Pro Tips: May 2011

Pro Tips: May 2011

May is still a very windy month for us here along the middle and lower Texas Coast. Last month's article should have gotten you fired up about the tremendous opportunities that await you in the dirty water. In May we will still have those same opportunities but one will need to be watchful of land mines. By this I mean stingrays. The San Jose and Matagorda Island shorelines are beginning to attract large numbers of rays. Small holes in the bay floor are notorious hiding places for stingrays and too many good anglers have had fishing seasons ruined by a single careless step. BE CAREFUL! No trout or redfish is worth the pain and suffering a bad step can bring.

Trout are starting to show in good numbers along the barrier islands in the Aransas and San Antonio Bay regions. The seasonal key to finding and catching bigger trout is grass. For weeks we looked at only the remnants of the root systems. Now, with rising water temperatures, the grassbeds are once again beginning to flourish and in many areas are already holding good numbers of better-than-average-sized speckled trout. The key to the bigger trout showing is the influx of baitfish and these too are attracted to grass. Two types you need to look for would be menhaden and mullet. Egg producing females naturally seek rich forage and these oily creatures, when ingested, aid in egg development and contribute buoyancy to their eggs. Life is tough in the sea, everything eats fish eggs and fry, so survival is minimal at best and increased oil content helps the eggs disperse into the current. More reasons to have more out there spawning, huh? Yeah, I know, I said I wasn't going to talk about that anymore.

I look for the bait to ride the higher tides of spring into the bay through area passes. Currently we have only the pass at Port Aransas as Cedar Bayou remains closed for several years now. Some in TPWD believe the passes play little or no role in the trout scene so maybe my theory of tide runner trout is all wet. I do know that as soon as the tide levels start to rise and the menhaden and mullet pour in from the Gulf the larger trout show right along with them. Maybe they wait out in the bay depths for this to happen, nobody really knows, but we can correlate the arrival of the larger trout with the spring migrations of baitfish. It is all good no matter what the real science is and my theories have kept me in business for the past thirty-two years. You do the math, as they say.

You really need to fish shallow and windward whenever possible. Trout are predators and seem to prefer feeding in a minimized strike zone for efficiency. Less water, more grass, a little bottom contour and you're in a big trout's head. My head has plenty of swimming space for any trout that might want to drop and relax for a while. My approach is typically formulated from an offshore-fishing shoreward vantage point. Casting at angles to the area of preferred structure allows me the ability to present the bait out in front of the fish. Predators like to use what I refer to as the "bump" method for locating food. If you have ever been on a deer drive in states that permit them, fishing works the same way. Hunters walk through thickets making noise and bumping deer from cover, hoping to push them to a hunter waiting on the edge. The deer move only because they are spooked. Trout do the very same thing when working grassbeds along shallow shorelines. By slowly wending their way in and around the grassbeds, baitfish are bumped from cover and become a meal for the hungry predator.

Gaining a mental picture of this process can give you the upper hand in catching lots of fish and also the fish of a lifetime. This image gives me staying power and encourages me to make multiple casts to likely-looking areas. The process also allows me to anticipate the strike. When we fish with all sense on go, the odds of getting the proper hookset on every strike increase dramatically. A mullet flipping here and there around the structure reinforces my beliefs of being in the right area at the right time. Just for the record, when a lazy mullet jumps it typically enter the water at a somewhat headfirst angle. Mullet flipping and fleeing for their lives make a different sound and splash, sometimes landing on their sides and even tail first. This should get your attention.

Right now our trout are holding on the shallower grass beds, the average depth of which is about calf deep to knee deep on yours truly. Like I said, rather shallow. I am still being impressed daily with the new five inch Die Dapper swimbaits from Bass Assassin. Of course the old tried and true five inch Bass Assassin shad is still a go-to bait for me and likely always will be. The MirrOlure topwater baits and the Paul Brown Originals (Corkys ) are still getting plenty of action on the end of my line on a daily basis. Clear patterns with silver, copper or chartreuse highlights should certainly be considered.

I hope the photos in this article show you just how good some of our fish have been lately. Trout to seven and a half pounds on the high side and three to four pounders have been fairly common in lots of areas. I hope to see some of you on the boat this spring and the rest of you around the docks when you are in town.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins