Cooler weather makes for hungry fish and high-octane angling
Year after year, I find myself anxiously awaiting the fall season. This year has been no different. I’m ready to start enjoying autumn fishing patterns, and I’m excited to say they finally are here.
Fall is my favorite fishing season along the upper Texas coast, mostly because of the variety of opportunities it affords. Anglers can find success in a plethora of locations using a variety of techniques and strategies.
The cooler weather is refreshing and triggers many species to gorge on whatever meals are available. Aggressive fish mean more bites, more hookups and more fun.
You can’t talk about fall fishing along our upper coast bays without mentioning the birds. Seagulls and terns can be found hovering and diving over schools of feeding speckled trout and redfish in hopes of snacking on the baitfish or crustaceans these predators are chasing toward the surface.
Hence the phrase “Working the birds,” which refers to chasing schools of fish that flocks of birds are following.
One of the best things about working the birds is that gamefish swimming below them usually will eat just about anything that hits the water. This creates a perfect opportunity to experiment with different baits you might not have much confidence in.
When approaching a school of fish under the birds, it’s best to shut down the outboard motor a couple of hundred yards upwind and let the boat drift stealthily. Easing toward the fish with a trolling motor also is a good option, and can allow you to stay on the school for longer without busting them up.
Sometimes, the schools of fish under a group of birds are large, while other times they can be rather small. When birds are hovering over a smaller school or pod of fish, where you cast is extremely crucial. The densest concentration of feeding fish will be under birds that are diving toward or crashing at the water’s surface.
In my experience, chunking big topwater lures tends to render strikes from larger fish out of schools feeding under working birds. It seems like it’s harder for the smaller fish to eat a larger bait, and the magnum presentation gets the attention of the heavier specimens.
In the Galveston Bay complex, good areas to find working birds this month include open waters in the middle of East Galveston Bay, the northern end of Trinity Bay, open waters of lower West Bay and open waters in Chocolate Bay. East Matagorda Bay is another great estuary to find plenty of working birds in the fall, and so is Sabine Lake.
Shallow flats, bars and reefs along shorelines and adjacent to the mouths of bayous and marshes also should be loaded with fish right now. Cooler water temperatures have coaxed speckled trout and redfish out of the depths and back to the shallows, where they can find a buffet of meal opportunities.
Some of my favorite areas to target right now are mid-bay oyster reefs. Speckled trout are usually suspended over these structures as they transition out of their summer patterns. I like to work the edges of a mid-bay reef early in the morning, and then look for working birds later in the day, after the sun comes up.
The flounder bite really shifts into gear this time of year, as the first few cold fronts typically kick off their fall migration. A lot of flounder still can be found in the back lakes and along bayous and drains during October; however, some also will begin stacking up along the ledges of channels.
As far as artificial lure options are concerned, there are few ways to go wrong this time of the year. Soft plastic jigs and swim baits, hard plastic surface walkers, and suspending twitch baits will all draw strikes, depending on the location and situation. Fish can be so ferocious, they’ll hammer just about anything you put in front of them once you find where they are.
Swarms of baitfish and crustaceans will be on the move this month, and looking for signs of them across the surface is another way to pinpoint where gamefish are holding. Shrimp jumping out of the water, clouds of shad darting in all directions, rafts of mullet running quickly, all can be signs of hungry fish lurking nearby.
Classic fall patterns are upon us; take advantage of them.