OSTENSIBLY, THE REASON we go fishing is to catch fish, but we also go fishing because it takes us to wondrous natural environments where delightfully unusual things happen.
I enjoyed such an experience at Oyster Lake in late November last year. I had had a frustrating morning of business problems and needed to paddle off some steam. So, I went to Oyster Lake and launched my kayak.
It was a promising fishing day because there was a strong incoming tide. I put in at the bridge and paddled twenty minutes to the south shore. Two redfish were splashing and feeding on the shoreline. At the same time, a school of about a dozen redfish were herding bait 20 feet from the shore. I could not fish both, so I decided to go for the school of reds in the bay and quietly paddled in that direction until I was close enough for an effective cast, and then I dropped a three-inch Egret Baits Wedge-tail Minnow just in front and to the side of the school. It was taken faster than you can snap your fingers, and I put the 21-inch red on the stringer.
Then I drifted back toward the bridge with the following wind. I fished both the bay and the shoreline and appreciated the bird life for two hours.
I saw an osprey and then a roseate spoonbill in flight. It looked iridescent pink in the late afternoon light. Ducks in small groups were flying at a distance, and hundreds of geese were sitting on the mudflats.
On the shoreline a white morph reddish egret danced while feeding on little fish. After many casts in between watching birds, I caught another red. This one was 23 inches.
After drifting and casting for another hour, I got a strike. I could tell by the fight that the fish was much bigger than the first two redfish. I worked it up to the net and then made a mistake. I did not get the net below the line of sight of the fish, it saw the net, and bolted. The pressure was enough to rip the hook out of its mouth, and I lost the fish.
Then I was treated to one of the world’s greatest birdwatching events. At 5 p.m. sandhill cranes started flying over me en route from the rice fields north of the lake to the mudflats where the geese were. They were close enough for me to see their graceful wing movement clearly.
They kept coming in flocks of 20 to 100, flock, after flock, after flock. They were all trying to out-talk one another. Sometimes the atmospheric conditions made their interactive noise sound as if it were coming from big speakers and other times it was just massive garbled gobbledegook.
I rounded the corner to the bridge at 5:30 p.m. and fewer sandhill cranes flew over me. The south wind carried the sound of every goose and sand hill crane on the mudflats talking at the same time.
It was deafening. What a marvelous bird watching experience, and a pretty good afternoon of fishing too!
Water temperatures vary with air temperatures. Last year we had a severe front come through on November 13th that lowered the water temperature from 80°F to 50°F.
I went kayak fishing in East Matagorda Bay two days after that front. Even though I covered a lot of water, I did not find actively feeding fish until I was returning to the kayak launch off FM 2031 at dusk. The sun had warmed the bottom of the bayou leading to the launch throughout the day and that had stimulated feeding activity.
In late November we left the dock in Palacios at noon and went to the south shore of West Matagorda Bay. The water temperature that afternoon went from 55°F to 64°F while we fished.
Redfish were active when we arrived and became livelier as afternoon turned to evening. We had to leave at 4:45 p.m. to get back before dark, but it was hard to leave that scene. The water was flat calm and loaded with feeding redfish. I would have loved to have stayed and fly fished—but that will have to wait for another day.
The Jetties: There are three jetties where FM 2031 meets the beach: Parallel jetties serve as the passage between the river and the Gulf of Mexico (east and west jetties), and a weir jetty which is connected to the long pier goes into the Gulf of Mexico. The east jetty is easy to access by four-wheel drive vehicle or you can park at Matagorda Bay Nature Park and walk to it. You must use a boat or kayak to get to the west jetty. To fish from the weir jetty, walk out on the pier or drive to the jetty on the beach. There’s a very good possibility that you will catch redfish when fishing from these jetties in November, most likely bull reds (over 28 inches). Texas fishing regulations allow you to keep one bull red by attaching the tag from your fishing license to the redfish right after you catch it. Redfish will bite on shrimp, cut mullet, or artificial lures.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]