I always dread the energy-zapping heat that comes in August, but with this drought lingering it actually started way back in June. This has been due to the long stretches of high atmospheric pressure we’ve been under for most of the summer. Of course, this has helped with keeping hurricanes at bay, but it also pushes away any gulf moisture that we typically see this time of year. We have also experienced more wind than what we normally see this time of year which, unfortunately, has kept us from venturing out to the surf. Because of this the fish have been a little tougher to pattern than usual.
September is a month I look most forward to because we typically get our first cool front somewhere in the middle to latter weeks. I know it will still be hot most days but cool fronts seem to bring more life to the waters here on the coast. Our days will be getting shorter as well, which also helps to reduce water temperatures. After the first few cold fronts, look for redfish to begin schooling in greater numbers in the bays and back lakes, unlike the summer months when they are typically more generally scattered.
The trout bite has been decent as of late but it has been somewhat difficult to bring limits back to the boat due to the new slot size of 17 to 23 inches. Earlier this spring we were catching longer trout but the size has dropped off during the hottest months. Because of this, catching redfish has been a lifesaver on many of my guided trips. Honestly, I have had more requests for targeting reds than ever before. Many of my clients have openly admitted that they would prefer to be more conservative where the trout are concerned, so they opt for reds. Even on the days when my anglers thought they wanted to target trout, they usually ended up changing their minds after an hour or two because we were catching and injuring too many undersized trout. After talking with other guides, this seems to be the M.O. with their clients as well.
Lucky for us, due to the decline of the redfish population in the late ‘70s, TPWD started the hatchery program to stock our bays with red drum fingerlings in 1983. Last year they released a total of 17,805,822 fingerlings in different bay systems all along the coast. As a result, our redfish population has rebounded to healthy numbers all along the Texas coast. But I also must say that with increasing numbers of anglers opting to target redfish, I can’t help but wonder if the population in general can sustain the pressure over the next few years.
If targeting reds has been your preference lately I will offer a few tips. Here in the Port O’Connor/Seadrift area slot-sized reds love shallow water. I know there are times when anglers do well at the jetties but to consistently catch slot reds I suggest concentrating your efforts in shallow water.
Watch for reds that are “tailing” along shallow, grassy shorelines. There are many times, if you watch closely enough, you will even see them cruising in water too shallow to cover their backs. While these reds can be confidence builders, they can be some of the hardest to catch because they tend to be pretty spooky.
Small scented soft plastics work well in these situations. But never cast into the middle of a pod of tailing or shallow cruisers. Instead, aim for the outer edges of the group. Since your are using a scented lure, you can then drag or soft-twitch the offering closer, but be careful to not allow your line come into contact with any of them, because if one fish spooks the entire group will blast off into the next zipcode.
Redfish scattered along shallow shorelines with grass and sand pockets tend to be my go-to when guiding multiple anglers. These areas are easier to wade or drift and offer more opportunities for each angler. Smaller topwaters can be very effective in the low light of early morning. If you find them “blowing up” repeatedly but without actually taking the lure, I recommend switching to a 4-inch Bass Assassin Sea Shad (preferably with chartreuse tail) on an eighth-ounce jig head. Better yet, a half-ounce weedless gold spoon.Remember, if you already have fish in the freezer, perhaps you should consider letting a few swim away for another day. If we all practice even just a little conservation each time we fish, we can help bring back our fisheries to healthier, more sustainable populations.