Changing Weather Patterns and Their Effects on Fishing

flounderhidingBy Capt. Joe Kent

If you have fished the Galveston Bay Complex as long as I have, some 50-plus years, no doubt you have seen changes in our weather patterns and have experienced the effects they have had on fishing.

Two noticeable changes have been in the overall increased water temperatures and the resulting delay in fish migration patterns.

Several decades ago soon after Labor Day we began seeing fall fishing patterns set in.  The shorter days along with cooler temperatures sent a signal to fish that it was time to think about winter.  This brought about an increase in feeding in order to put on extra layers of fat for the long winter and cold months ahead.

Trout and flounder were and still are the most notable examples of the effects of preparing for winter.
Flounder begin to think of their annual migration to the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which used to begin as early as late September and run through mid-November.  By the middle of November several strong cold fronts had usually passed through.  Those cold spells would empty the marshes and lower the water temperature, two key elements to get the flatfish to moving.

In recent years we have had an ongoing delay in this pattern due to fewer cold fronts passing through from mid-September through October and for the last few years the flounder run has not hit full stride until November.

In earlier years, by the end of November most of the flounder were out of the bays; however, in recent times it has been well into December when the majority of the fish have left for the Gulf.

A prime example of the delay in migration patterns came when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department extended their November flounder regulations well past Dec. 1.

When the regulations were enacted, reducing the flounder daily bag limit from 5 to 2 and prohibiting gigging for a month, November was considered the prime time for the flounder run to reach its peak.
Before this year’s extension, the special rules ended Dec. 1 and the 5-fish limit returned along with gigging.

A survey indicated that an excessive number of flounder were taken during the early part of December and the November bag limit was extended for two weeks.  Flounder gigging continues to resume on Dec. 1.
Another example of the effects of the changing weather patterns concerns the number of flounder that remain in the bays and do not participate in the run.

While not all flounder take part in the run to the Gulf, more and more are choosing to stay behind as food supplies remain adequate and the water temperatures are tolerable.

Two years ago while fishing for trout during mid-January I caught my first flounder ever during that month.  What a surprise to land a flat fish that time of year.

Trout on the other hand do not migrate to the Gulf and remain in the bays year-round.

October used to be one of the best months to find trout schooling in the bays and aggressively feeding on shrimp and small baitfish.  While this pattern continues, most of the fishing guides have noticed that the schooling action is starting later and lasting longer.

A few years ago I had one of my best trout fishing days the week before Christmas.  It took place in Trinity Bay and came about as a result of one of the fishing guides telling me that the action was unbelievable for that late in the year.  I found out that he was right!

So, what does all of this mean to the average fisherman?  The main thing is to not put up your fishing equipment for the year too soon.  If this pattern continues, some excellent fishing may be in store for late season anglers.

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