A Microcosm of April Fishing
It was our second and final stop of the afternoon. I noticed only a few mullet flipping here and there as I slipped the anchor over the gunwale. Other than that there were no slicks, bird activity, or much of anything to get me excited. I only stopped in this particular spot because I had caught many big trout there during the same time of year and under similar conditions. Additionally, we were fishing on a slack tide two days after a full moon, so not seeing much surface activity was not necessarily surprising.
Ancil jumped out and waded toward some shoreline drains while I made my way out to a sand flat that gradually tapered off into a deeper and softer bottom bowl shaped area. Around 1:45 the tide finally started coming in. The water movement coupled with the 18 mph ESE wind began to create mud streaks across the flat leading to the mushy trough. Ancil was working tight to the cord grass while throwing a MirrOlure Lil’ John XL. He was hooking up occasionally on 14 to 16 inch flounder. Every time I’d see his rod bend I would get this feeling of relief that our trout were finally beginning to feed…only to become disappointed when he would bring to hand yet another flounder.
We couldn’t see any slicks but we would get the occasional whiff of trout and bait was starting to become more active. I usually don’t change lures a lot but at this point I felt like I was field testing baits for every major lure company in existence. I opened my wading box once again in an effort to find that magical bait that would somehow trick one of these stubborn specks. This time I chose a MirrOlure Paul Brown original Corky in the OR-91 pattern (chartreuse back, gold flake sides, white belly). Through the years this bait has saved my bacon when things got tough. After slightly bending the tail and head downward I made a long crosswind cast into a mud streak. After counting down about 4 Mississippi’s I turned the handle of my reel three or four times then gave it a little twitch-twitch with the soft tip of my custom Waterloo HP Lite rod, and then let it sink back down. Holy Jesus! That thump felt so good! Finally! She wasn’t a big trout by any means at just under five pounds but a solid one none the less. More importantly, it broke the ice. After a quick photo and release I was fired up and got right back out there yearning for that next bite.
One more swing and a miss was all I could muster on my old trusty Corky, however. Something just wasn’t right. I knew the fish were there but why wouldn’t they cooperate? I decided to tie on a chartreuse back pearl Corky Devil as I’ve had really good success tricking finicky trout through the years on them. Bam! Another thick five pounder came to the Boga on my very first cast. I was thinking okay; let’s get this thing going. I waved Ancil out to where I was standing thinking that things were getting ready to finally kick into gear. Unfortunately, no more strikes were to be had on that particular bait. As I’m scratching my head and wondering what on earth is going on with these fish I notice terns and a few gulls diving and hovering on the other edge of the flat. Ancil and I made our way in that direction. However, we didn’t have to go far because they were actually moving towards us. As the smell of trout became stronger my confidence increased.
Initially, I couldn’t tell what these birds were feeding on. I saw mullet that were barely breaching the surface under the birds, then I noticed a tiny, pink-colored worm as it drifted along with the current. Upon closer examination I realized that the silver flashes at the surface weren’t mullet at all. They were trout and very nice ones at that! We were now reaching the edge of all of this activity at the end of every cast. But our casts came back empty as we failed to entice these tiny forage-feeding trout.
Once again I popped open my box. This time I grabbed the smallest slow-sinking twitchbait I had. After tying what felt like my hundredth loop knot of the afternoon I made a long cast back into the foray we were witnessing. Before my MirrOdine even had a chance to sink it was inhaled by a thick six pound trout! This particular MirrOdine was the 17MR 51SBG (White back, silver broken glass sides and white belly) but I’m not sure the color pattern was as important as the bait’s tiny profile and sink rate. I went back to the boat and grabbed another one for Ancil and he immediately started catching nice trout and reds. I should’ve known better than to just have one of those baits in my wading box. Lesson learned.
We were only able to trick eight or nine more trout after that but we lost almost as many as we hooked, and all but two of our trout weighed more than four pounds. Eventually the worms that were being carried along by the tide and wind made their way down the shoreline as indicated by the diving birds. As this happened our trout bites faded. This is not at all uncommon for this time of year as trout (especially in Upper Texas Coast bays) tend to follow hordes of tiny forage species such as worms, glass minnows and shad.
With about an hour of daylight remaining I decided to tie on a pink Skitter Walk to see if I could at least get a reaction strike. This approach has been productive for me in the past as bites begin to wane. This time would be no different. The only difference was that this time my topwater was getting attacked by redfish instead of trout. Oh well. It was still a fun way to close out our day. After all, I’m not all that picky these days when it comes to species. I’ve learned to just enjoy the tugs on the line and the appreciation for God’s beautiful sunsets.
The six hours that Ancil and I fished that afternoon were a microcosm of the month of April here on Galveston Bay. April is often referred to as a transitional month and for good reason. Water temperatures are rising coming off the heels of winter. Small forage species are filtering out into the main parts of our bays from the bayous, rivers and marshes. Trout tend to become more spread out and on the move, making them hard to target at times. Specks won’t always show us where they are and even when they do they can be a challenge to catch. The best advice I can provide when it comes to tricking these hard-to-catch full-bellied trout is to throw baits that will stay in the strike zone longer and fan your casts to cover as much water as possible. My favorite lures this time of year are MirrOdines, Saltwater Assassins (rigged on 1/16 ounce jig heads), MirrOlure Lil’ Johns, LeLe’s, Double Ds, and a variety of topwaters ranging from Super Spook Jrs to Rapala Skitter Walks.
The highest percentage areas to target are near shoreline bayou drains and coves early in the month, then open bay oyster reefs as water temperatures climb towards the end of April and on into May. Sometimes the bite is better during the afternoon and evening hours this time of year. Patience and confidence are paramount along with being highly cognizant of what’s going on around us while we’re fishing. A slight, wind-induced off-color streak in the water with a few terns diving could change the entire outcome of your day. It can certainly be a grind this time of year but it can be well worth it if we play our cards right. Best of luck to everyone!