Overlooked Texas Fall Fishing Options

Redfish can be caught all along the Gulf Coast, using a variety of baits, from artificial to live. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

As the fall approaches, anglers know the fishing picks up. But don't overlook outstanding Texas fall fishing action in the saltwater.

September is a major transition month for Texas sportsmen. Dove season opens, teal season rolls in around the middle of the month and we get our first cool fronts since last winter. With that change in the weather, fishing along the coast emerges with good catches of trout, reds and flounder. The only glitch is figuring out when and where to go fishing.

One of the very best angling options in Texas can be found on Sabine Lake, located on the Texas/Louisiana border. Having lived in nearby Beaumont for 23 years, I spent a heck of a lot of time on Sabine. During those days I found out that September is one of the best months to be fishing on this bay that offers the wide-open Sabine Lake, Sabine Pass and the jetties. This place has it all.

Capt. Jerry Norris has been fishing on Sabine for over five decades.

"September is the best month to be fishing here," he says. "This is when the jetties are giving up good catches of reds and trout. In Lighthouse Cove at Sabine Pass we have some of the best topwater fishing for reds and trout that you'll find along the entire Texas coast. As we begin to get cool fronts moving through, the birds will start working on the open lake. That's when shrimp and shad begin their migration to the Gulf. It's a time when you can catch upwards of 100 trout and reds during a day of fishing."

saltwater fishingAnother excellent option on Sabine is flounder fishing. September marks the beginning of the fall flounder run. By October it's going strong and will even run into November. Some of the best flounder spots right now are at the mouths of bayous on the main lake. Fish them on an outgoing tide with soft plastics and Gulps and you might be surprised at how many big and tasty "flatties" you'll box. One of the top lures for flounder is a Yum Money Minnow in clown or silver shad. The best tactic is to swim this soft plastic along the bottom with a slow retrieve.

Two of the best places to fish along the Sabine jetties will be at the boat cuts and the Gulf side of the east jetty. If you go, don't forget that you'll need a Louisiana license to fish the east jetty. The end of both jetties will be good for reds — big reds. You can catch them on jigs fished on bottom, or by soaking a hunk of a fresh dead mullet. On an outgoing tide the boat cuts, about mid-way down the east and west jetty, will be holding good numbers of reds.

The surf along the Louisiana shoreline is always a good option, if you've got green water to the beach. Another hotspot will be the offshore platforms from 2 to 6 miles off the jetties.

If you like to wade, this is a good time to fish East Galveston Bay. The south shoreline is an excellent option during the week, when there isn't a swarm of Houston anglers on the water. The topwater bite can be good at first light in about 3 to 4 feet of water. The key is to find mullet and fish them.

Directly across the bay, you'll find the shoreline of the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. You have the option of putting in a Stingaree Marina and running across East Bay, or putting in at the refuge. If you access the bay via the refuge you can park your vehicle along the shoreline and hit the water right there. Reds will usually be up along the bank feeding on small crabs and mullet.

Trout will be in waist to chest deep water. They will be feeding on shrimp and mullet. For reds a gold or copper spoon is tough to beat. Or you might try a swimbait in copper penny. For trout, a suspending sinking Mirrolure twitch bait is good. The Catch 2000 series in pink/chartreuse/silver or red/white have been known to catch some solid trout along the refuge shoreline.

A very popular option on East Galveston Bay is to fish live shrimp or croakers over and around the shell reefs on the middle and lower areas of the bay. Some of those reefs are big enough to wade, and that's a very good way to pin down an easy limit of trout. A good lure over the shallow shell is a Corky Fat Boy in black/gold or pink.

One of the best stretches of surf along the Texas coast can be found between San Luis Pass and Freeport. This is easy access fishing and a good place to fish as we get mild September cool fronts through. The north wind will lay down the surf and set up a trout-green tide to the beach. Good lures to use include the classic 52 Mirrolure series in pink/gold, red/yellow/gold and pink/yellow/silver. Once again, find the bait and you'll find the trout. Some of the best surf fishermen drive the beach until they find pods of mullet.

On the middle Texas coast, you'll find East and West Matagorda bays. Both bays can be reached via boat from the towns of Matagorda or Port O'Connor.On East Bay, you can put in at the Harbor Marina and head east in the Intracoastal Waterway. The entrance to the bay will be on your right several miles east.

There are two ways to successfully fish East Bay. One is to wade; the other is to drift.

"A lot of people here don't think you can catch a lot of trout by drifting," says guide Charlie Paradoski, who has been running charters here for decades. "But it's actually a very good way to box a lot of trout on just about any given day. What I like to do is set up a drift over scattered shell in about 4 to 6 feet of water. During September, trout will be feeding on shrimp, shad and mullet, and drift fishing is a good way to find them."

