Hit It and Quit It

Hit It and Quit It
Combat veterans enjoying Warrior's Weekend 2018.

When the temperatures get hot the fish go deep. Not all, but many seek cooler water and/or swift currents. I can empathize with my finned friends for sure. The July sun often has me seeking a straw hat, some breeze, and a cold beverage.

This month and the next are great times to hit it and quit it. Get out early to bang on some fish and bug out before the mid-day heat wave. On average, the extreme heat index maxes out between 11am and 3pm. This is a great time for a cool down and a siesta. It is not only I that prefers a break; I think the fish get the same vibe. A matinee fishing trip is a good alternative to baking in the midday sun. Your fishing crew will thank you and the fish may be more cooperative.

Keep in mind the effects of the sun on your body and stay defensive. Always keep hydrated, wear lightweight clothing and apply a broad spectrum sunscreen often. Wide brimmed hats are good choice, along with a neck gaiter and quality polarized sunglasses.

Deep Bay Structure

Finding and fishing structure in the open water is what it’s all about. On the mid-coast I seek the ship channel spoil banks, live oyster reefs, clam shell gas well pads and current seams/tide lines.

On the spoil banks near the ICW or any major channel, I look for the deeper edges with steep drop-offs near the channel. When a barge or ship pass by, cast shallower where the fish anxiously anticipate food to be pulled to deep water.

Deep bay reefs harbor cooler water with increased water flow around the structure. On calm days you can drift the reefs or troll motor slowly in the area and work each section. Many of the surface well platforms have been removed but the shell pads remain. The shell on the bottom is good structure and continues to draw 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 getting hung in the shell. An aggressively fished rattle float can bring the fish up to the surface on a calm day.

Bay Shark Fishing

For targeting inshore shark of 25-75 pounds, I fish depths of 8-feet deep or more in the open bay. Good areas are near channel edges, sand humps and large bait schools. Sometimes we anchor and chum an area to bring them in, but more often drifting with several baits strewn behind is more effective.

I like to fish live mullet 9-12 inches in length behind a balloon inflated to the size of grapefruit. The float will keep the bait off the bottom and the distress signals of the mullet resisting the float will bring sharks in from a distance. The balloon also keeps the live bait from swimming back and tangling other lines. The floating bait is normally positioned farther back from the others - approximately 75 yards from the boat.

Fresh ladyfish cut into chunks about the same size as live finger mullet are hard to beat. Smaller pieces of bait work also, but the gafftopsail catfish often consume them before a shark shows up. I like to drift the ladyfish pieces two-thirds the distance from the boat as the live mullet. This bait is fished without a float or any weight. Occasionally the bait will bounce across the bottom of the bay which helps spread the scent and puts out vibrations in the area.

Live or fresh dead menhaden 6- to 9-inches long are very effective, especially for blacktip shark. These baits I weight lightly and place half the distance toward the ladyfish from the boat. The amount of weight varies according to water depth and the speed of the drift. A 2- to 6-ounce bank sinker affixed via a #32 rubber band works well. The rubber band is run through the eye of the sinker and doubled back with the weight passing back to form a tightened loop on the sinker. The rubber band is now placed on the leader in front of the steel trace with the same method. Using a rubber band allows the weight to be removed quickly once near the boat or to break free if the shark jumps. Swinging lead weights at boatside can easily chip gelcoat or even take out a row of teeth.

Leaders consist of 72-inches of 100- to 150-lb mono with a 200lb-plus sized black barrel swivel attached to each end. A 24 inch trace of 108-lb single strand steel leader for mullet or menhaden and 178-lb for the ladyfish is attached with a haywire twist to the swivel and same on the hook at business end. The circle hook selection for the menhaden is normally smaller due to the bait size, I like a MUSTAD 39941D 9/0 and a 39965D 14/0 or 16/0 for the other baits.

Nearshore Structure Fishing

July typically kicks off the bay boaters nearshore fishing season. Barring any unwanted tropical disturbances, the wind typically calms down this month. These welcomed conditions will allow many inshore boaters opportunities to stretch their legs and fish away from the beach.

In the state waters (inside 9.0 nautical miles) it is common to target and find kingfish, Spanish mackerel, little tunny, cobia, red snapper and a variety of shark. Most major ports along the Texas coast have nearby structure such as oil and gas platforms, shipwrecks, artificial reefs, or a ship anchorage.

Often overlooked are the large ships anchored offshore from the ports. These lie in wait sometimes many days to be shuttled inshore to port. They offer significant structure in the forms of the wave/current breaks as well as long shadows cast out from these huge vessels.

This July take advantage of the cooler periods of the day when possible. Fishing early and late this time of the season makes for a more pleasant outing. Seeing the sun rise or set over the water is well worth the extra effort.