Managing Conditions and Fishing Time

Managing Conditions and Fishing Time
Danielle Wilson filleting her fish. Good with the knife and the rod.
Weather has been all over the place the past thirty days. Most of my days on the water have seen winds gusting to over 25mph and have been from either the SE or NE. No really significant cold yet but as I sit here and write we have a stronger frontal system headed into the Texas Panhandle. In this issue Id like to talk to you about time and wind management. Sounds way more complicated than it actually is but it is something many never consider.

Everyone that has ever read the fine articles in Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine by all of us so-called pros are aware of how much attention we pay to the solunar tables. In bays such as Baffin, the actual tide movement can be so minimal that most disregard it entirely. Instead, they plan their days according to major and minor feeding periods and the wind which in this bay provides the only real current. In my home waters of the Aransas Bay System I formulate tidal currents, wind direction and velocity, and also the major and minor feeding periods. What I try to do is plan my day to where I have my clients in the right place at the absolute right times.

On many occasions I may start the day in an area that I know is holding good numbers but also know that the increasing wind and its direction will give me only a few hours there. I honestly might be forced to fish more protected areas later in the day that hold fewer fish but this does not mean the day is shot. Locating a few bites in these areas and then working through the next predicted solunar feeding time while managing wind-driven currents can make all the difference.

Regular clients and readers have heard me spout my belief that the wind is your friend. This remains true up to a certain point. However, when wind velocity reaches 30mph the fun factor can drop dramatically. Yesterday we had winds almost that strong and my planning had me and my clients on a large semi-protected flat. Tides were higher than normal and bait more scattered than the previous several days. Our fishing has been pretty good if youre willing to put the time in and allow the wind to help you. I figured the fish would be scattered but felt there were enough fish on the flat to generate an early bite that would for sure get our day started in a positive manner. No doubt that a few nice fish on that first wade can set the tone for the rest of the outing. We had a solunar major that started around 7:00am and ended around 9:00. By the time the major was over the winds would be considerably higher and water changes would be forming. An early afternoon moon rise minor from 1:00pm to 2:00 had to be considered even though tides would be minimal at best. The kicker was the wind. SE wind drives water around windward points, over shallow troughs in reefs, and through small drains that feed backwater marsh. Locate the right one and its game-on despite less than favorable water conditions.

By the noon hour we had scratched out a few nice trout and a red here and there but I could tell the feed had turned off. Bait was still plentiful and an occasional pelican would hit the water along the shallow water change that the high winds had created. In shallow water fisheries; water changes created by wind and or current that form along or over bottom structure has time and time again proven to be a productive pattern for me. Of course I am not lacking in the confidence department when it comes to fishing downright dirty water. Predatory species are just more aggressive in the dirty stuff. They react to the movement and then decide whether or not it is something they want. After a 45 minute period of not a single bite, I suggested a move to the windward side of the bay and a reef pass that for many seasons has produced for me under these conditions. I mentioned that if they had never really fished shallow water being moved by strong wind with zero clarity I owed it to them as serious learners to show them how it works.

After a rough ride across the bay we arrived at the area to discover a handful of pelicans idling in the pass. I call it idling because that is what it is; they just alternate strokes with their large webbed feet, positioning themselves in the pass as the water rolls on. Amazing bird the pelican, isnt it. Soon they were joined by a few royal terns, noisy birds, but when silent you can bet it is not happening. As I led the group towards the area where I knew but could not see the gut through the reef, I tried to explain how the wind was driving the water through and what formations in the reef were causing the fish to be where they were going to be.

Over the years I have been able to observe these passes or guts through reefs and sandbars on days when tides are low and winds light. We seldom catch fish here under such calm conditions but it is still a great learning experience to able to observe the guts and structure and how the water will flow when the wind is pumping. Ill say it again, the mental pictures we gain when fishing on calm clear days can pay big dividends when the conditions get right.

Mike McBride and I have opportunities when I am in Port Mansfield to reflect on these types of scenarios and would both agree that too few serious anglers fish the right stuff on the right day. Ive seen McBride standing on a windward shoreline in ankle deep muck casting to a very small gut along a windward shoreline. Big trout, really big ones, will nose right up to the edge of the gut waiting for a mullet to be pushed windward by waves and into her waiting jaws. Its the best stuff we have when we have the confidence to hang in there and wait them out.

Back to the day I was describing earlier; we caught about ten nice trout and a few redfish in about an hour or less. These were not big trout, but so many times they are. I believe the key to catching them was the visual I had drawn for the guys and then their patience to stand in there with me and chunk. Come to think about it, I guess they were kinda stuck there with me. Oh well, it worked. And like so many before them over my long career, they learned a priceless lesson in planning a fishing day according to the conditions putting yourself in the right place at the best time, and fishing the truly downright dirty stuff.

So, after you have read all the articles in this months issue, tear out the Solunar Table, then go on-line and print the tide tables for the area you plan to fish and watch the weather forecast. Simple planning can place you in the optimum place to fish at the most opportune time.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins