By the time you read this most of the seasonal pelagic species will have migrated from our Texas state waters. This is normal – cooling water temps play a major role in this each fall.
The opportunities to skip out to the edge of state water decrease as cold fronts begin to arrive with increased regularity. The larger red snapper have moved closer inshore to structure that also holds red and black drum, gulf trout, and bluefish. A stray cobia may still be in the area so anglers would do well to keep a pitch-bait ready.
When the food source moves deeper the migratory gamefish follow close behind. It is possible to still find kingfish, cobia and amberjack in 120-200 foot depths throughout the month. Wrecks, reefs and oil and gas structures are good targets.
Bottom fishing can provide good catches around the deeper structure. Fishing tight to the structure is your best bet. Getting a bait through the red snapper and triggerfish can be tough, so use heavy weights.
For lane snapper and rock hind grouper, use 6/O Mustad circle hooks with squid pieces for bait on lighter tackle. Bigger fish like gag grouper, scamp and Warsaw grouper are better caught with heavier tackle and larger baits. Whole squid, live pinfish and hand-sized chunks of cut bait work very well.
Heading offshore in the off-season requires extra care and planning. Safety is of utmost importance. File a float plan, study forecasted weather patterns and do not tempt fate. With fewer boaters offshore, incidental “support” is less likely, travel with a buddy boat whenever possible. The weather conditions are normally much better a couple days after a frontal passage.
Don’t forget insect repellant with DEET. The frontal passages push flies offshore where they congregate around visible structure. They may not be of significant bother close to shore but without adequate nourishment offshore they turn into savages.
The redfish run is winding down but good catches can still be available through the Thanksgiving weekend. The bull reds will continue to congregate on the channel drop-offs and deep washouts. Cracked crab and whole Spanish sardines fished on bottom work best. Oversized black drum are caught frequently in the same areas as the bull reds.
The range of fish species available dwindles as water temperatures continue to decline. Trout, redfish, black drum, flounder and sheepshead become the main targets. Live shrimp works equally well on all of them.
The sheepshead make a big push from the gulf waters early in the month. The fish feed heavily at the rocks and start migrating to structure in the bays. I would try bay platforms, channel markers, shoreline drop-offs and oyster reefs, both deep and shallow.
November is the month of the big flounder run. The bag limit reduces to two fish but the action and quality increases. They really start moving with the first few cold fronts that push through and drop the water temps quickly. Jetties are great feeding areas where they stage during migration to the gulf.
On the falling tide, shallow sand flats on the bay side of the jetty and sand humps or patches near the edge of the rocks are places where I find them. In light or slack tide situations flounder tend to lay up on top of flat rocks near the water’s edge or settle on the deeper sand bottom where the edge of the rocks settle into the channel.
Bouncing or dragging soft plastic lures on the bottom gets strikes, as well as live finger mullet, mud minnows and live shrimp. Ideally you want the bait in the strike zone within 12 inches of the bottom and skipping along while riding the current.
To lessen the possibility of fouling rocks use a split shot toward the tail for increased action to trigger a bite. Best method I’ve found when fishing bait is to use a short 5 to 8-inch length of 30lb Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon rigged Carolina style. The weight of the egg sinker is dictated by the current. I use as little as weight as possible to hit bottom, but not hold tight. I like to use a 2/O or 3/O Mustad 9174 short shank hook. In heavy current hook the bait in the head.
Shrimp should be hooked under the horn and baitfish sideways through the nostrils to keep from drowning. In light or no current place the hook in the tail to trigger more strikes with the increased action.
When using little or no weight, allowing a bit of slack in your line that creates a small bow to form will help it move along through the current and over structure. To achieve this you need to cast up-current and pay out line from a free spool slowly while holding the rod tip upward close to a 180 degree angle. All the while watching for a bite.
Soft plastic lures bounced along the bottom on a jighead work great. I am a big fan of Berkley Gulp. I use the 3” Minnow Tail Grub either white or chartreuse. These are smaller baits that get inhaled when fished on a short shank 1/8-ounce jighead. These lures work great when rigged in tandem making for better castability and presentation.
November is a great month to get out and mix it up on the water. With waterfowl season in full swing a day of blast and cast is a great change of pace. Come down to Port O’Connor for the laid back atmosphere and phenomenal outdoor activities, I bet you’ll like it. Don’t just take my word for it, ask around. Port O’Connor is no longer “The best kept secret on the Texas coast.”