Harvey Changed Middle-Coast Bays

Harvey Changed Middle-Coast Bays
John Esley found this solid Aransas Bay trout in one of the new blowouts – CPR!

I have been blessed with plenty of business the past couple of weeks and I want to thank all of you that have been so thoughtful and supportive. It is true that we have all suffered cancellations but this is to be expected in the wake of an event as destructive and disruptive to life and business as Harvey. We hope that everyone continues to find their way through the hardships and back on their feet soon.

I want to focus this month on the changes Hurricane Harvey’s 140-plus-mph wind and double-digit tidal surges created in middle-coast bays. Recently updated Google Earth images of the Aransas Bay Complex demonstrate much of this, but some of the changes are not as obvious. Boat anglers may not notice, but the changes to depth and bottom structure are quite significant to a guide that wades every day. So much so that I now spend a great deal of time explaining the structure layouts and warning of wading dangers – even to experienced clients who have fished with me for years.

I touched on some of these changes in my November article but since then the tides have risen due to Hurricane Nate, the fall equinox, and a stubborn easterly wind component. These abnormally high tides began on October 20 and, save for the odd norther, continue to control what we do each day. Also, since the last article, I have been able to map a lot of shoreline changes and bottom configurations along outside beaches, spoils and barrier islands. We still have the parallel guts that prevailing winds create, but now there are two other bottom factors that have become players in my daily game plans – moguls and perpendicular sand bars.

It is evident from debris lines and much of the vegetation along barrier islands and spoil islands that water levels rose high enough to literally cover much of the land mass. As the water exited the land masses, it cut deep holes and blowouts (we are calling them) in the shorelines. Water receding through these blowouts deposited sediment on the bayside shorelines of the islands.

Over the past several weeks I have waded in and out of these blowout areas and over the newly-created moguls. At each blowout I am finding at least one new sandbar that extends out perpendicular, intersecting the normal parallel guts, with dangerously steep and deep drop-offs in some places. Extreme caution should be exercised when wading and learning these new bottom configurations!

We are also noting very significant depth changes around grassbeds – 10 to 12-inches and more. This may not sound like much but in 2- to 2½-feet of water it represents almost half the depth. This is huge to gamefish as they prefer to ambush their prey whenever possible. I have also recognized the new sandbars as structure that will attract and hold gamefish. This is especially true along windward shorelines. Based on what I have seen so far, trout and reds both seem to be holding very predictably to these new structure types.

Prevailing water clarities this fall have been clean but not necessarily too clear, if that makes any sense. My personal preference though, would be a bit sandier. Typically, in my area, the water is trending toward gin-clear this time of year and only gets worse as the water temperature continues to cool. What is worse than gin-clear, well, how about air-clear. The difference is very slight but usually relates directly to the numbers of quality fish we catch in one versus the other.

So, with predominantly clear water, I believe shallow-feeding fish will utilize low-light or darkness to feed, and will begin to exit the shallow-clear water as the sun rises. Likewise, they will tend to hold better with slightly off-colored water conditions. Now, add to this scenario the newly-created blow-outs and deeper water lying directly adjacent to the shallows where they feed, and we have a formula that could possibly hold fish the entire day.

I strongly believe that if a preferred and reliable food source is present, as we currently have on these shorelines, the gamefish will not be too far away. You could almost say the lions are sleeping with the lambs.

I have also noticed that the smaller trout in an area seem to be early feeders no matter what the solunar table might say. The larger fish, however, are proving that knowing where to be at the right time is critical. Try whenever possible to avoid wading through the targeted area when the time is not right. Just entering in the wrong manner can booger it enough to cancel a normal feeding pattern and bump them off to who knows where. Nothing shows less fishing savvy than anchoring on top of them in the dark and wading all over them all morning when the day’s first solunar feeding period is hours away.

With all these changes in our bay systems come more ambush points for more predators. I am a big believer in the fact that apex predators will move up, out of deeper water, to feed along shallow shorelines when conditions are right. Adding more points of possible interaction can only lead to more opportunity. The blow-outs and sand bars will be red hot when tides fall, pulling large amounts of forage to waiting gamefish along the deeper edges. I know this is seeing the cup half full rather than half empty but, what kind of fun comes from a negative attitude?

I am almost hesitant to mention how good fishing is right now with so many still slugging their way through hurricane recovery. But it’s very good and will only get better as water temperatures drop.

On another note, Custom Corky Gold Series Fat Boys and Soft-Dine XL will be available at the Waterloo Pro Shop in Victoria and Johnny’s Sports Shop in Eagle Lake by mid-November. These baits are ordered in limited numbers so don’t wait. Gold has been the key to my dirty water fishing success the last three seasons and I attribute much of it to these lures. I will continue to use my trusty 5” Bass Assassins, MirrOlure 5” Provokers, and Lil John XLs, but there are days when Custom Corkys absolutely rule the water.

May your fishing always be catching! -Guide Jay Watkins