This shallow water approach will help you catch more fish
“Why get out of a perfectly good boat?”
That’s a question I’ve been asked innumerable times when discussing the sport of coastal wade fishing. The answer, although somewhat loaded, just might be enough to make you want to step out of a bay boat and plunge right into the brine alongside the fish you’re pursuing.
For an outdoorsman, there’s something to be said about becoming one with nature. This idea doesn’t get any more real than when an angler is standing in the water with the fish. It’s almost like visiting these scaly critters’ homes. When performed correctly, wade fishing will increase the number of encounters anglers enjoy with quality-sized redfish, speckled trout and flounder.
What lies beneath the water’s surface might always remain somewhat of a mystery. Regardless of how advanced today’s marine electronics have become, nothing reveals the most precise and minute details of the bay bottom quite like a person’s very own two feet.
Wade fishing allows anglers to feel the constantly changing underwater characteristics as they tread along stretches of shallow water. These might include slight changes in depth, as well as variances in bottom composition such as mud, sand, scattered shell and seagrass. Areas where these changes and characteristics occur can be noted and revisited as hot spots from which to locate hordes of hungry fish.
Wading also gives anglers a much stealthier approach in shallow water compared with fishing from a boat. Whether it’s anchored or drifting, a vessel projects plenty of noise and vibration through the water column from a process referred to as hull-slap. This is where waves and ripples along the water’s surface crash into the hull of the boat, creating a slapping noise that’s amplified into the water. This disturbance can spook skittish schools of fish.
Other sounds associated with a boat, such as the rumbling from an outboard motor or the humming of a trolling motor, also can tip off wary fish to an angler’s presence. Anchoring a boat and then getting out and wading away from it allows anglers to sneak into casting distance of fish that might not have otherwise been reachable.
Sometimes, fish are found in tight concentrations. This might be because they’re staging around some sort of structure like a reef, point on a shoreline, marsh drain or deeper gut. In other scenarios, the fish might just be schooled up in a particular area. Either way, if this is occurring in shallow water, then wading will be the best strategy for effectively targeting them.
In this type of situation, wade fishing allows an angler to stand in one spot and cast at concentrations of fish. Drift fishing the area would mean the boat would be constantly drifting over the fish. The boat operator would have to crank up the motor and circle back around up current or upwind to get back on the action. Not only is this inefficient, but it could scare the fish and shut down the bite. The commotion involved with idling within casting distance of the school and then dropping anchor could also spook the fish.
One excellent way to find a stretch of water worthy of wading is to start out by drifting through an area that has plenty of “fishy” signs. These signs include the presence of nervous looking baitfish, slicks and birds hovering over or diving at the water’s surface. Once a fish is caught or strikes, the boat operator can anchor the vessel, get into the water and begin wading in the direction of the action. This strategy helps anglers cover water and narrow down where the premier hot spots are to get out of the boat.
Many top bay fishing pros are exceptional wade fishermen. Galveston Bay fishing guide Capt. Ryan Battistoni is one of these gurus and said wade fishing is his favorite way to target fish in our bays and estuaries.
“I prefer to wade anytime the opportunity presents itself,” he said. “It’s a great way to stay cool when air temperatures are warm, plus sometimes it’s the only productive way to catch fish in shallow water.”
There are many hot spots for anglers with access to a boat to wade fish and find consistent action for the next several weeks in the Galveston Bay complex, as well as in other bay systems along the upper Texas coast.
In West Galveston Bay, the north shoreline from Greens Cut to Carancahua Point is an excellent stretch of water known for holding schools of reds and good numbers of trout. This area contains a hard, sandy bottom and has large seagrass beds along the bank. Other prime spots to wade fish in West Bay include the flats inside the San Luis Pass and the mouths of coves along the south shoreline.
East Galveston Bay’s south shoreline from Baffle Point to Marsh Point also provides anglers with miles of water perfect for wade fishing. Reds and flounder can be found near the mouths of marsh drains and coves along this bank, while trout will be holding off the shoreline over sand with scattered oyster shell.
In the northern reaches of the Galveston Bay Complex, the east shoreline of Trinity Bay is littered with heavy oyster shell reefs. Specks and reds will be cruising along these reefs from Smith Point to Double Bayou.
East and West Matagorda Bays also offer waders some outstanding options along their south shorelines. The same is true for Sabine Lake’s Louisiana shoreline.
Wade fishing isn’t just productive for those with access to a boat. There are several places within the Galveston Bay complex where anglers can drive their vehicles and then walk into the water to fish.
The surf is one of the most popular walk-in-and-wade hot spots this time of year, and is arguably one of the most productive. The entire stretch of beach along Galveston Island can be quite good. So can the Bolivar Peninsula surf along Crystal Beach and the shallow flats of the Bolivar Pocket.
Additional premier walk-in-and-wade areas in the Galveston area in and around the Texas City Dike. They include the stretches of water out in front of the Texas City levee, and the shallow flats along Mosquito Island and the north side of the dike. The Galveston Island State Park also contains some great options for anglers looking to walk in and wade.
While wading, anglers should always proceed with caution. It’s important to be mindful of the surrounding water depths as well as strong currents that might be prevalent in certain places. When fishing an area for the first time, waders should take their time and learn the lay of the land before hastily drudging through the water.
August means summer fishing patterns are in full force and the action is steady. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to get out in the water and get wet. Who knows — wade fishing just might become your go-to method for bending sticks.
From knee deep to waist deep, I’ll see you in the salt.
Wade Fishing Gear Checklist
• Waders (when water temperatures are cool)
• Wading boots
• Wading belt
• Pliers with line cutters
• Stingray guards
• Tackle box with shoulder strap
About Nate Skinner
Nate Skinner is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer who is a Texas sportsman to the core. Born and raised in Texas City, Skinner became smitten with the outdoors at a young age with the upper Texas coast as his playground. Fishing and understanding the bays of the upper Texas coast has become not only a passion for him, but a way of life.
As he matured, Skinner expanded his saltwater fishing experiences and knowledge to the entire Texas coast and its miles of bays, estuaries and beachfronts.
Skinner also holds the sport of waterfowl hunting close to his heart, and he enjoys coaxing ducks and geese into a decoy spread across the fields and marshes of Texas, as well as in Louisiana and Oklahoma. With waterfowl hunting comes his love for retrievers. Skinner takes along his favorite hunting partner, a black Lab he trained himself.
When he’s not on the water or in a duck blind, Skinner most likely be found in a field amongst a few turkey decoys, trying to call in a mature Tom, or hanging out in a tree in full camouflage with his bow, hunting white-tailed deer.
Skinner is a licensed captain by the U.S. Coast Guard and is the upper Texas coast editor for Texas Outdoors Journal, as well as a field editor for a publication that features articles about waterfowl hunting, upland bird hunting, archery hunting, turkey hunting and other wing shooting applications.
His outdoor communications work also spans radio and television. Skinner has filmed several seasons of the “On the Coast” segment for Fox Sports Outdoors and is a regular guest and guest host on Texas Outdoor News Radio.
Skinner lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Emily, who also loves the outdoors, along with their son, Waylon, and his bird dog and hunting partner, a female black Lab named Kahle.