Catch more fish by knowing where and how to approach them
“They’re schooled up over a mixture of sand and shell.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this vague statement out of the mouths of anglers, as they basically revealed absolutely nothing about where they had been catching fish, I’d be one rich man.
Serious students of the salt can be pretty tight-lipped about their honey holes, but it’s no secret that sand and shell bottoms are concentrating hordes of game fish right now as we transition from late spring into summer. The challenge lies in the fact that these two structures seem to be almost everywhere, while the fish, on the other hand, are not. Knowing which areas are the best and how to approach them will be the difference between burning up gallons of fuel in search of productive waters and heading straight to the “X” to bend some sticks.
In lower Galveston Bay, the stretch of shoreline from Campbell Bayou down to Virginia Point is an excellent location containing plenty of scattered shell and sand. The best approach here is to drift over the many shell humps within the area while covering both shallow and deeper water until a strike occurs.
East Galveston Bay also has plenty to offer anglers this time of year. For those who enjoy wade fishing, the south shoreline is the place to be. The stretch from the Pig Pen and Seivers Cut on down to Fat Rat Pass and Stingaree Flats can be lights out during periods of southeast winds. Home in on parts of this shoreline that are holding more baitfish than others, get out of the boat and enjoy an easy wade along the hard, sandy bottom.
The middle of East Bay is home to many significant oyster shell reefs that are turning on as we speak. Most of this action will occur around Hanna Reef and Deep Reef, although there are several others worth checking out. These oyster reefs are in no way considered secret spots. However, consistently catching fish along them comes down to understanding how to read the open bay waters they’re in.
Fresh slicks are the telltale sign that speckled trout and redfish are actively feeding around mid-bay reefs in East Galveston Bay. Often, several slicks will pop up along the water’s surface near the edge of these reefs in tight areas where the fish are concentrated. When this happens, anglers should thoroughly work the water just upwind from where the slicks originated.
It’s hard to mention West Galveston Bay without taking note of the San Luis Pass. The shallow sand flats on the inside of this pathway to the Gulf in the southernmost region of West Bay attract piles of specks, reds and flounder. When incoming tides flood the pass, the fish tend to stack up along sandbars in shallow depths. During outgoing tides, anglers should plan to find more fish staging inside deeper guts between the sandbars.
The Texas City levee and Texas City Dike are two of the best places for shore-bound anglers to cash in on the sand and shell pattern. The waters out in front of the levee right now are loaded with fish that are cruising across the stretches of sand and shell there. This area is the perfect option for both kayak anglers and those willing to walk in and wade fish.
Mosquito Island, which is on the north side of the Texas City Dike, also is an exceptional hotspot for kayakers and waders. The sand and shell along this shoal attract a variety of species and the peak period of action here is just beginning to kick off.
In addition to the Galveston Bay Complex, East Matagorda Bay and Sabine Lake also provide upper coast anglers with productive waters that lie over sand and shell bottoms. Much of East Matagorda Bay is littered with heavy oyster shell reefs. Some worth mentioning include Cleveland Reef, Three Beacon Reef, Long Reef and Drull’s Lump.
East Matagorda’s south shoreline is a haven for wade fishermen. It contains immense stretches of hard, sandy bottoms that make for easy wading and attract large numbers of trophy trout.
Sabine Lake’s Louisiana shoreline is unique in that it sports a ton of clam shell beds that extend from its bank out into deeper water. These shell and mussel flats can be dynamite for trout, redfish and flounder. Specks tend to hang out off the edge of these reefs, while redfish and flounder are typically found feeding up shallow along the shoreline.
Inshore fishing action is heating up throughout the upper Texas coast, along with air and water temperatures. Although the fish are becoming more aggressive by the day, encountering them takes a whole lot more than fishing over sand and shell. Add the aforementioned specific locales and strategies to your bag of tricks and get ready for some bone-crushing strikes.
A note about the author: At the Texas Outdoor Writers Association 61st Annual Conference and Excellence in Craft Awards Banquet held in March, Nate Skinner
received five awards for his published photography and editorial work during 2018. One of these awards was for his photography work published in the November 2018 issue of Coast Monthly. Skinner was recognized as one of the top outdoor writers, communicators, photographers and editors in the Lone Star State.