Fresh Water and Fishing Lessons

I have read and even written that fresh water is the lifeblood of an estuary. When fresh water inflows diminish, bay salinities rise as bay water evaporates. Salt becomes concentrated in the water that remains, sometimes exceeding the salinity of seawater in the Gulf of Mexico. There were times during recent summers (record drought of 2009-2014) when middle coast bay salinity reached as high as mid-40s parts-per-thousand, the historic average is more like mid-teens to low-20s. The open Gulf runs about 35 parts on average.

Unless you are new to coastal fishing you have no doubt heard that above average salinity over prolonged periods is tough on the mechanics of the estuarine ecosystem. Everything suffers to some degree; shrimp, crabs, oysters and many species of finfish that are estuarine dependent at some point in their life, even some types of sea grass and emergent vegetation take a hit.

Well, the salinity pendulum has finally swung. Right now you can nearly drink the water in every bay from Sabine Lake to Corpus Christi–surface water anyway. No doubt there is a salty layer down there somewhere as speckled trout, reds and flounder are still being caught across all these bays; the surface though, is U-G-L-Y!

And while we probably have every right to whine and complain that we've had all the rain we need; please God make it stop, you're not going to hear that from me. No sir, those words will never again cross my lips if I live as long as Methuselah.

Down in the traditionally saltier Upper Laguna and Baffin, David Rowsey notes in his column this month that the majority of the brown tide that has limited angling opportunity off-and-on for better than a year has mysteriously disappeared–almost overnight. More confirmation that "fresh water is good," according to David.

Years ago I toured Sea Center Texas while working on a story covering TPWD's stock enhancement program. David Abrego had just moved there from Marine Development Center, TPWD's other major hatchery at Flour Bluff. Referencing the hatch rate of seatrout at Sea Center, David said, "The water up here is magic!" I will never forget that.

So what does all this fresh water mean for inshore anglers this summer? Well, for starters, it means we are all in for a bunch of fishing lessons. With the amount of fresh that has already arrived and the amount yet streaming down the rivers, this could go into the books as the year we learned to catch fish in miserably murky and fresh conditions. Add to this a tropical depression that may become Tropical Storm Bill as it approaches the Texas coast. Rainfall of another 10- to 12 inches is being predicted for some areas.

This issue of TSFMag is filled with fresh water strategies so please do not give up. Just like the Galveston System following Hurricane Ike, I believe we are about to see a rejuvenation of middle coast fisheries that could beat all we've ever seen. If you have never tried scented soft plastics, now is the time. By the way, Pam spanked me half to death throwing GULP! the other day, but I'm hardheaded that way.