Simplify your fishing for greater success

February 27th, 2020

Jason Blackwell with a healthy Galveston redfish caught on top water among some active mullet.

By Capt. Steve Soule

For many of us, fishing is possibly one of the greatest pleasures in life. That statement certainly fits me well. So many times you hear expressions about fishing like “A day of fishing is better than a day of work” or “I’m just happy to be out on the water” or “the catching is a bonus.” Those are all great and though true to some degree, but I like catching fish! One of my favorite childhood memories was on tough days of fishing my dad would always tell me “that’s why it’s called fishing not catching son.” Well, it didn’t take long to elicit a very profound thought from me; “Well dad, I like the catching part!”

Whether you’re new to fishing or if you have been at it for a lifetime already, I’m going to propose some thoughts that hopefully can make your fishing days better and more enjoyable.

We all tend to overthink and overcomplicate things in life, when in fact most of life is very simple. If you take a close look at problems and work towards solutions, things tend to work themselves out just fine. It’s not until we start trying to overthink things and complicate situations with irrelevant information that we start struggling to find solutions. Fishing is fairly simple when you break it down to its most basic components. We as anglers, target various species of fish. They have to eat so we should be able to catch them!

Let’s keep this simple! Fish cannot survive without eating! Let’s add a few important points. Fish live in the water. They need several very basic things to stay alive and thrive. They need food! They need safety! They need comfort! They need rest! When you break this down to the most basic list of survival essentials, it’s really not all that complicated. There are other inherent needs but those aren’t nearly as relevant to this discussion.

In that short list above you will notice that food is first. Without food, none of the others is important for long. I’m going to start at the other end since food will be one of the top keys to your success. Comfort for fish comes in just a few areas that are useful for us as anglers to be aware of. Temperature and barometric pressure, then the ability to rest without disturbances. The first two, tend to effect fish in very similar ways. Generally speaking if temperatures are at extremes of high or low, fish tend to move deeper. It’s important to be aware that fish are cold blooded and therefor move a great deal based on temperatures. Here’s one of the most profound things about most of the fish we commonly seek on the upper Texas coast: in the colder months if air temps are lower than the water temps, fish will move to deeper water! The reverse is true when the air is warmer than the water. Barometric pressure can have a similar effect on fish, especially trout. Very high or very low pressure will move fish to deeper water and tend to slow their feeding. Barometric pressure changes, tend to trigger feeding.

Safety for fish comes in several forms. It may have only been safety from larger predators at one time, but we have added a huge influence with boats and the advancement of boats today. Predators for speckled trout and redfish would consist of larger members of their own species, sharks, alligators, birds of prey and more. In many cases fish can live in deeper water and avoid predation by living near structures that can provide safe haven. Many species live in shallower waters, where larger predators can’t reach them. With modern boats and their ability to run in just inches of water, fish have considerably less ability to hide to find comfort or safety. When you do find areas that provide safe haven for predators and prey, that also don’t have heavy boat traffic, things can get really exciting.

Food. This is the single most important factor in finding fish. You can’t rely on finding their food sources alone, nor can you find safe spaces that don’t have food and expect to have good catches. Food is a quintessential element of survival. Finding food is the beginning of finding predators. In the summer this is way too easy; food sources are everywhere and you have to narrow it down to a particular type of bait. Predators may get very picky about what they will follow and eat when there is an abundance of food. During the cooler months, predator fish, such as trout or redfish, have considerably less on the menu and therefore finding baitfish often leads to catching. Here’s some fun things to remember; finding baitfish in periods of cold or extremes of barometric pressure isn’t always easy. Here’s where some basic knowledge of the bay or specific areas you are fishing will help. Each progressive step up the food chain needs to eat, so knowing what each step requires to live will help you locate the overall food chain.

As you grow in fishing and knowledge, these puzzle pieces become much clearer in how they fit together. Give yourself a few minutes of thought before you fish next. Take the time to look at and theorize what the conditions would do to the fish and their food sources, then be prepared to adjust your plan on the fly, as theory and practice don’t always see eye to eye.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors, but please do it in a respectful manner.

A Great Month for a Family Fishing Trip

November 1st, 2015

Timothy Koenning with his first flounder! He caught the 17-inch flattie on live shrimp while fishing with his dad and stepmom in West Bay. Four trout, from 16-21 inches were caught as well.

Timothy Koenning with his first flounder! He caught the 17-inch flattie on live shrimp while fishing with his dad and stepmom in West Bay. Four trout, from 16-21 inches were caught as well.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Winter weather seems to be arriving later each year and, while October used to be mentioned as the best time for enjoying the outdoors, many outdoor enthusiasts now feel that November has joined or replaced October with that distinction.

Anglers, as well, tend to agree that this is the month to get the family out and enjoy the water.
November’s cooler weather is a delight for being on the water or enjoying the shorelines.  So, what are the options for wetting a line and catching some fish or crabs? There are many.

Before we get into fishing, let’s visit about crabbing.  Crab fishing or crabbing as it is more often called involves fishing (crabbing) from docks and piers.  The only equipment needed is a long handled dip net also referred to a crab net, a five to eight foot line, a weight and bait.

The bait can be almost any type of meat from fish heads to rib bones.  I have never seen a youngster that did not enjoy watching a crab line and then slowly retrieving it once a crab starts to pull on it and then dipping the crab out of the water.  Not only is this a fun sport for the whole family but often a nice meal provided from the harvest.

Jozef Majewski with a slot red.

Jozef Majewski with a slot red.

While other family members are crabbing, those who like to fish can partake of their sport by casting their baits in the water alongside the crabbers.  What a fun way to spend a nice day in November.
Now, for the anglers in the family, November offers some of the best inshore fishing of the year.

Flounder are always in the height of their run or migration to the Gulf of Mexico for their winter spawning and shelter from the cold season.  Most of the best flounder action in November comes from near the passes into the Gulf.  The Galveston Ship Channel is one of the hottest spots for catching the flatfish; however, there are lots of other areas that offer great flounder fishing.

For anglers without boats, Seawolf Park is a top choice for flounder, as well as most docks and piers near the passes.  The rock groins near the Galveston and Bolivar Ferry Landings are often filled with flounder fishermen.  Also, the Texas City Dike is known for its November flounder action.

Crabbing is an easy form of fishing and great family fun.

Crabbing is an easy form of fishing and great family fun.

For boaters, the options are almost endless for catching all of the big three during November.  Upper Galveston Bay and Trinity Bay are known for their late fall fishing, with speckled trout being the top choice of most anglers.  Working the birds, drift fishing over reefs and fishing around the numerous gas wells in the upper bays all are methods capable of producing fine stringers of trout and reds.

The shorelines from Sylvan Beach to San Leon offer their best fishing of the year.  Numerous private piers jet out into the water from those shorelines and are in their prime for fishing.  Wade fishing also is a great choice; however, for families it is not nearly as popular a method of fishing as the other options.
Clear Lake and the Clear Creek Channel are good spots for both bank and pier fishing as the cooler waters have fish and crabs moving closer to shore from their summertime deep retreats.

For the family, the pleasant weather is the key to fun family outings whether by land or boat.  Hunting seasons that occur during November draw lots of anglers off the water and reduce the competition for space.

If you have not enjoyed a family outing on the water, give it a try in November.

Bay Area Houston Magazine