after the rig has hit bottom showing the fish are hearing or feeling the lure and then responding.
“You want to pay attention to anything that feels different whether it is a pulling sensation or any sudden stop,” Cecil said.
A hard hookset and is required to penetrate through the “hay,” and quite often the rewards are bigger than average bass.
Be observant in the field and remember small details can make a big difference in the field and on the water.
—story by TF&G STAFF REPORT