The phrase “Nook and Cranny” is a metaphoric idiom pairing nook, which means “an out-of-the-way corner” (dating back to the mid-1300s), with cranny which has meant “a crack or crevice” since about 1440. (Dictionary.com) Nook and Cranny fishing has saved my bacon many days when the bite was somewhat tough otherwise.
We had been on a pretty good run of fishing hitting a stretch of days when the tides were right and the winds were manageable. I was also fortunate enough to have had some of my most highly-skilled clients on board. As guides, we love it when the stars align and things go our way. Everyone gets off the boat at the end of the trip with big smiles, especially the captain. We want those kinds of trips to happen every day but we know that’s not possible because there are so many uncontrollable variables.
Sooner or later the tides become weak or the moon phase doesn’t lend itself to a good bite. Following our exceptional stretch of catching really good fish, this was exactly the scenario with which we were faced. Some of the stretches of shorelines we had been fishing were suddenly void of life. If you’ve ever fished with me then you know that I like to fish with my eyes. In other words, I like to use slicks, mud streaks, and active bait to point us toward the fish. I’ve always been a very visual person. I can read something over and over again and, with some practice, I’ll usually get a grasp on whatever it is I’m trying to learn. However, if you show me how to do it, then I can pick up on it pretty darn quickly.
My three clients and I spent about two hours wading this lifeless stretch of water that had been teaming with activity only a few days before. After only two legal trout had come to hand it got to the point where I felt like we had waited long enough for our fish to turn on, so we made a move. In hindsight we probably stayed about an hour too long. Of course, that’s always the million dollar question…when to stay and when to leave. We had already stayed through the tide change of a low water mark switching to a high. This is typically when we’re going to get our best action, especially if the change coincides with a major or minor solunar feeding period. In this case it happened to be the tail end of a solunar minor.
The tide change we fished through was a weak one, which generally doesn’t provide us with that burst of life that a more eccentric “flip the switch” swing does. Because we were fishing somewhat of a vast, wide-open flat with not many undulations, I don’t believe the current change was quite enough to trigger a bite. I decided that we needed to focus more on smaller areas where current velocity would be strong enough to create bait movement and ambush points for trout, redfish, and flounder. Such areas are often referred to as choke points, pinch points, or funnels.
Our next stop found us wading toward small openings in erosion control rocks that had been strategically placed along the shoreline. The wind was at our backs as we made our way in the direction of the small breaks in the rocks. To this point we had noticed very few mullet along the shorelines but now we were watching bait flip in and around the cuts with regularity. Upon closer examination there were well-defined mud streaks on the down-current side of the openings created by the Venturi effect which is basically water flowing through a constricted area, creating a higher velocity. It’s like putting a spray nozzle on a water hose. I finally had the visual signs that I needed!
With my confidence riding high I got into position to fire off an up-current cast just past the color change. As the tide brought my 5-inch Silver Glitter/Chartreuse Bass Assassin back down current, I proceeded to give it a couple of subtle vertical twitches while letting the current do most of the work as it settled back down. Twitch-twitch-BAM. A pretty four pound trout came to hand confirming we’d made the correct decision to stop there. We caught some really solid trout and flounder throughout the day despite the weak incoming tide…thanks to those small sections of daylight in the rocks.
There are many other types of nooks and crannies we tend to focus on. Small bayous that dump into back lakes or open bays are excellent areas to target, especially when we have a high tide that’s getting ready to start going out. Oysters also thrive in areas like these so we get the added bonus of the rich marine life environment provided by these reefs which create true fish magnets. Tiny crabs, shrimp and shad provide a buffet for trout, reds and flounder. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who caught all three species by casting MirrOlure Lil’ Johns or Bass Assassin 4-inch Sea Shads at the same bayou drain.
While there are stretches of our shorelines here in Galveston Bay that have “straightened out” from shoreline erosion, there are still enough points and peninsulas to provide good ambush points for us to catch fish. I love to cook. I especially enjoy smoking a brisket or tri-tip on the pit, but every once in a while I want to go out to a nice restaurant and be served. Trout want to be served all of the time. They are the epitome of opportunistic feeders. Stretches of marsh or land protruding out into the bay provide just what the doctor ordered when it comes to pinpointing high-percentage areas for fish. Wind-driven or tidal current sweeping around the tips of these points bring a variety of forage species right into the face of willing trout without them having to exert much effort. I typically like to focus on the eddies that form along the backside of the points. This strategy can deliver some outstanding action on days when not much else seems to work.
Not all nooks and crannies are along shorelines. Through the years we’ve been able to drift over open bay oyster reefs and catch great numbers of trout while working slicks and rafts of mullet. Our sweet spots on these reefs were mostly deep cuts and high humps as well as where the reefs dropped off into the surrounding mud. Because of environmental and man-induced changes, we don’t have as many of those mid-bay reefs with drastic elevation changes that we’ve been able to enjoy in the past. But, we still have some and they still produce!
Here’s a little hint - Focus on areas that used to be islands which are now reefs. Google Earth historical imagery is a great tool. Also, newly planted (within the past 15 years) oyster reef restoration projects planted by commercial oyster dealers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are smart focal points. And, spend lots of time really learning how to use your bottom machine!
Speaking of islands, we still have a few in this 600 square mile complex that remain as actual islands. Some will be reefs and sandbars within a few years and there are new ones being created from ship channel dredging (designated spoil areas). Either way, they all provide areas we can pinpoint to catch fish, even on a tough day. Look for current lines, eddies and streaks at the tips of these islands, then focus on sudden depth changes. Soft plastics on 1/8 to 1/4 ounce lead heads work the best.
If you’re having a slow day and the fish aren’t giving you any indication of where they are, then it may be time to find a small cut through a reef, a bayou drain, or maybe even a weir (if you’re fishing somewhere like Lake Calcasieu). It may not be like shooting fish in a barrel but you should be able to hit enough on the head to make it worth your effort. And please, let ‘em go if you don’t need them. Good luck my friends!