Hotspots For Summer Trout & Reds

Of the many great places all along our Texas Coast for catching speckled trout and redfish this summer, perhaps none are better than these. (August 2007)

Andy Mnichowski used a topwater lure to catch this nice redfish off the jetties at Port O'Connor. Sometimes, says the author, it's good to give the fish something noisy to home in on.
Photo by Robert Sloan.

Joe Golias and I launched the big Pathfinder at the Sabine Pass boat ramps and headed south to what would turn out be one of the finest days of fishing for trout and reds that either of us had ever experienced.

Our destination was the east Sabine jetty, where the outgoing tide would more than likely set up "ice-cream" fishing conditions in trout-green waters.

I eased the throttle back on the 200- horsepower Yamaha and the boat glided along with the current. It was plain to see that our decision to fish this jetty late on a hot August afternoon was right on the money: Rafts of mullet were stacked up along the channel side of the jetty, and we could clearly see trout busting them.

"This is going to be one of those days," said Golias, who, having traveled the world fishing, and spent a number of years running his Hatteras in pursuit of blue marlin, has for the past several years opted to fish for trout and reds out of his hometown of Beaumont. "If we don't load the cooler today, I'll quit fishing," he predicted.

I lowered the trolling motor and set us up for a drift along the rocks. Golias made the first cast with a silver and blue Rat-L-Trap -- and his rod promptly bowed over like a horseshoe: A trout had inhaled the fast-moving lure, which had been running about 2 feet deep.

I made a cast with a mullet-colored Super Spook Jr. topwater plug, cranked the reel handle, and had a huge trout blow it clean out of the water. The lure came back down, and I moved it about 2 feet before that same trout could wheel around and bash it again.

"That's a big trout," said Golias. "But I don't know if it's as big as this one" -- meaning the 6-pounder that he was busy pulling out of the net.

We fished for roughly three hours. Just about the time the sun was going to disappear over the west jetty rocks, Golias was trying to figure out how to fit a 27-inch redfish into a cooler running over with fish.

"I reckon it's time to go when you run out of room to ice down trout and reds," I said.

Golias, not one to miss out on the action, didn't hesitate. "How about a little catch-and-release?" he asked.

While I was stashing gear, he made one last cast with a white and chartreuse Wedgetail jig. The rod doubled over, and we could see the flash of scales as a big red ripped across the surface of the green tide.

* * *

August is among the finest months to be fishing for trout and reds just about anywhere along the Texas Coast. The bays, surf and jetties all offer prime action.

I especially like fishing on East Galveston Bay during August. Even though this particular bay gets lot of pressure, it offers a lot of wide-open and productive shell reefs, along with many options for doubling up on trout and reds on any given day.

Guide Jim West is one of the best when it comes to doubling up on East Bay reds and trout. He's logged more than 40 years of fishing experience on this bay. His most reliable fishing during August tends to be on the lower end of the bay. That's where he'll most likely be making short drifts over Bull Shoals, Mary's Reef, Bull Hill Reef, Slim Jim Reef, and an all-time favorite, Hanna's Reef.

"During the hot days of August it's usually best to fish the reefs in 8 to 10 feet of water," said West. "We're talking about fishing live oyster shell reefs. Those reefs attract lots of baitfish, and the reds and trout aren't usually far behind. During August I'll fish the reefs with soft plastics and live shrimp -- you never know what's going to be hot from one day to the next. The trick is to fish on bottom. And most of the time I'll be fishing along the edge of the reefs. What you want to do is set up and make drifts along the reefs. When you hook up, slip the anchor over. When you catch a trout or red, there will usually be more."

Wade-fishing in East and West Galveston bays is always a very good option, but it's usually most productive around daylight. Once the sun gets up and hits the water, both trout and reds will follow the baitfish to deeper water.

"What I usually do is look for baitfish along the south shoreline at dawn," said West. "Once I find a good concentration of mullet, I'll anchor the boat and wade the area. Once the early bite is over, I'll move out and drift the reefs."

