Mid-Coast Bays: September 2016

Mid-Coast Bays: September 2016
A rare treat, Gary and I recently had a day off together and decided to try for tripletail in West Matagorda Bay.

Ahh – September! Summer is coming to an end and cooler fall days are right around the corner. While I truly enjoy the longer days of summer I am so done with the heat that accompanies them. One thing I can't complain about though is the fishing. It has been very good. Getting an early start is always a must this time of year. If you are a late sleeper you could be missing the best bite of the day.

San Antonio Bay is finally returning to near normal salinity but the best catching is still in West Matagorda. The surf has also been good when weather allows. The Ship Channel spoils continue to yield good numbers of trout for boat anglers and we have also enjoyed great days wading the south shoreline. The guts that lie parallel to West Matagorda shorelines vary in depth at different locations and it seems the most productive are the deepest ones closest to shore. It has been very common to see fish slicking in these guts as the sun is rising but does not usually last more than hour or so after it is fully up.

I would like to discuss slicks. This may be a bit too basic for many readers but I encounter quite a few folks who really do not understand what slicks are all about. So, for any who do not already know...

One type of slick I refer to often is what I term a current slick. We see these occurring where the edge of fast moving water meets up with slower moving water. Easy to tell that these are created by current because they are typically quite long and narrow and sometimes have floating grass and small clumps of foam. Current slicks can be advantageous at times because they do offer a type of structure for fishing but I will save that for another article.

We also see slicks coming from freshly baited crap traps. The oily contents of the bait chamber are the source of the slicks and a group of traps slicking together can confuse unknowing anglers into believing that feeding fish are present in the area.

So, with two common types of slicks removed from the equation, let's talk about the type that are actually produced by live, feeding fish. These types of slicks are generally accompanied by an aroma similar to that of freshly cut grass or watermelon. Many anglers believe that only trout produce these sweet-smelling slicks but the truth is all fish are capable of producing slicks and here is why.

Feeding slicks that appear on the water are tiny drops of oil secreted from either the flesh of the prey being chewed and eaten by a predator, and/or the result of a fish burping up or vomiting oily stomach contents.

Why do fish do this? We sometimes see fish making a slick when they have been spooked on a full stomach. We also see this when we first hook them and when we have them in hand. I have seen this happen with trout, reds, gafftop catfish and even flounder.

Where we find the slicks, and also when we see multiple slicks in an area, are excellent signs that a school of game fish could be feeding there. Further useful evidence would be the absence of crab traps where the slicks are popping. You need to quietly get in there with them and offer a lure or whatever bait you may be using.

As you approach what you hope are a group of feeding fish, keep in mind that a freshly made slick starts off quite small, about the size of a platter, that quickly grows larger as it drifts across the water in the direction that the wind or current is taking it.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, toss a tiny piece of your lunch into the water – bit of sandwich, piece of sausage or potato chip. Watch how a small oily spot develops instantly and then spreads as it drifts. Now envision that same slick as a fish creates it. Your best odds of hooking up is not right beside the biggest slick you can cast to, but rather it is upwind or up-current, where it likely began. Get the picture?

I hope this helps some of our readers gain an understanding of what a slick is, and how and why fish make them. Even the simplest information we can gather related to successful fishing tactics is better than learning nothing at all. In my next article I will discuss fall fishing patterns and some of the tricks and treats we can learn from our bass fishing friends.