Pro Tips: September 2008

Pro Tips: September 2008
Nice CPR red off deeper drop-offs.
September is always a transition month for me here in Rockport. Water temperatures can reach upper 80s and near 90 degrees in some of our shallower areas by day's end. This creates some problems when targeting trout but proves helpful when targeting redfish. What I want to cover here is a game plan to catch both trout and redfish during this challenging period.

Starting early will be the key to trout fishing. By the time September comes around most of our larger trout have fallen into a nocturnal feed pattern. Full moon or new moon, heat and low tides drive them to feed under the cover and comfort of darkness. I know that the past few weeks my trout bite has been over by about 9:00 am. We can scratch out a few more throughout the day but the bite most definitely drops off as the sun rises higher.

The key to the trout bite lies in locating moving water with proper bottom structure, add some bait, and get there early. Points with submerged structure such as grass or scattered shell are my favorites, but dropoffs and grass edges are also mighty productive. It is important to remember to fish the UP-CURRENT or UP-WIND structures in your chosen area. It is easy to over look this tactic and even easier to allow yourself to push through the area too quickly. Wading through the bite is the most common mistake. As seasoned as I have become, it still takes a conscious effort to stay and work parallel rather than pushing forward.

As the sun climbs and the heat index pulses higher by the minute, you'll notice a decline in bait activity and the number of bites you're receiving. This is a signal that your trout gig is almost up. You might start considering a look at your redfish plans at this point.

Redfish are more predictable during periods of lower tides and August and September are typically the lowest of the summer months, ditto January and February during winter. In both of these windows, redfish congregate along deeper dropoffs that line the edges of the shallow flats they call home in other months. In September we can see some of our best sightcasting conditions. Lower tides give us better visuals of schooling fish as well as small pods that slowly cruise the edges of the shallows searching for food. Add to the lower than normal water levels the higher water temperatures of summer and concentrations are sure to show.

When I get in redfish mode I seldom rush to the dock. In fact, some of the best times of the day start at around noon and extend into the late afternoon hours. Whether the tides are dropping or not, one can be assured that water temperatures are rising by the hour. This being said, it is not hard to understand that the fish will be searching for deeper, cooler waters.

Normally by 10:00 am the sun is high enough to offer sightcasting opportunities. I am not only speaking of actually seeing the fish, but also being able to see the structure that attracts them. If the truth be known, I probably sightcast to likely looking structures more than actual fish.

September is a time when wind conditions are normally very light during the morning hours so many reds can be spooky and harder to trick. Smaller offerings, long casts, and clear mono leaders are an absolute must in my opinion. As the winds increase with daytime heating, ripples on the surface seems to calm them. Add the concentration factor and catching increases dramatically. I have always been of the opinion that two fish in a pothole increases your odds because one does not want the other to have what they both have seen. Put twenty in that pothole or along that dropoff and it can become all-out gorge feeding.

One tactic that works well for me is positioning. By placing yourself along the OUTSIDE EDGES of the drop-offs themselves lets the fish move NATURALLY toward you. If we try to wade, drift or troll into the shallows where the fish are scattered and still making their way to the deeper dropoff we risk spooking them, thus forcing them to react unnaturally. This can lead to a bad case of lockjaw. In many cases, one spooked fish can alert the rest of the flat's inhabitants. A quick reminder; if you're spooking mullet your gamefish are already gone. Again, positioning yourself offshore of the dropoff and waiting for them to come to you in a natural manner makes them easier to catch.

Once a favorable section of the dropoff or individual pothole with feeding fish has been located, it has been my experience that this area will continue to produce strikes for you. What one fish likes, the others like as well. The one thing this requires of us is the patience and persistence to stand in there and make repeated casts to the area. Another tactic that will help you continue to catch fish under these circumstances is changing lure color or lure type. When throwing plastic baits it is easy to simply change color. I go plastic most of the time when I am targeting redfish under my described conditions.

One of my favorite ways to catch redfish is by sightcasting to large strings of mullet as they exit or cruise the edges of the flats. In September, large redfish will swim in amongst larger mullet. This I believe camouflages the redfish, allowing them to approach smaller baitfish. When casting to these strings of mullet I am constantly looking BENEATH them searching for the bronze wolf in sheep's clothing.

By watching the behavior of the mullet you can sometimes call the strike. The mullet will suddenly jump or skip across the surface as the redfish darts toward your lure. The hidden beauty in this tried and proven summer tactic is that many times the head that shakes at the end of the line turns into a trout of a lifetime. Big trout love to hang with large mullet and large redfish. Two of my largest trout to date have come in August and September out from under schooling mullet while catching oversized redfish. One was a cover fish for the Saltwater Angler many years ago that I released, only to find floating a few minutes later, too exhausted to revive. The trout was officially weighed at 10 pounds 11 ounces in the last week of August if memory serves me. What a fish for that time of year in the Rockport area. As one can see, September with all the heat and the lack of wind can still be a productive month if you fish smart. Fish smart, where have we heard that before?

Before I wind this thing up for this issue, I want to encourage all of you to continue to release all the fish you are not planning on using. I also want to encourage our Parks and Wildlife department to reduce the trout limits to five fish. I continue to see a reduction in the numbers of trout over the 15-inch mark and a continued rise in our numbers of undersized trout. I feel the Texas angling community is ready to take the next step in making Texas the Number-1 quality trout fishery in the world. I can tell you that over the last three years, more than half of my clientele have gone to a minimal number of trout killed on each trip. I want to once again thank them for helping to insure a healthy trout fishery for years to come.

Oh, and in response to those who say, "If we have a major freeze all the trout will be dead anyway, so what's the use in saving them."

I say this, "Do the same with your money and see what happens when the economy gets tough. As sportsmen, lets do it ourselves if we cannot get outside help."

May your fishing always be catching.