Some of the best areas to wade are along Fat Rat Flats, Elmgrove Flats, and the Pig Pen along West Bolivar Flats. That particular shoreline is usually protected by the prevailing south winds.

On the Upper Texas Coast are found two sets of jetties: on the Texas/Louisiana border, the Sabine jetties; and, not too far south, the Galveston jetties. If you're looking to catch a mix of big trout and reds, these two sets of jetty rocks are tough to beat. I've been fishing both for years.

In fact, I've been fishing the Galveston jetties for more than 40 years. But if I had to pick between the two, I believe I'd go with the Sabine jetties, which, as they can be accessed only by boat, get a lot less pressure than do the Galveston rocks. Both the north and south Galveston jetties can be fished with or without a boat.

You can park at the base of the Galveston jetties and walk till your shoes blow out -- that's how long they are. The only problem: You have to pack along all your gear, and in the heat of August, that will include lots of water.

What I like to do is to wear a little daypack when walking the rocks. I can carry water, snacks and tackle in the pack. Lately I've taken to carrying one of those soft-sided coolers in one hand and a rod and reel in the other. Any fish I catch can be iced in the soft cooler, which is important during August. The trick is not to get greedy when you run into a school of trout and reds: Too many fish can get heavy in a hurry.

Over the years I've found that it's best to fish the Galveston jetties with live shrimp or finger mullet when I'm fishing from a boat. If I'm on foot, lures rule, since they're easy to carry and won't die on me. But live bait is best along the Galveston rocks during August,

because of all the boat traffic; a whole lot of Houston anglers make the run to Galveston on any given day, and when you've got boats lined up along the rocks, trout and reds can become skittish in a hurry, and live baits rule then.

My favorite live-bait setup at any of the Texas jetties is a slip-cork rig. It allows you to fish at just about any depth. It's easy to assemble, too: First you thread the tag end of the line through a bobber stopper, then through a unweighted cone-shaped float. The line is tied off to a quarter-ounce torpedo weight with a brass loop on one end and a barrel swivel on the other. Tie the fishing line off to the wire loop.

Next, take an 18- to 20-inch section of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material and tie one end to the weight, the other to a No. 6 or No. 8 treble hook. Adjust the bobber stopper to the depth you want to fish, bait up and cast it out. It's that simple.

The best depth for fishing at the Sabine and Galveston jetties is about 6 to 8 feet. At the Port O'Connor jetties, located on the Middle Texas Coast, you want to fish in the neighborhood of 8 to 12 feet deep. The Port O'Connor jetties are a lot deeper than are those you'll find on the Upper Texas Coast.

The POC jetties are boat access only. Or, if you have some sort of flying machine, you can land on the nearby sand strip -- not always a great idea. There are a few anglers who tie off their boats and walk these jetties. That can be a little rough. Most of the time you're better off easing along the rocks with a trolling motor, or using an anchor to hold your position.

The night-fishing option at the jetties is always a good move in August. As most of you well know, August is one of our hottest months of the year. It's a good time to get out the lights and fish the Sabine, Galveston or Port O'Connor jetties. I've fished them all and can say from lots of experience that nighttime is the best time to fish the jetties during August.

Some friends and I began fishing the POC jetties with neon lights in the early 1970s. We were among the first to do so. Since then, a considerable number of anglers have figured out that fishing at night is cool, calm and, usually, very productive.

Fishing with live bait usually is best under the lights. Live shrimp top the list of baits. In fact, they are always the best option just about anywhere you happen to be fishing on the Texas Coast.

My usual drill is to be out at the rocks at sunset, which gives me about an hour to work topwater plugs for reds and trout holding close to the rocks. Once it gets dark, I'll set out two anchors -- one off the bow and another off the stern. I use the Mighty Mite pronged anchors, which can usually be pulled free of the big granite rocks. Plus, when lowered to bottom these anchors get a quick bite. That's to keep the boat from swaying from side to side with the wind and current.

