Mid-Coast Bays: November 2009

Mid-Coast Bays: November 2009
I will be very surprised if summer 2009 does not make it into the official record as the longest, hottest and driest on the middle Texas coast. Finally, what seemed like endless summer has faded into the pleasant weather of the fall season and I can't begin to tell you all how much I am enjoying the cooler weather we have been receiving here lately.

This is the time of year when the air and water begins to cool with shorter hours of daylight and the passage of mild frontal systems. The cooler water temperature usually triggers a feeding frenzy for trout and redfish making for good fishing around the shell reefs in the upper reaches of San Antonio Bay.

The fall season brings much-needed moisture to the Guadalupe watershed and the river pours a new load of life into San Antonio Bay. The river delta is where our estuary forms and Mother Nature is at work continuously creating and shaping grassbeds and oyster reefs that are extremely valuable to marine life in this bay.

The delta marshes are home to shrimp and many species of baitfish that migrate to the gulf to complete their life cycles. Following these centuries old migrations will be sand trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, and of course, speckled trout, all looking for an easy meal. You will find seagulls, terns and pelicans hovering over schools of feeding fish, hoping to get in on the action. And while this scenario has always made for some awesome trout fishing in the past, I am concerned that this fall may be different.

Speckled trout are by far the most popular of all our inshore species and this year has definitely been my worst for catching keeper-sized trout. Back in the spring we blamed the wind and all during summer we blamed the drought. If our trout fishing does not improve in the fall season, will this be final proof that we have been over-fishing them?

I can't say whether over-fishing is to blame but I can tell you I have seen a HUGE increase in the number of anglers using mid-coast bays during the past ten years. This, along with better equipment and more readily available information on fishing techniques and patterns through magazines, videos, books and the internet, has enabled anglers to become very proficient.

Amid all the changes, one thing that has remained constant is the daily bag and possession limits for speckled trout. With such an increase in angling efficiency and the large influx of new anglers to the middle coast, I believe it is time for Texas Parks and Wildlife to take steps to strengthen our trout fishery by reducing the bag limits.

While I applaud the many anglers practicing catch and release and also those that keep less than their legal limit, I don't feel these measures will be enough. I am certain that if we do not adopt more conservative measures and reduce the trout harvest soon we will be in real trouble in the years to come.

With all that being said, I have talked with many anglers at the docks who have turned their efforts to targeting other species such as black drum, redfish, shark and even gafftop to fulfill their catching desires and I applaud these efforts as well.

Look for fish to start moving off the sandy shorelines into the back lakes as the water continues to cool down later in November. Our back lakes typically have muddy bottoms that absorb more sunlight which in turns keeps the water at a slightly warmer temperature than the sandy places. Back lakes also give anglers a refuge from some of the high winds we will experience as the seasonal fronts move through.

Right now is a good time to take your waders along on your next fishing trip. Even if the water isn't cool enough to justify them yet, it is a good idea to try them out to make sure you will not get a surprise on a chilly morning. Waiting to check your essential gear can be a big mistake.