Ideal conditions, intuition and experience get better bites
Most novice anglers plan their fishing trips around their next day off, when their buddy with the boat is available, or where they feel like posting up for a while. But for more seasoned anglers, when and where they go fishing revolves around an entirely different set of specific environmental variables that create the most favorable conditions to catch fish — and the highest likelihood of bringing home dinner.
Capt. Joe Kent, who writes the Reel Report for The Galveston County Daily News, keeps a close pulse on local fishing conditions and often shares not just when and where you’ll get good bites along the upper Texas Coast, but why.
Kent explains that the hot summer months often bring in a southwest crosswind, which brings lower tide levels, muddies up the water, and creates warmer water temperatures, all slowing activity and adding up to very poor conditions for catching fish — so poor that a fishing trip during a moderate southwest wind might not be worth the trip at all.
On the flip side, a southeast wind pushes fresh, clear water from the Gulf into the bays, bringing with it that sparkling blue-green color and conditions so ripe for catching fish, it’s known as the “Fisherman’s Breeze.”
Houston lawyer William Grimsinger has spent the past 20 years improving his fishing by observing conditions and collecting bits of savvy and wisdom to add on top of what his father taught him as a kid.
“The single most important thing I look at is the wind, not only the direction, but the velocity, how high will it be? That dictates where I go,” Grimsinger said. “Some parts of the bay are better than others if there will be a high or uncomfortable wind.”
Early and late in the summer tend to be good times for the optimal light southeast breeze, while during the spring and fall, anglers will spend most of their time dodging storms, Grimsinger said.
“The water temperature also plays a big role,” Grimsinger said. “In the winter, I like to go to Chocolate Bay, Chocolate Bayou, and the lower end of the West Bay; in the summer, I go to East Bay, West Bay, Trinity Bay, and for the past four or five years, I’ve been checking out Matagorda Bay.”
Grimsinger also looks at the tides and “solunar periods,” or the times of day when the moon and sun will be rising, setting and straight overhead, all of which seems to affect the activity level and feeding times of fish.
Conditions apply to bay, piers and surf casting.
Your chances of breaking into the “10 percent of fishermen who catch 90 percent of the fish” will increase quite a bit by using these environmental factors to plan when you go out. Grimsinger typically sets aside a window of two to three days during which he might go fishing, and begins monitoring the forecasts and conditions about a week in advance to pick the prime time.
But going fishing, even when the conditions aren’t perfect, is better for accumulating experience and knowledge than sitting it out. Despite his mastery of conditions, our local expert Capt. Kent always says, “The best time to go fishing is whenever you can.”
Eric Schnell, a local artist and co-founder of the Galveston Artist Residency, attributes this in part to the knowledge gained through repetition.
“I think the longer you fish, the more you build up the knowledge base and confidence that creates the expectation that you will catch something,” Schnell said. “Every time you go out, you learn a little something, you watch the water, you learn a tiny little bit that adds up over time.”
Schnell believes that this mindset, the confident expectation that you will hook a keeper, combined with an intuition, is just as important to catching fish as using logic and environmental factors.
“I used to live on the bay side and some days I’d just say, ‘It feels fishy, I need to be out there today,’” Schnell said. “It’s the same thing with the bait I use, the longer you fish, the more you’ll trust your intuition to say, ‘I’m going to switch to this lure,’ I don’t know why but it just feels like I’m supposed to.”
He also relies on something you won’t find on tide charts or weather forecasts — an unusually pleasant telltale smell.
“When game fish are feeding, their eyes are bigger than their stomachs,”Schnell said. “They eat more fish than they can digest, so they puke the fish bait back up. For some reason, it smells kind of like strawberries. Whenever I smell it, it’s a signal that game fish are chowing down somewhere.”
Fishing condition resources
• www.tides4fishing.com/us/texas provides forecasts, graphs, solunar charts and explanations of each major factor, geolocated by pier or bay. Once you choose your location, scroll about halfway down the page for a detailed monthly calendar.
• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides interactive maps, weather data and marine weather warnings at www.srh.noaa.gov/hgx/.
• Newspapers and almanacs are good, widely accessible resources for sunrise/sunset, weather and moon phase information.
• Capt. Joe Kent writes the daily Reel Report for The Galveston County Daily News, www.galvnews.com, containing the latest updates on conditions as well as additional wisdom from the experts.