Hail October!

Everett Johnson
Although April holds a special place in this angler's heart; October is undoubtedly my favorite of all months on the Texas coast. Pleasant weather, generous tides and increased feeding activity are all a fisherman could ever want and October gives us plenty.

I have been blessed with many great experiences in many waters but the lakes and marshes of Matagorda Island are my favorite haunts in October. Everything is alive in the almost surreal setting of Matagorda's natural beauty. Redfish roam in hungry packs through the maze of marsh sloughs and the lakes become the seasonal home of specks gorging on everything they can swallow. It seems every year the teal show in much better number than we ever see in September and of course flights of pintail, gadwall and widgeon increase with the arrival of every front that makes its way to the coast. Speckled-bellies announce their arrival with their signature "ha-lukka-luk" and the final days of the month bring the first sightings of graceful whoopers.

Surface lures disappearing in foamy rings from gamefish that seem as jubilant as anglers at the demise of summer are sensuously heightened as the canvas is filled with the backdrop of season change. That many fishermen are lured away to autumn fields has always caused me to wonder whether they have ever experienced the beauty of the sun rising or golden hue of an October sunset on a Texas bay. If any month comes as close to perfect for family outings or hardcore angling I have yet to experience it.

On a more sober note news from down Baffin way has cast somewhat of a pall on the fishing scene at the west end of Texas' most famous trophy trout venue. While the arrival of Tropical Storm Hermine brought much needed rainfall to the coastal plain and the long awaited coup-de-grace for dog days, the silver lining faded to gray in the form of a localized fish kill that included not just rough fish and forage species but also red drum and highly-coveted speckled trout.

Coastal Fisheries biologists are citing a nontoxic algal bloom as the likely cause. Algal blooms occur naturally and are an essential piece of marine ecology. Like everything else, algae needs oxygen to live. However, sudden and expansive blooms have ability to deplete the available oxygen to levels below which some organisms can survive. Low dissolved oxygen content is always a problem during late summer given elevated water temperature and light wind that contributes little stirring at the surface where oxygen is primarily introduced. The bloom under investigation simply came at a bad time, we are told. Run-off through Petronilla Creek likely supplied the freshwater and nutrient load for the algae to explode and complete its dastardly trick.

Whether the fish kill was of proportion to significantly diminish the spotted seatrout and red drum fisheries in the region will not be fully understood for some time, but suffice to say nobody would ever welcome such an event in the hallowed waters of Baffin.

If we can learn but one thing from this it should be a lesson in conservation. Mother Nature provides and she also mysteriously takes away sometimes. As stewards of Texas' coastal resources we are reminded that the more abundant the fisheries might be before such an event, the sooner they can recover.