Please join us in welcoming Capt. Curtiss Cash back to the pages of TSFMag!
A Victoria, TX native, Capt. Curtiss has been fishing the Port O’Connor region of the Texas Middle-Coast since his father began taking him fishing as a young lad. Capt. Curtiss is as close to a jack-of-all-trades charter captain for this part of the coast as you are ever likely to meet. Everything from nearshore Gulf waters, Pass Cavallo, and the famed Matagorda Ship Channel Jetty, to the surrounding bays, ship channels, and flats – Capt. Curtiss’s extensive knowledge of seasonal patterns enables him to present a great variety of fishing adventures for his clients. We trust you will find his regular contributions to the magazine informative and applicable to your own fishing endeavors.Everett Johnson – Editor-Publisher
Scrying is the art of looking into a reflective surface, such as glass, water, a mirror, or a crystal to gain mystical insight. Like a half-crazed gypsy fortune teller, I constantly check my phone screen for updates on approaching weather systems. Scouring through multiple smartphone apps and marine forecasts from the National Weather Service keeps me on my game. It is this crystal ball gazing that I become so familiar with this time of the year.
The approach of a high atmospheric pressure system is what I’m scrying for. Increased pressure generally provides clear skies, light wind and calm seas. This winning combination of weather and water conditions allows me to stretch my legs and fish the open bay, surf, and nearshore Gulf waters more comfortably.
Finding and fishing structure in open bay water is what it’s all about. Here on the middle-coast I seek ship channel spoil banks, live oyster reefs, clam shell gas well pads, and current seams…sometimes called tide lines.
On the spoil banks near the ICW or any major channel, I look for deeper edges with steep drop-offs. When a barge or ship passes by, cast shallower where the fish anxiously anticipate food to be vacuumed off the flats.
Deeper bay reefs harbor cooler water with increased water flow around the structure. On calm days, you can drift the reefs or troll motor slowly through the area and work each section. Many of the gas well platforms have been removed but the shell pads remain. The shell on the bottom is good structure and continues to draw both bait and predators. Live croaker is king in these areas, free-lined or fished with just enough weight to get the bait heading deep without it getting hung up in the shell. A rattle float fished aggressively can bring the fish to the surface on a calm day.
Current seams can be found in the open waters near channel edges, sand humps and the center of the bays where the tides merge. Baitfish use these seams as structure while being congregated by the current. Predator fish patrol these areas like a roadway, headed into the flow. We generally fish for sharks of varying sizes in water depths of 8-feet or more in the current. Drifting with several baits strewn behind or running the trolling motor slow enough to keep the baits fishing alongside the seam. Jacks and bull reds show up as a bonus, fishing live mullet ups the odds. Tripletail swim the current edge as well. Good idea to keep a lookout for a surface roamer and a baited rod ready to pitch to them as soon as seen.
I typically expect to begin seeing small tarpon arriving by early-July. Their presence often coincides with pods of glass minnows and dusky anchovies swept near the rocks by currents. Live shrimp or finger mullet freelined next to the rocks are hard for them to resist, as well as trout, Spanish mackerel and redfish. Slot-sized black drum congregate where the jetty rocks merge with the sand on the bottom. These fish frequent the structure edge on a slow-ebbing tide searching out small crustaceans swept along the bottom. Peeled fresh-dead shrimp on a knocker rig fished directly on the bottom really works well here.
Ahh…the surf. Along the beach I look for clean water, bait activity, birds on the sand and current breaks, especially perpendicular rip currents. I typically run the beach looking for an area with abundant brown pelicans and seagulls grouped close together on the water’s edge. This normally means bait is in the first couple of guts where trout and reds are running them up against the sand.
Often, mullet and menhaden will be thickly concentrated in the first and second guts. The bait will be seen splashing and jumping over the bars trying to escape predators. There is probably no better place to fish than amongst the mayhem.
Washouts gouged through the sandbars perpendicular to the beach and other areas with obvious rip currents make good ambush points to target. A live croaker hooked through the roof of the mouth and out the bridge of the nose works like magic. Carolina rigged with an egg weight heavy enough to barely hold bottom and a 5/0 Mustad 37160 Croaker Hook puts them in the boat. If it’s redfish you’d like to catch, get heavier with the egg weight and toss a live pinfish up on the sand and drag back slowly into the first gut – and hang on!
Calm conditions usually present during times of high atmospheric pressure allows the nearshore structures to be fished more thoroughly. The opposing offshore and inshore currents are easily distinguishable. Current lines normally form in 30- to 45-foot depths on our part of the middle-coast. Look for flotsam that will often attract and hold tripletail and cobia in the shadows beneath. I like to troll deep-diving lures and a spoon on the surface while working the current line with the clearer water. Kingfish, bruiser jacks and sharks will be prowling the current line for a quick meal.
I normally troll the current seam looking for bait schools. Once found I make several passes around and through the bait before proceeding. Having a sabiki rig ready to toss in the middle, sinking to mid-depth before a jigging retrieve can fill a livewell quickly. I like to use a #6 size Mustad sabiki with about an ounce of weight. Be sure to carry extras. When those hooks light up with shiny baits it is sometimes difficult keeping the predators from cutting them off.
Keep your crystal ball polished and at hand to detect the onset of a high atmospheric pressure system. Planning for and taking advantage of these calmer weather conditions can be quite rewarding.