Mid-Coast Bays: October 2022

Mid-Coast Bays: October 2022
It has been twenty years since Kees, Maarten, and David Verheul enjoyed a day together on the water.

September finally brought desperately-needed rainfall to the Coastal Bend and much of the state of Texas. The cooling effect on our bay waters will  reenergize our fisheries, just in time for the fall migration of many forage species making their way to the gulf from the backwaters and marshes.

In the last couple of weeks I have seen little hints of the seasons changing. There was increased bird activity as they began working over shrimp in San Antonio, Mission, Hynes, and Guadalupe Bays. These migrations will really hit high gear when the first cold fronts arrive and we will begin catching upper-slot reds and trout. The shrimp migration can sometimes last well into December depending on water temperatures.

October strategies should not change a lot from those I used in September. The main difference will be that everything, or rather every type of fishing,  will improve along with the quality of the fish we will be catching.

Fishing the many drains on the south shorelines of West Matagorda, Espiritu Santo, San Antonio, and Mesquite also tends to improve dramatically with the stronger tidal movements during fall. When fishing these drains I try to begin my wades as far out from the mouth of the drain as I can detect mullet or other baitfish milling around. I then work my way slowly toward the drain itself throwing my favorite lures – usually a Bass Assassin 4” Sea Shad or 5” Die Dapper – at primary bottom structure and any baitfish activity I can locate.

Fishing the birds in Upper San Antonio Bay really gets going with this month’s increasingly frequent frontal systems. I recommend concentrating efforts on the northernmost end of San Antonio Bay, Hynes Bay to be more exact. Having said that, navigating these areas calls for heightened caution as there are sunken barges and other obstructions not marked on your GPS.  

Hynes Bay is unique in that it is considered part of the Guadalupe estuary. The largest contributors of fresh water inflow are the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers that merge a few miles upstream of the Guadalupe Delta. Hynes is a shallow bay, averaging 3- to 4-foot depths. Every fall, with the arrival of a few strong cold fronts, the shrimp that have been growing in the headwaters of the estuary migrate out into the open waters of Hynes, Mission, Guadalupe and San Antonio bays. Hynes is one of the first where this activity will be witnessed.

Once the shrimp have made it out into open bay the bird activity really explodes as they hover above schools of trout and reds feeding on the shrimp. Even birds that are simply resting on the water can be an excellent sign of bait and gamefish present in the area, likely a bit more scattered and not feeding aggressively, but they’re still there.

Frenzied feeding tends to be at its best during early morning hours and usually subsides by midday. I should also mention that a north wind is always better than a south wind. Calm south winds won’t hinder you too much, but if it’s blowing hard from the south Hynes Bay will become muddied and not nearly as productive.

The best plan when you find the birds working aggressively is to motor upwind and then drift toward the activity to avoid spooking the fish. Better yet, if your boat is equipped with a trolling motor, use it to get within casting distance. Wading is hardly an option as the bottom of Hynes Bay is very soft and unforgiving. Besides that you may find yourself hopping from one school of feeding fish to another in a matter of minutes some days.

Another great way to enjoy fall fishing happens along the myriad upper and mid-bay oyster reefs of San Antonio Bay.  Over the years I have learned to focus the majority of my effort on the side of the reef that tapers slowly into deeper water. This side of the reefs tends to hold more points and contours jutting from the main body of the reef, whereas the opposite side tends to drop off rather quickly into deeper water with mostly mud bottom.  

Whether wading or drifting these reefs, my preferred baits are my trusty Salt Water Assassins in Purple Chicken, Magic Grass, and Laguna Shrimp. My favorite by far is the 4” Sea Shad on 1/16-ounce Assassin jigheads. I let the fish dictate the color.   

There will be a variety of options during October; it’s up to you to decide which scenario best fits your angling style.

Fish hard, fish smart!