Mid-Coast Bays: September 2023

Mid-Coast Bays: September 2023

Kole Schmitt was proud to show off his first “keeper” trout on his first wading trip with me using artificials.

As you already know too well, fishing in this summer’s heat has been more brutal than years past. Consistently low tides and higher than normal winds many days have kept us away from some of our usual summertime locales. That’s not to say we haven’t ventured to the middle of San Antonio Bay or even the surf whenever possible, but certainly not as often as in the past. Windy weekends this summer reduced fishable real estate making for some really congested waters. With schools and sports starting up again, I look for some of that congestion to ease quite a bit and I couldn’t be happier.

March 16, 2022 through August 31, 2023, TPWD implemented emergency speckled trout regulations for the middle and lower coast regions in effort to boost recovery from the February 2021 freeze. The daily bag limit was reduced from 5 fish to 3, with a narrowed retention slot of 17- to 23-inches, versus the prior length regulations of 15- to 25-inches, wherein anglers could retain one per day longer than 25.

Beginning September 1, the emergency order will expire and revert back to the prior bag and length regulations. Considering the state of the fishery and looking to the future, rather than reinstating the prior regulations, I would personally support a daily bag limit of 3 trout with a slot of 15- to 20-inches, with no fish longer than 20 inches being retained. I expect to receive some negative feedback, but I will also point out that fishing pressure has exploded during the last 10 years. While I love to see others enjoying fishing as much as I always have, I also know that the only way we can withstand this kind of pressure and still maintain a healthy fishery is to become more conservative with our catch. We can never predict what Mother Nature will send our way, whether drought, flood, red tide outbreaks, or freezes. And yes, I am also aware that the fishery always manages to recover in some amount, but fishing pressure will only continue to grow. The only influence we can hope to have going forward is through regulations that not only help conserve what we still have, but also enable the fishery to grow.

Some might wonder why I do not support a 17-inch minimum. So, here’s my take, based on my very experienced observations. Here on the middle coast, our bays are populated mostly with trout less than 16 inches. What I observed during the 18 month stretch was not what I think TPWD envisioned when they enacted the temporary changes. For as long as I can remember, we have always had dolphins in the areas we fish. While I cannot say their numbers have increased, what I can say is that dolphin behavior has definitely become more aggressive. They have learned that boat and wade fishermen are throwing back a lot more of their catch than in years past. This “learned” behavior has kept dolphins lurking right next to anglers because they know lots of stunned fish are being released. What an easy meal for these creatures. Unfortunately, this has created a growing dislike for dolphins amongst anglers. I love dolphins probably more than most but this learned behavior is not healthy for them. It’s really not healthy for young dolphins that grow up learning this behavior instead of learning to hunt their quarry without the influence of anglers. Hopefully, with fewer throwbacks, dolphins might unlearn this behavior.

Our weather will hopefully begin cooling off soon. In years past we have come to expect a cool front to blow through around mid-September. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll arrive sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will continue fishing summertime patterns. Hard sandy bottoms and mid-bay reefs will be my go-to places, starting shallow early and transitioning to waist-deep or more as the day heats up.

A new lure we’ve been having success with is the Lit’l P&V scented twitchbait from Bass Assassin. The erratic movement of this soft plastic is great for enticing the less than enthusiastic and somewhat lazy summertime fish to bite. I get the best action out of them with my Waterloo 6’7 HP Lite rod, rigged on an 1/8-ounce jigheads.

While we wait for cooler weather to arrive, please remember to stay hydrated and pack your patience on weekends. There’s enough water out there for everyone, so please be considerate of others and don’t crowd an area just because you see other anglers hooking up.