AS I AM WRITING this column, we have a Cat 5 Hurricane heading up the U.S. East Coast. Here’s hoping that by mentioning this storm, it doesn’t decide to skip across Florida and bring havoc to the Gulf!?!
We have been very lucky with our weather so far this year. Although we did get triple digit heat in late summer, no significant tropical activity has threatened the Gulf States since Harvey visited us last year.
Harvey might have been considered a valuable “wake-up” call for the upper Texas coast, as it was a heavy rainmaker and caused extensive freshwater flooding. The San Bernard River makes a curve behind my Brazoria County acreage before emptying into the Gulf.
Since the Gulf outlet of that river is again sanded “shut”, all the water coming from upstream has backed up. Water has spread across areas that, although coastal, are not commonly flooded, and it’s caused a lot of problems.
My property is where “old-timers” tell me they used to move their cattle when the Brazos River overflowed its banks because this part of the county stayed dry. However, it had as much as five feet of muddy water piled up on it at the highest point—and it stayed that high for as much as a week’s time.
All that water DID open the mouth of the San Bernard somewhat—temporarily. However, it seems to be closed again now and is likely to stay that way. If the river outlet were dredged and jettied it would make a wonderful difference when tropical storms pay a visit, but that doesn’t seem to be something “in the plans.”
November, of course, is perhaps a bit late in the year for a lot of us to do much bay fishing. However, river outlets not in flood stage can be excellent spots to seek coastal fish species such as speckled trout and redfish, Such areas provide an amazing amount of food for these creatures.
Even better is the prospect of good fish activity in the surf, where “bull” reds come to feed and spawn. Also present in the “near Gulf” are various pan fish and visitors from deeper water such as jack crevalle, Spanish and king mackerel.
The real “holy grail” of surf anglers, of course, appears when the silver shapes of trophy tarpon follow hordes of mullet into the surf zone. Boaters may have an advantage when seeking tarpon. However, they ARE hooked—and sometimes caught—by surf fishermen who watch long rods in sand spikes.
More common than silver kings are “dirty fighters” such as big black drums and stingrays. Yes, brutish stingrays can be caught in the surf, and provide a “fight” to remember.
Big rays often top 100 pounds in weight, and use that power very effectively when hooked. Actually, a significant number of fishermen actively pursue big rays.
More of these folks probably look for them in the ship channel or on the Gulf side of the jetties. Besides great sport, big rays do provide a bunch of good meat for the table for those who take the time to properly process them.
Most Novembers still feature water warm enough for the other heavy hitters that prowl the surf—sharks. Bull sharks and blacktips are probably the most common, but some big tigers, sand tigers, and even hammerheads are possible.
Some good sharks can be taken by a skillful angler using tackle meant for bull reds, but the “big boys” will warrant heavier gear and specialized techniques. Baits for big sharks are usually taken past the breakers in a surf-launched boat, although some hardy souls will swim theirs out.
Large reels capable of holding enough heavy line to battle fish approaching 500 pounds mounted on heavy rods and “worked” by an angler wearing a shoulder harness and using a gimbal belt are fairly common at night on the beach.
BIG fish have been taken this way. Even more are hooked and lost – after providing an experience that might be remembered for a lifetime.
Location: Bay fishing can be excellent, somewhat depending on local weather conditions. As mentioned earlier, the surf might be the most productive of all areas. River mouths and jettied passes are excellent. Inshore species mix with some from deeper water several miles offshore for those who seek them.
Species: Reds, trout, and flounders. Offshore waters offer kings, snappers, and other great food and sport species.
Bait: Shrimp and bait species such as mullet are common. They’re easily caught in cast nets for those who want to seek their own. Just about any small fish netted in inshore waters can be depended on to draw hits from larger relatives.
Best Time: with cooler daytime temperatures, fishing around the clock can be good, with tide and water conditions most important.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]