Careful What You Wish For!

I made a vow in 2011 that I would never again gripe about too much rain. That was during one of the worst droughts in Texas history. Most of our rivers dried to a mere trickle and salinity exceeded ocean water in upper and middle coast bays. Sure as God made little green apples; my resolve to maintain that vow is now waning.

Rainfall was scarce from January through April this year and it was beginning to look like we were headed into another serious drought. Naturally, I prayed for rain. And the rain came. As of this morning I have poured nearly 60 inches from my rain gauge. According to U.S. Climate Data – 43 inches is the annual average for the area.

So, what does 60-inches of rainfall in only nine weeks look like on the land? And how does it affect fishing? I think you already know the answer to both. Roadways are closed due to flooding and the area bays are nearly completely fresh, save for a few salty pockets.

Steve Hillman’s article this month gives insight into what happens in Galveston Bay when inflows rage and salinity plummets. The same scenario plays out along the middle coast and sometimes even in parts of the Laguna Madre.

Steve calls them stack-ups, which is an apt description. Gamefish, especially speckled trout, leave the upper reaches of the bay where salinity can be as low 1 or 2 ppt, seeking more suitable habitat further south. In extreme situations, when the entire bay turns fresh, huge numbers of trout converge on but a few acres that remain salty, and catching them becomes incredibly easy.

A very similar development is occurring in middle coast bays here in July. Trout were generally scarce following the February freeze. Experienced anglers reported one, maybe two or three trout during a full day effort.

Then the rain came! Long about the third week of May the upper reaches of West Matagorda and San Antonio bays had become very fresh. Suddenly, the trout shortage had ended, at least according to those taking advantage.

But let’s not be shortsighted. The effects of the February freeze didn’t suddenly disappear. The fish that are congregated in the small parts of the bays that are still salty are the survivors of the freeze. When they were equally distributed across the whole bay everybody said they were scarce.

So, here’s my plea to all my fellow anglers. Please treat these fish as the gems that they are. Consider whether their best use is in a fryer or swimming and spawning. I do not know a single angler that will miss a meal by practicing catch and release.

August Issue Highlights