Once I'm anchored, the lights are turned on. It'll usually take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes for baitfish to show up in numbers. Trout are not usually too far behind. It's always best to carry along a baitfish net to scoop up glass minnows, crabs and shrimp. In fact, a lot of times I won't even take any live bait with me. It's usually easier for me to catch them under the lights. During August there's usually no shortage of baitfish, shrimp and crabs at the jetties.

When it comes to catching a combination of trout and reds, by wading or boating, it's tough to beat Port O'Connor. The vast amount of water you'll find at POC is more than you can imagine. Much of the water on the shallow flats is gin clear. There are islands, passes, the surf, jetties and more oyster reefs than you can shake a stick at. Put all that together and you've got one heck of a hot fishing hole.

My favorite way to fish Port O'Connor is with a push pole and a lightweight skiff. There's nothing quite like easing across a clear-water flat and looking for trout and tailing reds. One of my favorite tactics here is to ease my skiff along the edge of a flat, right where it drops off into a channel. That's where you can use lightweight casting and spinning tackle to catch a mix of trout and reds. The best time to fish this type of structure is on a falling tide. That's when the baitfish will be moving off the flat and into the deeper water of the channel. The very best lure will be a 1/4-ounce gold or silver spoon. White and chartreuse bucktail or plastic jigs are good, as well.

One of the best fishermen at POC is Mike Barnes. And one ofh

is favorite tactics is to wade a cut that connects the bay to shallow-water estuary flats.

You can park at the base of the Galveston jetties and walk till your shoes blow out -- that's how long they are. The only problem: You have to pack along all your gear, and in the heat of August, that will include lots of water.

"Baitfish, crabs and shrimp move up and down those cuts with the tides," said Barnes. "Trout and reds will set up and feed on all that food. The falling tide has always been the best. That's when trout and reds will aggressively feed on shad and shrimp moving off the flats and into the cuts."

Some of the best lures to use in the cuts include soft-plastic jigs, small topwater plugs, spoons and flies. A white or chartreuse streamer is absolute death on trout and reds feeding in the cuts on a falling tide. When stripped in the current, a streamer looks like a glass minnow or a shrimp. Both rank very high on the dinner menu of trout and reds.

If you like to fly-fish, POC is absolutely the best option on the Texas coast. You've got miles upon miles of clear-water flats, numerous estuary lakes, and wide-open bays. This is the only place on the Texas Coast where you can fly-fish for trout, redfish, jacks and tarpon on the same bay. And August is the best month to do that little hat trick.

Fishing the surf from Sabine Pass to Port O'Connor is big-time popular for both waders and boaters. Some of the best surf fishing for bull reds and trout is from the North Galveston jetty on up to McFaddin Beach near Sabine Pass. What I like to do is run from the west Sabine jetty boat cut and head toward Galveston. For about 20 miles there are near-shore rigs to fish as well as endless miles of beachfront surf to fish.

The other option is to drive the beach and set up wherever you take a notion. Chunks of mullet will catch bull reds all day long, anywhere from 50 to 200 yards out in the surf.

The trout fishing usually isn't too good in the surf unless it's at least sandy green, and that is often the case during August.

Live mullet, shrimp or shad fished under a popping cork are best in the surf. That's especially true once the sun heats things up.

But it's tough to beat a silver spoon, soft-plastic jig or topwater plug in the surf at daylight. I've spent many a day wading the surf at Bolivar, along Galveston and on south toward San Luis Pass. If you've got a green tide, then trout fishing is usually good for the first couple of hours of daylight. After that you'l

l likely do best with live bait in the surf.

Another very good surf-fishing option is to be found at Port O'Connor out of Pass Cavallo. From there, head east toward the POC jetties, or west and fish the old shrimp boat wrecks along Matagorda Island. I've been able to make some truly awesome catches of trout and reds along that area of surf.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

For details on fishing out of Port O'Connor, go to www.hightailangler.com

For information on fly-fishing along the Texas Coast, go to www.texasflyfishingnews.com

To set up a day of fishing on East Galveston Bay, call Capt. Jim West at (409) 996-3054.

For guide service at Sabine Lake, call Capt. Robert Sloan, (409) 782-6796.

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