From Atop My Poling Platform…

From Atop My Poling Platform…
Throughout the year there are many times I wish for a few more hours in the day or perhaps even an extra day during the week. At times it just seems like there isn't enough time to get everything done. And then along comes the most trying month of the year. Who do we need to talk to get an extra October? I'll gladly give up February or August to expand the finest month on the calendar along the Texas coast.

First there's the weather. No more sweat-soaked shirts the first hour into poling and smelling like a gym locker by the end of the day. After enduring day after day of heat, humidity and seemingly incessant southwest winds; October will give us the first crisp cool mornings. At some point I'll have to dig into the back of the closet to find the Simms jacket for the predawn run into the marsh before the sun warms things up just right. Sure we'll have a few windy days pre and post front, but they'll be short-lived and more often than not the daily breeze will be light and pleasant.

My main game of chasing shallow water reds is good, and at times great, all through the year. Texas redfish don't really seem to care how hot or cold it gets. This past year I've cast to them in less than a foot of water when it was close to freezing as well as when the temps were pushing triple digits. But the first hints of fall will send them into some of the best feeding frenzies of the year.

As September comes to a close the reds have started bunching up to terrorize the maturing shrimp along the edges of the spartina grass. These little wolf packs move quickly down the shorelines constantly pushing into the grass to dislodge the shrimp. This activity will usually continue into the first week or so of October. Once the first decent fronts start to reach the coast the shrimp will pull off the shorelines, getting ready to migrate out of the marsh. The redfish will follow suit and start to gather in larger and larger schools while roaming around in the open lakes looking to root the shrimp out of the mud. Depending on the strength of the fronts, this will often last well into November. The last two years we had awesome schooling activity into the first week of December.

Speaking of frontal activity, some of my favorite days are when everyone else stays home. A really strong front can blow a couple of feet of water out of the bay. When these "drain days" occur you can bet I'll be out there. Knowing which lakes they've been schooling in will tell me where to set up to intercept them as they fall out with the dropping tide. Following these early fronts the schools will head right back into the lakes to continue feasting. This in and out game will play out several times before the first really serious cold front chases the shrimp out of the marsh for good.

As cool as it is to be chasing these shallow schools containing hundreds of reds, my mind will still be wandering off to all of the other things going on. Just outside the marsh the trout will be going crazy as they pick off the migrating shrimp. Chasing the birds can lead to fast limits, even for fly anglers. A suspending shrimp pattern that lands anywhere near the melee will get thumped hard. If schoolies aren't your thing, the cooler water will pull some bigger trout up into the shallows. The sight of a big sow in a few inches of water is something that'll burn itself into your memory. Everybody always talks about hunting big trout during late winter and early spring, but don't discount this time of year. They may not be carrying as much weight, but a thirty-inch trout is still a thirty-inch trout.

Along the beachfront hordes of predators are will be harassing various species of migrating baitfish. Kings, bull reds, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, jacks and sharks are all in the mix. This activity could be happening just off the sand or maybe within a mile or two offshore. Along the upper coast it tends to be best a little further out than the middle and lower coast. Quite often the feeding frenzies along South Padre Island push right into the first gut. Sight-casting to large rampaging predators while standing on dry sand is hard to beat. Every year I get photos from my buddies taunting me with that incredible fishery.

Then there's the start of the flounder run. It appears the tighter regulations imposed in 2009 have made a huge difference. I now see more flounder on a daily basis while poling the marsh than I can ever recall. Many folks tend to jump the gun on the flounder run. The first fish caught at the traditional "run" areas tend to be the males which are smaller. The bigger females are usually still hanging back in the marsh until sometime in November. Get set up on the right drain with a good falling tide and you'll get to see big flounder free-jumping through wads of bait.

And if all that fishing weren't enough of a distraction, there are all sorts of critters to hunt. Bow season is kicking off and the rut gets going along the middle and upper coast a lot earlier than many people realize. My place near Seadrift will see plenty of scraping, sparring and chasing throughout October with the peak usually occurring around the end of the month. The first fronts will also push fresh flocks of doves into the area that often go overlooked shortly after the season opener. The opening weekend for quail coincides with the last weekend of the south zone dove season offering the chance to double your fun. And if you're itching to blow a duck call the youth-only duck weekend is set for the 26th and 27th. It's a great time to introduce them to the sport while your attention is focused solely on them having some fun. Grab a kiddo and get in a practice run for you and your dog to work the kinks out before the opener the following weekend.

The reality of October for me is that I'll be thinking about all of that from my office atop the poling platform. October and November are two of my busiest fishing months. I'm certainly not complaining. Putting clients on school after school of reds is always a blast. As of this writing there are still some openings on the calendar if you'd like to go see some of the best the Galveston marsh has to offer, but I can't guarantee my mind won't occasionally wander to the sands of South Padre Island or to that awesome little brush blind near my pond where a nice buck always lays down a scrape. Now get off the couch and soak up every ounce of outdoors you can, the DVR will hold the game for you.