FOR HOT WEATHER TROUT
by Jim Foster
'Search Gulf Coast Fisherman's
It had been quite some time since a fish had found our baits. Each cast was followed by another cast. The morning wore on but the flats seemed devoid of fish. We had started the morning throwing artificials into the sandy pot holes hoping to lure a fat speckled trout to our bait and then into our fish box. The folks back at the house had been promised a fish fry later that day. We would be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs if the fishing...let's make that the catching, didn't improve drastically... and soon.
Summer was only half over but the summer sun was warming the air and water quicker each day. The mercury was staying around the 90 degree mark and the only saving feature was the cooling breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. Each year as summer arrives trout fishing all along the Texas coast becomes tougher unless we find out where these fish go during the warmer times of the year. The quick warming of the water that keeps fish on the flats during the cooler months of the year work against us during the summer months. Along with the availability of food speckled trout will change locations almost as quickly for their comfort, be it too cold or in this case too hot.
Saying that speckled trout are creatures of comfort and react to water temperature is an understatement. In the spring trout start feeling their oats when the water in the surf reaches 70° and starts moving up toward the mid-seventy's. This is when the bigger trout, mostly females, will move into the bays followed by the smaller females and males. These fish will seek out feeding and spawning areas along the bank until the water reaches around the 83 degree mark at which time they will search out the deeper water like channels and cuts. They will venture out during the night to feed during the cooler hours especially during a full moon. These fish can be found in the shallows shortly after sun-up until the sun re-heats the water. The bigger fish seem to be more sensitive to the warmer water than their smaller cousins. The shallow flats will at times be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than water in the surf. The state record speckled trout that stood for over 10 years was caught on the Texas City Flats in November. The new record came from Baffin Bay in February. Both of these catches show how the bigger trout prefer the cooler months of the year to be in or near shallow water.
On the upper part of the coast the bay systems have a tendency to be deeper and provide cooler water for speckled trout during the hotter months of the year. Shell pads around old gas and oil wells in 5 to 7 feet of water are good places to find and catch specks during the summer. Channels and around jetties will also be a good place to start looking for trout hiding out from the summer heat. Fishing these channels can be from a drifting boat or
from the bank. Bank fishermen will find small schools of fish moving past them. They will catch a few fish then there will be a lull then morefish will show up. During the hot months the "schoolies" or small trout will be in these areas and will be ready to hit your bait. Be careful handling these undersized trout and get them back into the water unharmed.
Now that we know what makes speckled trout seem to be scarce at times, let's look at how the guides on their different regions of the coast fish for speckled trout during the hot summer months of the year. We will hear how Capt. Jim Leavelle from the waters near Galveston Island and Capt. Vere Wells who fishes South Padre Island, find and catch speckled trout during hot weather.
The northern inland waters of the Gulf of Mexico offer trout fishermen a vast fishing area . The summer months are some of the busiest fishing months of the year. With the city of Houston a short drive away the waters around Galveston Island can become quite congested. Finding trout is a problem unless you know where to look. Capt. Jim Leavelle fishes these waters year round and has found the key to catching hot weather trout. Capt. Leavelle uses mostly artificial baits for his charter trips. He must find concentrations of trout in order to keep his customers happy. "Deeper water is the key", says Capt. Leavelle. " I look for slicks along the Houston Ship Channel. Then I drift the drop-off casting into the deeper water." The deeper water is the key. The speckled trout will hang along these ledges in the comfortable water waiting for baitfish to move along the channel edge. Casting artificials along the edge will make the trout think the bait is a swimming baitfish. B&L Swimming Shad and Cocaho Minnows are two of the top artificial baits for this type of fishing.
Some fisherman will anchor their boats on the edge of old oil well shell pads and fish live croaker on the bottom . These pads are located in mostly 7 to 10 feet of water. A trolling motor comes in handy in working these pads as well as the edge of the channel. The top areas for this type of fishing along the Houston Ship Channel are from Marker #34 to Marker #56.
Fishing the old oil pads is another story. The pads are hard to locate. It might be a good idea to hire a guide who knows where the pads are located and has learned how to fish them.
The wadefishing for hot water trout is excellent along the north shoreline of East Galveston Bay according to Capt. Leavelle. There is a drop-off here that starts in two and a half to four feet of water. Trout will cruse the drop-off feeding in the deeper water. Anglers should wade the shallows and cast their baits in the deeper water. Artificials as well as live bait and popping corks are good fishing methods for this area. The bottom is mostly firm and wadeable.
Several hundred miles south the weather is somewhat warmer and the water in most cases is shallower which poses a challenge to trout fishermen. The shallow water and sand bottom allow the sun to warm the water much quicker. Finding trout during the hottest part of the summer can at times be tough but as you will hear it can be done. Capt.Vere Wells has guided anglers out of South Padre Island for the better part of his life.
Capt. Wells knows the bays like the back of his hand. He confessed that summer is the toughest time of the year when it comes to finding and catching trout. When he was ask about how often he does not find trout during the summer, his answer was "rarely."
The basics are the same. The trout are seeking comfortable water. The difference is Capt. Wells likes to fish an area where the water washes off the flats on an ebbing tidal current. The trout (and bait) will move with the current into the deeper water as the day warms and the water moves. Another favorite spot for trout is the Intracoastal Waterway. Trout will hold along the edges and can be found by fishermen throwing plastic shrimp tails. Capt. Wells favorite colors for the larger trout are root beer with a fire-tail and strawberry with a white tail. Vere's next choice is a live bait fished under a popping cork or a finger mullet fished on a flounder rig. All of the above will produce trout in the deeper water.
Early mornings will find Capt. Wells drifting the flats throwing topwater baits to trout that have been on the flats during the night and have not yet been moved by the warming water. Then he will move to the channels, jetties or deeper water areas. In this, the southern waters of our coast are very similar to those of the north. Capt. Wells and Capt. Leavelle have more than just speckled trout in common. They have learned their areas and the best method to catch trout.
Finding trout on the Texas coast is just a matter of locating where the fish feel comfortable. Then, if you can present a bait, you will have a scrappy trout on your line. Summer trout fishing is not about just catching the smaller, or schoolie, trout. Trout in the trophy class can be found. Quite a few fish are caught every summer past the 24 inch mark. Capt. Leavelle reports his summer trout average between 3-1/2 lbs to 5 lbs. all summer. Unlike the southern waters these are his most productive months of the year.
So don't give up on specked trout fishing just because summer rolls around and the trout seem like they are on the scarce side. Try the deeper water areas, the channels, jetties and cuts where the water may be cooler. Leave the dock earlier and fish the flats as the sun is just peeking over the eastern horizon. This might be the summer you find where the trout have gone.
Capt. Jim Leavelle owns and operates TARPON ADVENTURES
of GALVESTON. He fishes both the bays and gulf waters around Galveston
Island. He can be reached at 713-667-8034. Capt. Vere Wells operates WELLS SPORTFISHING on South Padre Island, Texas.
He fishes for all the bay species and tarpon in the surf and at the jetties.
To book a trip call, 210-943-1628 or 210-943-3149.