Learn From the Fish, and Your Fellow Fishermen!

Learn From the Fish, and Your Fellow Fishermen!
Beautiful fish coming to hand for quick release. Note the calm conditions on this day.
With of the approach of June comes the start of the busiest time of year for Texas coastal waters. Weather patterns will shift to mostly calm nights and early mornings versus the current "blow your butt off all the time" conditions we are still experiencing. Hopefully our trout fishing will become more predictable.

June is live-croaker time all up and down the coast. This very effective bait allows more casual anglers a higher success ratio. By no means does having croaker in the livewell equate to catching fish all the time but it is one of the most effective methods on the market. Neither I nor most of my clients use them, simply because we prefer trying to trick the trout into eating something that is obviously not natural. I have always said that I do not mind nor care what type of bait anglers use. Those fishing with me will wade and throw lures and be instructed on how to become proficient with them. Honestly, it is a lot easier, my Bass Assassins and MirrOlures are dead before I get them out of the package. They are also available at nearly every store I visit, 365 days a year. So if you find yourself with no croakers available on the day you are to be on the water, here are some proven summertime tips that might save the day for you, and your fishing companions.

First You need to target the same general areas you would have fished had you waded or drifted with croaker. I elect to single out the croaker because all are familiar with this very popular live bait during summer. The bottom structure that is holding the fish is not just holding croaker-interested fish. As a young guide I had the luxury of less traffic on the water, so crowding was seldom an issue. Today this is seldom the case, so I use friends that fish with croaker to actually provide me with valuable fishing information. This is fair, going to school on their fishing efforts, because it is highly unlikely that I would pull in and fish the same area. What I will do though is be aware of the specifics; water depth, wind direction, tidal movement and of course the type of structure they are working. This tells me all I need. The longer a line of live bait fishermen stay in a given area the better the odds are that fish are continuing to be caught there. Seldom do I observe a croaker-savvy guide or other savvy individual staying in an area for any amount of time if trout or redfish are not being caught.

Once structure and other elements of the setup are established, I review my memory banks for areas that are most like the one observed. No doubt I still must have; for the summer months especially, moving water, preferred bottom structure and a food source in order for me to have the confidence that fish will be present. However, knowing that live bait is working in areas similar to the one I have chosen is huge in my confidence column.
Deploying lures into the same water is a totally different game. I have never had a Bass Assassin, MirrOlure, Corky or spoon react on its own to the approach of a predator the way live bait often does. Instead; positioning and presentation along with a huge dose of patience is needed to consistently catch solid numbers of trout or redfish this time of year. Honestly it takes the above mentioned characteristics to catch fish on lures year round but for sure the summer months require a little more of each.
How we approach an area and then position ourselves are the key roles for me. I don't typically tell my clients that we are stopping 150 to 200 yards from the point where I think we will start experiencing bites. The distance between where we stop and where I think the fish to be allows all of us to settle in to fishing prior to catching. It is important to establish rhythm in not only the presentation but in our approach. I like to cast a few times while slowly moving forward. Then I'll stop and fan cast for a few minutes and then revert back to moving and casting at a slow pace. Any hint of a gamefish presence should be a signal to stop and fish more thoroughly.

It is normal for me to start commenting on the impending hot zone as we approach. "See that bait activity out front? There's a slick just popped right where the bait was jumping. Get ready, I'm feeling birdie."

All these statements are generated by actual sightings as well as my local knowledge of where the bottom structure we are seeking is located. There is no substitute for water time.

Once in the hot zone it is time to be totally conscious of your presentation throughout the entire length of your cast. I try to create erratic movements with the lure; no matter which lure I'm using, especially as the lure arrives at what I perceive to be the ambush point. I absolutely believe that predation is incited by the reaction of the prey. I want the trout to see nervous and erratic motion and then react as if they know that their presence caused itand then conclude that this is obviously something that fears me so I'll take it. Fish most probably do not possess that full logic process but I think this is what is happening, therefore I can stand in an area for virtually all day, and all the while feel like the next cast is going to result in a fish.

You have heard me comment many times on the patience aspect of lure fishing, which is actually a major component in all types of fishing, not just when using lures. In the hotter summer months it becomes extremely important for us to use the hot zones as long as we are seeing, feeling or sensing that fish are still present. Never leave fish to find fish if you want to catch fish.

Yes, I sometimes leave areas where the fish are not the ones I want my clients to catch but, many times it is a mistake. This is a lesson that came very hard to me. Leaving and losing the bite for the day has been a very good learning tool during my guiding career. Heck, nowadays I am more likely guilty of staying too long, believing I am good enough to make them bite when they are no longer hungry, or possibly even not there any longer.

Fish will leave areas when water conditions change, such as a rise in surface water temperature or a sudden lack of current. When this occurs seek out areas close by with more depth and good bottom structure. Does not have to be the same type of bottom structure, shallow you could have had grass and deeper maybe only a drop-off, but that's still good structure.

I hope from this article you can learn to learn from your fellow fishermen, even if your style of fishing is different from theirs. I believe everyone is entitled to fish however they wish. I do think though, that we should always practice good conservation, when deciding to catch and keep or catch and release. If you need em, keep some, if not let 'em fight another day.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins