After some rather stagnant months leading into fall, cold fronts routinely pass over the coast and pull a biological trigger. Induced by dropping temperatures, the major migrations reach a peak in November, and an array of formidable creatures lurk in the shallows, waiting to take advantage of all the available prey. On the coast, the Thanksgiving month is all about explosions in the aquatic food chain.
Countless trains of baitfish parade their way down the entire length of our coastline, but with so few people on the beaches this month, these Nat Geo-worthy events often occur without many human witnesses. In late-fall, our beaches can seem as desolate as the surface of the moon. Nevertheless, the waters adjacent to them host a wide variety of life-and-death dramas.
Anyone on the beach a couple days after a strong cold front this month can observe some of the highest activity levels of the year. The abundance of available food attracts a plethora of predators into the shallows. All these predators are a blast to catch on light tackle, but many November anglers show a bias toward the month's most-welcomed mascot―the jack crevalle.
Jackfish, as they are commonly called, are some of the most voracious predators to prowl our coastal waters. Pound for pound, these tuna-like beasts are rightly afforded status among the hardest fighting fish. Fully mature jacks, about 25 pounds, storm the surf as they destroy mullet and menhaden running the shallows. Jacks home in and attack tight balls and shoals of baitfish with precision to rival any well-trained military unit. To see a pack of jacks cruising through breaking waves is reminiscent of a WWII dogfight scene.
Often, jacks and other predatory species work together in squads of hundreds, corralling the pressured bait into the shallows where land meets sea. During the peak time for surf jacks, throwing topwaters at them often delivers enthralling action. In addition, jack crevalle are a surf fly-fisherman's dream. I have buddies who target these bullies on fly, and they absolutely live for the sport. Most any angler can appreciate the raw power of this abundant species.
It's often hard for me to pass up throwing lures into frenzied packs of jacks and tarpon. The sight of a school of large jacks demolishing bait along the beach provides a lively take on raw, wild nature. Personally, I allocate most of my time to targeting sharks, rather than fishing with flies. I thrive on shark action and live my day to day life anticipating the angling opportunities sharks present. Since their bloody red flesh is inedible, jacks are not harvested for food, but they do make shark fishermen happy, providing one of the best baits of all for big sharks.
In addition to the jacks , other hungry predators find their way into the shallows this month, to prey on all the small species. Red drum make their presence known in great numbers. Along the entire Texas coast, adult red drum take advantage of the cool-water migrations of mullet and other baitfish. It's not uncommon to cast out live mullet for jackfish and be invaded by a school of bull reds, all in excess of forty inches.
Any angler seeking to add tangles with bull reds to the bucket list should focus their efforts on the beachfront this month. On some of my charters, we catch and release as many as twenty oversized reds. By nature, redfish are both hunters and scavengers. At times, when they're most numerous and active in the surf, these eating machines will pick up almost any baits they encounter, including small baits intended to attract the attention of sharks.
Most people know monster reds are not highly desirable as table fare, and they can only be harvested with a tag. Regardless of these facts, the species ranks high on the list of best ones for big fish photo opportunities. Over the years, nearly all my clients end up releasing their giant reds after obtaining a beautiful photo with their prized catch. We like to do our part in this new era of conservation, to enhance the recovering numbers of this splendid species.
Being a shark hunter, I simply love this time of year, and for good reason. After nabbing my supply of jacks for bait, I start sending them back out, rigged for giants. Some of the largest tiger sharks of the year are caught in November, and they're prone to sink their teeth into any jackfish they can find. Quality bull sharks still remain in the November surf too; a seven-foot specimen makes a perfect large shark for a kid or beginning sharker to catch and imprint a lasting memory.
Casting mullet for reds or jacks often produces blacktip sharks this month. These feeding machines will eat everything from the smallest baits to the biggest slabs of meat. Other sharks find their way into the shallows along the Texas coast this month too; in November, ten different shark species are possibly present. The list includes perhaps the rarest of sharks caught from land―the mako. Weather windows conducive for catching makos are not common, but some do develop in most Novembers.
Stalking sharks, dynamic jacks and obtuse reds own the Texas surf waters from Halloween to Thanksgiving. The cool morning air and insane level of activity are prime reasons November ranks among my favorite months. There's something to appease the appetites of the entire fishing audience, whether they fish with flies, conventional lures, live bait or whole, dead jackfish.Consequently, I book more family charters this month than any other. Obviously, epic action doesn't happen every day, even in a month with this much potential for greatness. The wildly changing Texas weather can flash its ugly face and ruin things briefly, while setting up a blitz of activity on the backside. When they're right, November conditions provide some of the most enjoyable fishing adventures possible on the beaches of the Lone Star State.