Pro Tips: October 2011

Pro Tips: October 2011
Much of October’s pattern changes will be delivered by fronts from the north.

It is true that as we grow older the days seem to fly by. Seems like only yesterday I was putting away my waders and looking forward to days when wet wading the warm waters of the middle Texas Coast would require only my wading pants and a fishing shirt. As we enter into October, I now find myself making ready the Simms waders and foul weather clothing in preparation of the first cold front of fall. So it's true, time flies when you're having fun.

No doubt we have had a hot, dry summer along the entire Texas Coast. We have had little relief from the drought conditions but I am hopeful that approaching low pressure systems from the north this month will aid in bringing our drought conditions closer to an end. October is a transition month and that means fishing will be extraordinary at times and then down right lousy at others. Any time we have significant changes in weather patterns, the patterns of the fish will change as well. Sometime we zig when they zag so misses should be expected as the weather patterns transcend from one season to the other. The signal of the change is what excites me. I know that as the days grow shorter and temperatures slowly start to drop that the predators in the system start to jockey for position. This movement is about the only thing that I have found to be the least bit predictable during the month of October. By November it will be wide open in my bay system and limits of trout and redfish will many days come with little effort but that is another story. The story line right now is how do we figure out where the fish are going to be on a consistent basis. I guess the first thing one has to know is where the fish are prior to the oncoming weather pattern change.

In the months previous to Octobers changes, weather patterns are stable and are typically very hot with minimal wind to start most days. In 2011, we can add to these existing conditions, severe drought as well. This complicates matters due to added stress on our fish populations. Trout and flounder seem to exhibit the most negative reactions to these conditions from my observations. Predatory species are just not as active or predictable when we have severe heat coupled with higher-than-average salinity levels.

Freshwater entering the bay is essential to the overall well being of just about every living thing in our bay systems. When it is dry, we hurt. So the answer to the WHERE ARE THEY question I raised so many lines back is along deeper drop-offs with good structure adjacent to NIGHTIME FEEDING areas. The cover of darkness brings with it a drop in surface water temperatures which in turn relates to increased oxygen content. These changes along with a decreased strike zone due to shallower water makes for optimum feeding conditions. Add some moving water and bright moon and these areas literally come alive. As the sun rises so do the water temperatures and off the predators seek refuge in deeper, darker, cooler water. This area must have some bottom structure much like the shallow feeding area that lies close by.

As fronts approach and the signal is sent that change is coming, baitfish start to migrate out of the shallow backwaters to the deeper, faster moving water. Baitfish need strong outgoing tides to aid in carrying them to the safe haven of deeper water. This action results in a reaction from the gamefish in the area. They now move into positions out in front of these drains as well as in the drains themselves. It is a meeting that both anglers and predators have waited for the entire season. Fish catching gets as good as it ever gets during hard falling tides. This is especially true when a 10 or greater drop in air temperatures is added into the mix. If you pay close attention to where you were catching fish in September, you'll probably realize that there is some kind of shallow flat with a slough of some size feeding some portion of backwater in close proximity. I am a firm believer in finding where fish live them working out the details of where they move to when conditions change.

I guess one would think if you know all this stuff how could you miss. Well, the answer to this is quite simple. You miss if you do not change your approach when the conditions revert back to more summer like conditions. October fronts are typically few and not severe temperature droppers. Most are followed by fast warm ups and a return to prevailing SE winds. This is yet another change and not one that is usually favorable for providing the fish with easy feeding opportunities such as were presented during the frontal passage.

Fall is all about eating enough to put on a fat layer for the tough times that lay ahead in winter. When conditions are not right the fish simply move back to the offshore drop and wait it out until the next weather change. We are then forced to go back to summer-like thinking in order to put ourselves in a position to continue to catch fish. If I did not have to fish in-between fronts I guess I would not have to worry about any of this. October is one of our busiest months due to the cooler temperatures and just a good time to be outside and on the water taking in all the glorious sights we have here on the Texas Middle Coast. Our fishing as well as birding is hard to beat and that is for sure.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins