Cuts and passes along Texas' Gulf Coast, says the author, are the keys to finding fine fishing for these popular saltwater species this month. Here's why. (May 2008)
The author used a Super Spook Jr. to catch this great redfish on a falling tide at Sabine Pass
Photo by Robert Sloan.
As a blue-green tide rolled out of Pass Cavallo at Port O'Connor, the redfish and speckled trout were really stacking up at a point known as Sunday Beach.
I anchored the 17-foot Pathfinder down the beach and out of the swift current. On the walk back down toward a couple of buddies I'd dropped off earlier, I could see clearly that they were having no trouble finding fish. They were standing knee-deep in foamy surf, one bending over while trying to get a grip on a big trout, the other leading a huge redfish to the beach.
That's about as good as fishing gets along the Texas Gulf Coast, and it's the type of action you can tap into from now through October. In fact, last year's action out of Pass Cavallo was outstanding right through the end of October, mainly because the water temperature along most of the Texas Coast was a warm 70-plus degrees into the first of November.
Two things about the Texas Gulf Coast: The fishing is good just about year 'round -- especially when the water temperature stays around the 70-degree mark -- and some of the best places in which to find trout and reds throughout much of the year will be in the passes and jetties strewn from one end of the coast to the other. And May is a turning point for a whole lot of anglers there, as it's one of the best months to be fishing those areas. The water is warming up, fish are active and hunting seasons are way behind us.
I've spent the better part of 40 years fishing along the Texas Coast, most of which has been at Port O'Connor. But in the early days of my fishing career, some of my best catches were out of Galveston, where I spent a considerable amount of time fishing the jetties and at San Luis Pass.
I'll never forget the day I was walking out the south Galveston jetty and ran across a guy in golf shoes, a big straw hat, a baitcasting rod and reel and a stringer of trout and reds slug over his right shoulder; that was a showstopper for sure. It also marks the moment at which I realized that fishing along the rocks could pay big, scaly dividends. Actually, I spent about as much time on the Galveston jetties as I did at the Freeport jetties -- both of them still very good places to fish.
Back during my surfing days in high school, my buddies and I would always pack rod and reel and other jetty-fishing tackle on our surfing trips to Freeport. Flat, green surf would be a bummer for wave-riding, but it'd usually be perfect for chasing trout and reds along the jetties. The same went for the water at San Luis Pass, between the Galveston and Freeport jetties: If the waves were flat at Surfside, we'd head to the pass for a little wade-fishing.
The great thing about fishing passes and jetties is that they're bottlenecks connecting bays to the Gulf. On moving tides, the currents push all sorts of baitfish, crabs and shrimp through the passes and jetties. That's why those areas attract so many game fish like reds and trout.
The key to catching fish in the passes and jetties lies in being there on moving tides. But just being there on an outgoing or incoming tide doesn't guarantee fish by any means. A good example of what I'm talking about is the water at Sabine Pass and the jetties on the Texas/Louisiana border -- a stretch of several miles that can be lit up with reds and trout one hour and as dull as a presidential debate the next.
On moving tides, the currents push all sorts of baitfish, crabs and shrimp through the passes and jetties. That's why those areas attract so many game fish like reds and trout.
Having fished the Sabine area for 18 years, I can tell you for sure that the color of the water there has nothing to do with the feeding activity of trout and reds. Plus, some spots are red-hot on an outgoing tide but seemingly devoid of a living critter on an incoming tide.
Some of the most popular areas to fish along the Sabine jetties are the boat cuts, about halfway out of each jetty. What makes these two areas so good? The currents moving through them on any type of tide, which on any given day will be holding big numbers of shad, shrimp and mullet.
If you're ever out at the Sabine jetties, you can easily recognize Beaumont angler Harry Clark: He's the one wearing a white pith helmet and fishing in a Boston Whaler. Being in his mid-80s, he's put in quite a bit of time along the rocks at Sabine. He noted that those dead-set on catching big reds need to fish the boat cut on the east Sabine jetty.
"My favorite place to catch big reds is on an outgoing tide on the Louisiana side of the east jetty boat cut," he said. "I'll fish two to four rods rigged up with fresh chunks of mullet on bottom. On most days I can reel in whatever bites, and it's usually a big red weighing anywhere from 5 to 25 pounds. But every once in a while I'll set the hook on something that heads south and never looks back."
The Sabine area is unique in that it's connected to a bay running into a pass connected to the jetties that flow into the Gulf. That's about the best combination you can have for attracting reds and trout.
One of the best areas to fish in Sabine Pass is Lighthouse Cove, which is across the ship channel from the boat ramps just east of the four-way stop in the town of Sabine. Fairly large, very shallow, and loaded with oyster reefs, it's one of my favorite areas both for fishing topwater plugs, and for fly-fishing with big poppers.
The water from the pass comes up from 20 feet to 2 feet in an instant. Trout and reds -- big ones -- will move up out of the deep water in the pass to the flats in the cove. It can provide some outstanding topwater fishing for reds and trout in the 5- to 10-pound range. My best trout from that area weighed right at 10 pounds; she ate a chartreuse-and-black Top Dog worked in about 2 feet of water.
The situation at Pass Cavallo is similar: Just a few miles east of the pass are the Port O'Connor jetties, east of the jetties is West Matagorda Bay, and west of there lies Espiritu Santo Bay -- miles and miles of bays fed by tides that flow in and out of the pass and the jetties, both of which are accessible only by boat or small airplane.
The wade-fishing opportunities at Pass Cavallo are about as good as they get. You can catch reds and trout, and some very large sharks, along wi
th the occasional tarpon while standing in one spot there. Numerous sandbars form all sorts of guts in the pass. The shallow areas on the bars hold trout and reds on high tides; the deeper guts are best on falling tides.
Most fishermen at Pass Cavallo beach the boat on one side or the other and wade the shallows. Don't wade out too deep: Passes create dangerous currents that can sweep the sand right from under your feet. When fishing Pass Cavallo and San Luis Pass, I don't ever get out over thigh-deep.
Last summer I did quite a bit of wade-fishing at Pass Cavallo, a lot of that fly-fishing for reds and trout. One afternoon I was wading along the east side of the pass. In gin-clear water on an incoming tide, I was sight-casting to big reds and jacks in about 18 inches of water. The trick was to keep the 1/0 Bonehead popper away from the jacks, and give the reds a chance to eat it. That day of fishing was a hoot.
Another option at Pass Cavallo is to anchor and fish live and dead baits on or near bottom. That's a good way to catch some hefty bull reds.
The Port O'Connor jetties are basically set up for boat fishing only. The rocks are rough and difficult to walk. Your best bet there is to anchor and fish live baits under slip-corks. The water on the channel side of the jetties is very deep and difficult to anchor in. Take along plenty of rope -- like a few hundred feet -- and use a Danforth-style anchor. The idea is to slide the anchor into the water, feed out plenty of line and hope that it bites.
The several areas in which groups of underwater rocks form little pyramids and upwelling currents are very good for fishing along the Port O'Connor jetties. And the absolute best way of fishing those rocks is to use a slip-float and live shrimp. While fishing live shrimp 8 to 12 feet deep under a slip-float both during the day and under the lights at night, Mike Barnes, Vito Randazzo and I have caught thousands of trout -- that's no exaggeration -- along the POC jetties. Once you find the right rocks, you'll discover trout stacked up like bananas on a truck. The trick is to get anchored and drift back far enough to allow your baits to float over the rocks.
Passes create dangerous currents that can sweep the sand right from under your feet. When fishing Pass Cavallo and San Luis Pass, I don't ever get out over thigh-deep.
Slip-floats will work along any jetties, but they're particularly deadly at the POC rocks. The key: Make sure that your slip-float is working properly, and that your shrimp is at the right depth. Once you're at the right depth, click the reel in free-spool and feed line out as the rig floats with the current.
Another favorite area of mine to fish is the Port Mansfield jetties, probably the smallest set of jetties in Texas. But they're fun to fish, and they're productive -- if you can hit 'em when the wind isn't howling. You usually can find good numbers of reds along those jetties in some fairly clear water. For trout I'll fish the little cuts and coves off the channel leading up to the jetties.
The coves and cuts in the pass leading up to the Mansfield jetties are just off the channel; anchor and wade-fish these areas. The ones that usually hold the most trout are loaded with mullet. Lots of jumping mullet will quite often indicate the presence of trout.
While fishing out of Getaway Adventures Lodge one day last summer, a couple of buddies and I worked one small lagoon right near the base of the Mansfield jetties; it was loaded with mullet. We beached my Pathfinder and made a wade up the shoreline. The trout were stacked up. I caught several on a 7-weight TFO fly rod attached to a No. 1 Skitter Bug in white with a chartreuse tail. I think we ended up catching about 18 trout at that one spot. Unfortunately, the good action slowed with the outgoing tide.
After that we headed to the jetties, and found schools of redfish moving up and down the Gulf side of the north jetty. Those reds were all over streamers and Skitter Bugs fished on 8 and 9 weight TFO fly rods. Talk about a hoot! That was it.
One of the best manmade passes you'll ever fish is on Bolivar Peninsula about 25 miles east of Galveston on Highway 87. It's about 100 feet wide and 200-plus yards long. Cut in 1956 to improve fishing on East Galveston Bay, it's small -- but it's definitely one heck of a great place to fish. And it's done a great job of maintaining the excellent fishing on East Galveston Bay.
At Rollover Pass, you won't need a boat; in fact, you're better off without one. You can either set up a lawn chair and fish between the concrete bullhead walls or wade-fish the back bay. And if you just have to escape, you might opt to bring a kayak along and paddle away from other anglers.
Rollover is a very popular spot to fish. It's free, has handicapped access and is open 24/7. On one end of the pass you've got the Gulf of Mexico. On the other you've got Rollover Bay, the Intracoastal Canal and East Galveston Bay.
If you're looking to catch big trout there, you might want to make long casts into the surf with mullet imitation plugs. Some anglers wade-fish that area, but it's definitely a risk with some awfully strong currents. The west side of the pass, right where it meets the surf, is a good place to fish big Super Spooks or slow-sinking MirrOlures. There, trout upwards of 8 to 10 pounds were caught last summer. Some of the heaviest trout are caught at night under the lights on an outgoing green tide.
The wade-fishing can be excellent on the bay side of the pass, and you can wade as far as you dare. On high tides, reds will move out of the channel of the pass and up on the flats. That's where you want to fish a soft plastic like a Stanley Wedgetail in white or chartreuse. A topwater like a Super Spook Jr. or She Dog is good, as well. The flats on either side of the back bay are 2 to 3 feet deep, and represent an excellent fly-fishing option. Night-fishing with topwater plugs can be awesome on those flats under a full moon.
On the topic of wading a pass, the backside of San Luis Pass is tough to beat. That's where you'll find a maze of sandbars and cuts. On a sunny day, when the tide is running green, you can see those sandbars and the dark water in the cuts. I've spent many a day and night fishing those flats. At night, some rather large trout will move up on those flats with an incoming tide.
Don't wade too close to the San Luis Pass cut, where it necks down and runs under the bridge. More than one fisherman there has been sucked out to sea.
Another option: Put in at the boat ramp on the west side of San Luis Pass. From there you can drift the back-bay flats or anchor and fish live or dead baits.
And if you're into pier-fishing, you can walk the planks of the 1,250-foot San Luis Pass Fishing Pier, which is on the west side of the bridge. First built in 1946 and destroyed by hurricanes in 1983 and 2003, the pier is sited where the pass meets the Gulf and, as you might imagine, is a great place for interc
epting both trout and redfish on any given day or night. In fact, and this is based on personnel experience, the night fishing for trout under the lights can be very good from May through October.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
For information on guided light-tackle and fly-fishing adventures at Port O'Connor, Sabine Pass and Galveston Bay, e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.