Red is the color of this angling season, and success calls for new approaches
The red drum might be one of the easiest species of inshore fish to target in Galveston Bay, especially this time of year. Redfish are swarming all across the estuary in both shallow and deep water right now. That said, scoring a fight with one of the bronze-scaled brutes isn’t just as easy as going fishing.
Knowing what to look for to effectively target reds can save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration when covering the vast waters of Texas’ largest bay system. One of the biggest mistakes anglers make is getting locked into one technique or strategy. Tunnel vision prevents them from taking note of what’s happening around them. I’ve been on the water and watched schools of redfish swim within a couple of hundred yards of other boats full of anglers who had no clue the fish were there. Consequently, they didn’t catch those reds, because they just didn’t know what was going on.
Being able to read the water is essential to finding redfish, especially when they’re schooling. Some of the best red fishing in the entire Galveston Bay complex takes place in open water around the Houston Ship Channel, as well as along mid-bay stretches in both East Galveston Bay and Trinity Bay. Those who don’t know the signs that schools of reds are feeding nearby will simply cruise right on past them.
Slicks are the number-one indicator of schooling reds in open water. But not every slick you come across will mean there are redfish in the vicinity. Three or more slicks tracking in a general direction is ideal. Most of the time, fish feed into a wind-blown current. So, when slicks are continually popping upwind of one another, that’s usually a pretty good sign a school of redfish is feeding.
Mud boils also indicate reds are in an open-water area, especially when they show up in and around a set of slicks. If muddy water appears around slicks you’re targeting along the surface, cast to it immediately and prepare to get bit.
These open-water signs also reveal where redfish are lurking in just about any other location as well. For example, it’s still wise to pay attention to slicks and mud boils while targeting the shallower waters of back lakes, marshes and shorelines, all of which are loaded with red drum as we speak.
Many anglers like to focus on the grassy banks of shorelines and back bay areas. And these stretches do attract plenty of reds; however, that doesn’t mean the fish are always going to be right up against the bank. Redfish in these locales also will feed around shell reefs, humps, guts and depth changes. These structures might lie off the bank, and you’ll never know for sure unless you get away from being glued to the shoreline.
Shell reefs are dynamite for redfish. That’s true from the heavy oyster reefs in West Galveston Bay and its satellite bays, to the clamshell reefs in the upper regions of Trinity Bay. Redfish absolutely love using shell as ambush points. Often, they’ll circle these reefs, moving in and out around the edges as the tide flushes baitfish and crustaceans across the reefs. Being patient and thoroughly working over every nook and cranny of a reef can result in strikes when the action begins to slow.
Slight changes and disturbances along the water’s surface also are worth keying in on. Sometimes, schools of reds can be in such a relaxed state that they’re just cruising right below the surface. Baitfish fleeing an area, slight ripples or wakes, or simply nervous-looking water all can be worth casting to.
When it comes to bait presentation, I tend to take the power fishing approach for redfish. I prefer to chunk hardware that covers a lot of water. Topwater plugs and soft plastic swim baits are among my go-to choices. Other options that are typically used by bass anglers also can be deadly on redfish. These include spinnerbaits, weedless soft plastics and the lineup of Bill Lewis crank-baits and Rat-L-Traps.
Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open to trying new techniques and areas. Reds are the word this month on Galveston Bay, and you just might find they are lurking in more places than you thought.