As anglers, we tend frequently to research certain variables that are approaching us before spending our day on the water. We look at the weather forecast and take into consideration the wind, cloud cover, moon phases and much more. During summer, weather patterns on the Texas coast will remain constant for many days in a row: light wind in the morning, picking up around 10 AM, with variable cloud cover throughout the day. Even though weather can be quite predictable this time of year there is another piece of the puzzle that is usually very variable – tide levels.
Now I know that water level fluctuates with the tide and that can be predicted by simply referencing a tide chart. If we fish an area regularly we know what an area will look like on the day we plan to be there. However, to get the full picture we must combine the weather forecast with the tide prediction. As an example; if you combine a wind direction that causes a certain area to lose water with an already low tide prediction, you can bet the water level will be VERY LOW!
Like most anglers, I tend to look at the weather forecast daily to find a window to get on the water. I eagerly await the typical south wind to swing around to the north to produce the conditions I eagerly look forward to in the marshes. Most people look forward to this time to go offshore or wade fish the surf but I take advantage of this time to get skinny. With the shifting wind, water levels will begin to drop and it brings an opportunity that is too hard to pass up. In my opinion, skinny water fishing is one of the most rewarding and fun things an angler can do.
Since the water level has dropped, spotting redfish can be beyond effortless. They can be seen crawling in the shallows with their backs out of the water, their tails in the air, or pushing wakes across flats. What I hope for the most is being able to spot them before even setting up and making a cast. Sight-casting, to me, is the ultimate thrill in kayak fishing.
When planning to target redfish in truly skinny water, I change up the presentation and lure choice from what I typically throw. I will usually still have my 1/4-ounce Johnson weedless gold spoon tied on but it does not get used as much as I normally throw it. I have found that it tends to get caught up in the grass too much in shallow water, becoming a big grass ball.
My other rods will be rigged with a much lighter set-up. I like to have at least one rod rigged with a size 5/0 Owner TwistLock worm hook, with either a Zoom Fluke or a Keitech FAT Impact Swimbait. This combination has proven to be a trusted producer for sight-casting to shallow water redfish. My last rod will typically be rigged with a BUGGS jig. If the BUGGS jig is not part of your arsenal you need to learn about it. When the fish are really finicky, a BUGGS is the way to go. My fishing partner Chad has also made me a believer in throwing a Stanley Ribbit Frog. It puts out a lot of vibration, it’s weedless, and the redfish will hammer it!
Catching redfish in the shallows may be a somewhat easy task but there is one problem when it comes to really skinny water - paddling through it. Kayaks are made to go shallow but there comes a point where it takes more than a little effort to get across a flat. Sometimes there is just enough water to float and you are pushing yourself with your paddle, and other times you have to scoot your kayak into slightly deeper water. It can become a lot of work and can be downright exhausting, but once you are there I think you will find it worth the effort.
One of my other favorite things about skinny water is the photography aspect. One of my favorite things to do is ease into a flat and never pick up a rod, only my camera. I find it exceptionally gratifying to creep stealthily into position and observe redfish and other wildlife behaving naturally in their environment. Capturing the moment with the camera and being able to share what I have experienced with others brings even greater joy.I have already had a few days this year that I was able to spend back in the marsh chasing skinny water reds. I have caught a few and have been able to capture a few very good photos along the way. I'll be patiently awaiting my window again this summer, any day now, for the water level to drop and to be able to sight-cast and make photos.