The past couple of months I feel like I have been living in a rainforest rather than the Texas mid-coast; the rainfall amounts have been crazy high. While the overall productivity of our mid-coast bays requires fresh water mixing with higher salinity from the gulf, there needs to be adequate amounts of both to maintain a healthy balance. Fresh water doesn’t just come from rainfall but also from local runoff and inflow from rivers. Although I believe local rainfall is the most beneficial, when the region that lies all the way up to the Hillcountry gets abundant rain it eventually arrives in the bays via the Guadalupe and Lavaca-Navidad rivers. Well, here lately, our bays have been receiving tons of runoff and inflow. The areas currently too fresh to hold fish are nearly all of San Antonio Bay and the northern parts of West Matagorda.
My father in law, Neal Gray owner of Charlie’s Bait Camp, uses a refractometer to measure salinity. I’ve tasted the water in a few areas and was surprised when I could not taste any salt whatsoever. For two weeks straight the salinity reading in the ICW at Charlie’s was zero. Yes, you read that correctly! It’s a fact that fresh water is less dense and therefore tends to lie in layers at the surface while water of greater salinity will lie lower in the water column. So there’s a chance that salty water could exist somewhere down there. Salinity levels were improving by early August but with more recent rainfall that probably won’t last. I’m really curious how our San Antonio Bay oysters will fare during this prolonged fresh inundation. Only time will tell.
I get asked a lot when I think the salinity in the area bays will stabilize and return to normal. That’s a tough question to answer because there are so many variables that can affect the recovery. For a start, we need a good month without significant rainfall to get things going in the right direction. And as I mentioned above, just when it seems that might happen we get another deluge. Next, we need good tide exchanges, both incoming and outgoing. Luckily, we have had some very low tide days recently and that in itself will help pull fresh water out of the bays. When the tide comes back in it will deliver more salty water from the gulf. Windy days also help mix up the fresher upper levels with the saltier lower levels BUT we haven’t had very many windy days this past month, which is typical for this time of year.
So you are now wondering just how fishy can these fresher areas be? I’m not going to lie to you all and tell you that the sun is always shining and the fish are always biting. Seriously though, San Antonio Bay has been void of any really consistent catching for some time. My best luck has been fishing near the passes to the Gulf or in the areas around Barroom Bay, Farwell Island, Grass Island, and inside Pringle Lake. Most of the back lakes have remained somewhat saltier than the bays and have been holding decent numbers of fish as a result.
There are other reasons for targeting fish near the gulf passes and it’s not just a salinity thing. It’s about tidal currents. Every year in late summer when temperatures soar and tides get slack we head toward the passes. Moving water is usually cooler than water that is standing still. It’s also more oxygenated, which is one of the keys to finding more reliable feeding patterns.
On days when I cannot fish the surf safely, I have been targeting shorelines close to the passes in Matagorda Bay and will continue to do so for the next month or so. Areas with grass and sand amid prominent guts are usually the most productive. Of course we key on bait concentrations and the abundance of baitfish has been encouraging. Paddletail plastics like the Bass Assassin 3-½ inch Lit’l Boss and 4-inch Sea Shads are great baitfish imitators when rigged on 1/8-ounce jigheads. I like a quicker, more erratic presentation when the water is moving and a slower presentation when the tide slows.Cool fronts should start making their way to the coast around mid to late September. I look so forward to the first “official” front and the cooler temps that follow. Hang in there folks, my favorite season of the year is just around the corner.
Soft Plastic Presentation ala Topwater