This month, anglers have the chance to tangle with some strapping fish
When it comes to inshore fishing along the upper Texas coast, there’s one hue that symbolizes the ninth month better than all the rest, and that’s the color red.
Red drum are arguably more aggressive during September than any other time of the year. They can be successfully targeted in an array of diverse locations and in a large spectrum of water depths, allowing anglers to expand upon their skills by learning how to stay hooked up in a variety of estuarine environments and scenarios.
Without a doubt, some of the best action for redfish is taking place right now along the granite. From Freeport to Sabine Pass, upper coast jetties are crawling with the bronze-colored gamefish. Knowing which areas are the prime spots along the rocks and how to approach them is essential for success.
The key to fishing the jetties is keeping your lure or bait in the strike zone as long as possible. The tricky thing about this concept is that the fish are usually staging up against and among the rocks. Plain and simple — if you’re not fishing in the rocks, you’re likely not going to get bites.
Now, this fact can really mess with your mind. Speaking from experience, I know it’s difficult to fathom chunking a $7 to $10 lure into a pile of rocks. With this being said, go ahead and ask yourself this:
“Do I want to catch fish, or do I want to waste my time casting all day without a bite?”
I think we all know the answer to the question. The truth is, if your bait isn’t bumping the rocks, you’re not going to catch very many redfish.
The most productive spots along the jetties are anywhere there’s a good amount of water flowing through the rocks. Red drum use these spots as ambush points to strike, and when they’re feeding, a precisely placed cast into an area with water moving between gaps in the rocks will result in a bent rod.
Rat-L-Traps and crankbaits like the Bill Lewis MR-6 are jetty candy for redfish. It’s hard to keep the hard-pulling brutes off these baits when the bite is on.
Open-water stretches within our bay systems also can be dynamite for redfish this month, especially during calm conditions. The southern part of Sabine Lake, as well as areas off the Houston Ship Channel in Galveston Bay, and the acres of water north of the Bolivar gas wells in East Galveston Bay, all are good places to start looking for schools of red drum.
When an aggressively feeding school of reds is present in these areas, the tell-tale signs are pretty obvious. Slicks and mud boils will appear along the water’s surface, and sometimes a few white terns can be seen hovering over the pods of fish, cluing anglers in on the direction they’re headed.
Soft plastics rigged on a 3⁄8– to a 3⁄4-ounce jig head are the best lure choices when open-water schools of reds are blowing and going. These heavy jigs allow anglers to make long casts in any direction. If the fish are on the move and feeding, chunking the bait in the right area will render a bone-crushing strike almost immediately.
The surf and beach front offer yet another option for anglers to find reds this month, and typically the fish found here are rather large. By mid-September, the “Bull Red Run” is in full force as the species gathers in Gulf waters to spawn. This dense concentration of mature redfish provides anglers with an opportunity to tangle with some of the heaviest and strongest fish they’ve ever experienced. Reds stretching to 30 inches or more are pretty common and there’s sure to be plenty weighing 20 to 30 pounds or heavier, lurking within casting range.
Natural baits rule along upper coast beaches and in the surf. Bottom rigs on heavy tackle, baited with fresh cut shad, mullet, crab, sardines or squid usually will get the job done.
Shallow flats, marshes and satellite bays and lakes also are currently chock full of red drum. Small, uncharted clamshell and oyster shell reefs within these locations, along with stretches of water containing sea grasses, will hold the most fish. Whether you’re into sight casting with a fly rod, or just enjoy light tackle applications, don’t be surprised to see redfish feeding shallow enough to get a sunburn on their backs in these areas.
Upper coast gill net survey data reveal redfish populations have remained high and steady for nearly two decades, said Mark Fisher, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s science director of coastal fisheries. This is evident in the amount of diverse locations and habitats where they can be found and successfully targeted.
Pick your poison and chase some reds this month using the strategy that you prefer. Or better yet, become a more well-rounded angler by learning to catch them in a variety of locations using several different tactics. Either way, you’ll come to find that “seeing red” is actually a pleasant experience.