Where Have All The Trout Gone?

seatroutBy Capt. Joe Kent

With few exceptions most fishing guides and other anglers will tell you that trout catches are down considerably from the same period in recent years.

The same period I refer to is the summer months when trout action at the Galveston and Bolivar jetties, also called the North and South Jetties, normally is prolific.  Other areas known for consistent summertime trout action are the spoil banks along the Houston Ship Channel and deeper shell reefs and pads around gas wells in Trinity and lower Galveston Bays.

Surveys by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department during late spring this year indicated healthy stocks of speckled trout in the Galveston Bay Complex.  So, why aren’t we catching a lot of trout this summer?

Many of the complex’s better known fishing guides have told me that this has been an off year for them on trout.  This situation is not unique to Galveston Bay and the surrounding areas, but on the middle Texas Coast as well.

For example, Rockport area guides are expanding their trips to include a focus on black drum, a tasty alternative to trout, and of course, red fish.

Interviews were held with several Galveston area fishing guides who have been in the business for years and all told me that they were not experiencing the typical summertime trout patterns that allowed easy limits to be caught well before noon.  This year, instead of limiting out a party of three with 30 trout, they are lucky to end up with 2/3rds of that number and to do so requires spending much more time on the water

So, with our bay complex seemingly in good shape with speckled trout, why are trout not being caught in the numbers and with the ease of past years?

Several guides have cited our unusually long cold winter as a starting point.  The colder than normal weather that lasted into May took its toll on the shrimp harvest in the estuaries.   This resulted in a short period of an overabundance of shrimp in the bays followed by sparce numbers later in the summer.

Salinity levels in the Galveston Bay Complex have been increasing each year as the long drought continues.  Trout are quite sensitive to salinity levels and will normally gravitate to deeper waters or the beach front in order to find more acceptable water.

During July and much of August the better reports of trout action have come from anglers fishing in eight to 10 feet of water over shell.  The surf has been producing good quality trout but not in the quantities of past years.  The spawners apparently still are heading to the surf but what about the school size trout in the 15 to 20 inch range?

Most guides are saying that they are having to work longer and harder to find anywhere close to limits of trout and many are diverting to other fish in order to send a fresh catch home with their customers.

During my survey I looked at the tide charts and quickly observed that the tides during prime fishing time, that being between daybreak and noon, have been among the weakest this season.  That in itself could be contributing to the overall poor results.

Fortunately, we have not had a significant fish kill this year and let’s keep our fingers crossed that a red tide or other catastrophic event does not crop up and further add to our miseries .

Hopefully by the time our fall fishing patterns commence next month, trout will be in there competing with other fish to add layers of fat for the upcoming winter.

Personally, I have missed those days in July and August where easy limits of trout were caught.

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