Refuge in a Bayou!

Refuge in a Bayou!

As we all know Mother Nature is forever fickle and this must be taken into consideration when planning every fishing trip. We watch the local news and weather apps hoping the conditions will hold or change in our favor. Unfortunately she is stubborn and not always cooperative but do not let this deter you into not going fishing. A majority of days in the coming month are going to be windy; there is no way around it. Even though wind can be a kayaker's worst nightmare there are plenty of places on the Texas coast to seek refuge.

It often occurs that the wind will be more than 15 mph and this will always make me reassess my fishing plans. On days with such conditions, the first thing that comes to my mind is to find a bayou. These little salt water streams in and around marshes can be found all along the coast. With them being mostly narrow and curvy, they make for a great place to take shelter on a windy day. To top it off, the fishing can be outstanding when fished properly.

I believe that one of the key factors when bayou fishing is knowing the small distinctions that are below the surface. For example: oyster clumps and reefs, deep holes or humps, small washouts along the banks, and even trees and bushes growing near the water's edge all figure into choosing likely spots. My theory behind the trees and bushes growing in an otherwise barren marsh is that the soil is healthier in that area. In turn, it often also supports the growth of oysters, which along with root systems, create great fish-holding structure. Targeting these features is a must when it comes to being able to catch fish in a bayou.

It also helps to know how and where the water flows. Tom Stubblefield, an old kayaking salt, taught me a great deal about water flow one day. Tom said that just because the outer banks may be straight, the water flowing down the channel can actually contain eddies and other current anomalies you can barely detect looking at the surface. If your kayak is rigged with a depth finder you can prove this by monitoring the depth when paddling down a bayou. If you go to YouTube, type in- Why do rivers curve? You will find a short video that will give you a better understanding of how and why bayous and rivers develop curves due to the erosive effect of currents on bottom soils and other substrates. Tidal flow over many years erodes soft bottom and creates deeper holes that attract and hold fish, which are challenging to locate without the depth finder.

Once discovering these hidden advantages, it is time to fish them properly. For starters, I prefer using a stake-out pole rather than an anchor. It is more convenient to stake the kayak on a shallow edge rather hassling with an anchor. It is also a must to have a trolley system rigged on your kayak. With the wind blowing one direction and the tide going another, the direction you could end up facing when trying to fish may not be ideal. With a trolley system, an angler can position themselves to face the targeted area. Being a few feet off is quite often the difference between coming up short or having a limit.

I prefer to position my kayak to be able to fish the bends in a bayou; the rushing water from tidal flow will often create deeper holes at these areas. The fish will sit in the depths and wait for baitfish to swim above them–perfect feeding situation. Throwing a lure that perfectly imitates the baitfish that are present is not nearly as important as running the lure through the strike zone. A fish sitting in 12-15 foot of water will not typically come to the surface to hit a topwater. I am not saying it will not happen but typically they will not. So I believe that it is all about putting a lure within a reasonable distance of them.

A good selection of soft plastics and deep diving crankbaits is enough to do the trick. I use the Norton Sand Eel Junior much of the time, rigged on 1/4 oz jigheads. My favorite color is Black Magic; I have always had good luck with it. Another lure I place great confidence in is a crankbait in the H2O Express line. My go-to colors are what they call Lush and Chartreuse Shad. You can find these at Academy stores and the price is much friendly than other brands. Losing one on a reef is not as big a deal.

My second favorite areas to target are oyster reefs and clumps in bayous. This structure is a great place for fish to hide out and hang around. Oftentimes fish will lie in between the bigger clumps of oysters and wait for bait to swim right over them. So catching these fish can be a little tricky. When targeting these areas I like to put on a lighter jig head, usually 1/8 oz. I will work my lure the same way but as soon as I feel any structure, I will speed up my retrieve. Fishing like this is more of a trial and error deal trying to figure exactly how the reefs and clumps are positioned and how the fish are relating to them. When you get a bite, remember exactly where you got it because there are usually more in that area. Also make sure that you have plenty of jig heads on hand. Oyster reefs and clumps are notorious for stealing them.

Even though some days the weather and wind may not cooperate, try not to get discouraged. I am sure that, same as many kayak anglers with work and other obligations, you only get a few opportunities a month to go. We do not have the luxury of picking the days with perfect conditions. The windy days are near but always remember that there are plenty of places in Texas to seek refuge. Find a bayou, catch some fish and, may the wind always be at your back.