Paradoski's best drift fishing lures are 5-inch Shad Assassins in various colors.

"The colors of the soft plastics I use for drift fishing vary on every trip," he says. "You've got to let the fish tell you what they want. I keep a 5-gallon bucket of packaged jigs handy. Some of the most consistent Assassin colors on East Bay are opening night, electric chicken, firetiger, chicken on a chain and morning glory. I just keep changing colors until one starts catching trout."

Setting up for a drift is simple. Find a stretch of water you want to fish, go upwind and drift with the wind and current. A trolling motor can help keep you on a preferred drift. When you catch a fish, mark that spot on the GPS and you'll be able to hit the same spot on the next drift.

The most successful waders on East Bay hang close to the many oyster shell reefs. If you have a favorite reef to fish, my advice is to get there early to claim your fishing spot. Some of the reefs will be wader friendly, others will be surrounded by soft mud. During September, some of the heaviest trout will be feeding on mullet over a hard sand bottom with scattered shell.

West Matagorda Bay is easiest to reach out of Port O'Connor. This is a wade fishing paradise. The miles of water along Matagorda Island offer some excellent wading for both trout and reds. The best catches of reds are usually up against the shoreline grass. Trout will usually be feeding in deeper water anywhere from 50 to 100 yards off the shoreline.

The best lures for reds are weedless copper or gold 1/8- or 1/4-ounce spoons. A redfish will hit topwater lures all day long. One of the best is a Super Spook Jr. in clown or bone colors. For the past few years, a gold and black wake bait has been very good. It runs a couple of inches below the surface, just like a mullet or small croaker. A good soft plastic is a 5-inch Shad Assassin in new penny or pink ghost rigged on a 1/8-ounce short shank spring lock Assassin jig head. That's a wide gap hook that takes a solid bite into the mouth of a redfish.

Trout along Matagorda Island will climb all over soft plastic swimbaits. One of the best is a Yum Money Minnow in pearl/black back. A clown pattern and silver shad are also good. I like to rig these baits on a 1/8-ounce jig head. It's lightweight allows me to work the lure slowly over sand pockets and along the edge of shallow grass. But if I'm working the deeper guts leading to backwater lakes, I'll rig up with a 1/4-ounce jig head. For more action on the lure, I'll use a locking loop knot. That's also a good knot for topwater plugs.

The Laguna Madre on the lower Texas coast is a favorite destination for lots of wade and drift fishermen, especially during September and October. One of the more popular areas is at Port Mansfield.

"I started fishing down here years ago," says Mike Sutton, who lives in Houston and now owns Getaway Adventures Lodge in Mansfield. "It didn't take me long to find out the wide open flats on Laguna Madre were worth the long drive. I eventually bought a fishing and hunting lodge on the water. Because of that, I get to spend a lot more time here fishing and dove hunting."

Capt. Ted Springer is a long time Laguna Madre guide. One of his favorite things to do is wade along the King Ranch shoreline while fishing topwater plugs and jigs.

"That stretch of shoreline has lots of sand and grass, the kind of bottom structure that trout and reds prefer," Ted says. "The best topwater bite is usually right at dawn. It'll last a couple of hours then taper off as the sun gets up. That's when you'll get more bites on a soft plastic jig. The reds can be caught on 1/8-ounce or 1/4-ounce weedless spoons all day long. Copper or gold are the best colors. The reds will usually be up shallow feeding on small crabs and mullet. The best situation is to find a pod of reds tailing in about a foot of gin clear water. That's the cat's meow."

Springer says the soft plastic jigs are best for trout. But he adds that topwater plugs fished along the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway will catch some pretty solid trout, even during the heat of the day.

"During September and October, trout fishing is some of the best of the year," he says. "My favorite topwater lure is a Super Spook Jr. in pink with silver sides or chrome/blue. That particular lure is a good imitation of a finger mullet, and it's just the right size. The best retrieve is a slow "walk the dog" presentation. I like to pause the lure about every 10 feet and just let it sit there for a few seconds. When I start the lure to moving is when trout will pounce on it. That's a lot of fun."

Another popular option out of Mansfield is to head to the jetties to catch reds. That's about a 30-minute run. But it's worth the effort. When the water is clear, you can actually see schools of reds. One of the best tactics is to fish small swimbaits along bottom. Or, small wake baits in gold and black will take the reds that are blasting small pods of pogies and mullet on the surface.

As you can see, the fishing right about now is good and getting better from one end of the Texas Gulf coast to the other. And if you really want to have some fun, do a cast and blast with doves and fish. Now that's the ultimate day of fun outdoors.

For more information on fishing the Texas coast, feel free to give me a call at (409) 782 6796, email me at sloan288@aol.com, or go to luckystrikeguide.com.

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