"How's the fishing with all that freshwater in the bays?"
This question seemed to turn up in almost every conversation we had with customers for the past two months. With the huge amounts of rainfall we have had locally and regions to the north, it is understandable why our bay systems are so fresh. The bay waters have turned from their usual sea green to an ugly tea-stained brown. As I approach San Antonio Bay around Turn Stake Island it is apparent just how fresh the bay is, not only from the color, but it also smells more like a freshwater lake than a salty bay. The stain of freshwater can be seen stretching all the way to Port O'Connor and beyond.
How long will it stay this way? Well, that is tough to say, simply because it is hard to forecast what the weather may bring and there are other factors, such as the Guadalupe River continuing to run near flood stage. It could take months before our bays return to normal salinity. For me it couldn't be soon enough. Unfortunately my favorite, San Antonio Bay, will be one of the last to recover given the distance from passes to the Gulf.
Having all of this fresh water in the bays has definitely put a kink in our normal seasonal fishing plans. While there may be some smaller concentrations of fish to be caught, they will be few and far between. We have been concentrating our efforts a little further north in Matagorda Bay and in the surf whenever the weather allows.
Freshwater isn't the only element working against us; September is one of the hottest months, making it hard to get good results some days. You either need to get an extremely early start or plan to fish late afternoon. Some will even venture into the darkness of night to improve their odds. If fishing at night has little appeal there are other ways of improving your odds and these involves using all your senses. I know Gary and I have talked about some of these things before, but I feel it is worthy to mention them again.
First, are you using your sense of sight? Paying attention to everything going on around you can pay off big time. Do you see baitfish in the area? Do you see structure such as a reef or grass beds? If you see baitfish leaping out of the water like someone just lit a fire under them make sure to cast in the direction they are fleeing from. This may be your only clue to a feeding fish nearby. Sometimes as redfish feed close to the grass lines you will also see the grass blades moving as they rummage around for small crabs and shrimp. Their tails may even surface for a second, but if you are not scanning the area closely you may miss it. Don't forget about the birds. Several birds hovering just above the surface is a sure bet fish are feeding.
Are you listening? Taking note of all the sounds around you can also be of benefit when the fishing is slow. While fishing, you should make yourself feel at one with nature. A good example is a cat listening for prey it cannot see. Listen for tell-tale smacks or thrashing as fish try to catch their prey. Even if you think it is only mullet making all that racket, fish it thoroughly before you move on.
Warmer water temperatures will usually congregate fish along drop offs and in deeper water. This is where your sense of feel comes into play. Better your odds of hook ups by fishing where the drop off begins. Cast your line toward the deeper water making sure to bump your lure off the bottom slowly as you reel it back. Feeling your way along, searching for grass and/or shell along these drop offs, can improve your odds as well.
All three of these key elements can be used whether you are a hardcore artificial chunker or a "swear by bait" kind of guy. Although these tips I mentioned are not new by any means, I believe they are simply too often overlooked and should be a part of everyone's strategy every time they fish, especially when the bite turns tough.