With millions of Americans set to celebrate Thanksgiving this month, it only seems appropriate Texas inshore anglers reflect upon - and participate in - some of the many reasons they have to be thankful. Most Texas saltwater fishermen believe Texas has the best inshore fishery along the Gulf Coast. When everything is considered, it's hard to argue with that stance. But, lest anyone question just how good Texas inshore fishermen have it, here are but a few of the reason Texas fishermen have to be thankful as Thanksgiving approaches...
Reasons for Texas Coastal Fishermen to be Thankful in November
As mentioned above, flounder have been the target of conservation measures in recent years. In fact, this month, Texas anglers are limited to two flatfish per day, a measure enacted to help ensure plenty of spawning size flounder reach their destination following their annual run. Regardless of how many you can keep, flounder fishing is generally borderline phenomenal during November, especially in the weeks bracketing Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the marshy Upper Coast bays have been the better flounder fishing destinations. However, good flatfish action can be found from border to border during November, especially around passes and river mouths.
Although the bull red run starts as early as August in some areas of the coast, big bull reds are found in the surf and passes deep into the fall. Because they are often found within casting distance of beachfront and jetty fishermen, bull reds are generally considered the "big game" fish of everyday inshore fishermen. Few, if any, inshore anglers miss an opportunity to pursue bull reds when they are in the surf. Bull reds are also "equal opportunity" targets, as they are equally inclined to slurp natural baits such as live mullet or cut shad as they are to inhale artificial jigs and spoons. Simply put, bull reds are big strong fish that can be caught in a variety of ways and are accessible to every fisherman on the coast. That alone is enough for most Texas inshore anglers to be thankful they get to fish Texas coastal waters during November.
South Texas Snook
Snook have always been present in the waters of Deep South Texas. In recent years, they have even spread as far north as Packery Channel near Corpus. But, even the population of snook has been on a two-decade long increase, many Texas anglers still view snook as an incidental catch at best. These fishermen are dead wrong. In the South Padre Island/Port Isabel area, snook are a definite target species. And, the quality and quantity of linesiders being caught in the Lower Laguna Madre has been steadily increasing over the past several years. In fact, when it comes to common snook (the larger of the two varieties commonly found in South Texas), it is often more common to catch a fish over the maximum 28-inch slot than length than under it. For fishermen just interested in catching a Texas snook, feisty fat snook can be found swarming around most structure, such as the jetties, causeways, dock pilings and bulkheads.
Mighty Mangrove Snapper
Anyone who has ever caught a mangrove snapper on light tackle will attest to this semi-tropical species' fighting ability. Anyone who has ever eaten a mangrove snapper can attest to its palatability. The combination of hard-fight and delectable fillets has spawned somewhat of a cult following of fishermen dedicated to catching mangroves. Rumors of the mangrove snapper's demise following last winter's freeze have been greatly exaggerated. Although local populations of mangroves -- particularly groups of fish that had spread far up the coast from their traditional borderland region -- were hit hard, there remains a strong, viable mangrove snapper fishery in Texas.
Although redfish are said to be the most popular target on the Texas coast, no fish garners as much respect as a trophy speckled trout. As fall turns to winter, spawning size speckled trout begin packing on the pounds. From November until they spawn out in the spring, sow specks are feeding about as aggressively as they ever do in an attempt to add girth. Dedicated trophy trout fishermen know throwing topwater plugs in late fall and early winter is about as good as it gets for big specks.
Plenty of Water
With hundreds of miles of coastline and dozens of bays, rivers, passes, and back lakes, Texas offers saltwater anglers plenty of water to fish. Despite a rapidly rising population - and rising number of saltwater fishermen - it is always possible to find a stretch of virgin water for fishermen willing to look for it. And, this to say nothing of the nearly 200 miles of beachfront found along the Texas coastal curve. Although most fishermen think of working the surf only during the summer, the area where the Gulf of Mexico meets dry sand can be productive 12 months a year, as can the inshore rivers, bays and back lakes.
Not only does Texas offer anglers a lot of water, it has an extremely diverse saltwater fishery. From Sabine Pass to South Padre Island, just about every type of inshore saltwater habitat imaginable can be found within the borders of the Lone Star State. From bayous and marsh along the Louisiana border to the shallow sand flats and mangrove shores along the Mexican border to the oyster reefs and gas wells filling the middle coast bays, Texas inshore anglers are lucky to be able to fish such a myriad of habitats without ever leaving the state.
But, it's not just the habitat that's diverse. The Texas inshore fishery features a wide variety of target species - many of which are overlooked or underappreciated. Every knows of and fishes for speckled trout and redfish and, to a lesser degree, flounder. Species like sheepshead, black drum, mangrove snapper, snook, tarpon, whiting and sand trout all have some following among fishermen as well. But, most people are either unaware or don't bother fishing for many available species such as pompano, barracuda, jack crevalle, shark, ladyfish, gag grouper, croaker, gafftop catfish, and tripletail.
Texans can also be thankful that they are able to access this broad expanse of diverse saltwater. Sure, we'd all like to have more boat ramps to help reduce crowds on busy weekends, but, relatively speaking, boating Texans have ample access when compared to saltwater fishermen in other Gulf Coast states. And, keep in mind, you don't have to have a boat to fish in Texas. Kayaks have gained popularity in recent years. These lightweight craft can be launched at boat ramps, but can also be launched at many places trailered boats cannot. To take it a step further, you don't even need to float to fish in Texas. There are numerous walk-in access points for wade fishermen, as well as shore fishing spots, beachfront, jetties, piers, passes and other such locales which can be accessed by pedestrian fishermen.
Just as Thanksgiving is a tradition deeply seated in United States history, saltwater fishing has been part of Texas tradition since the state was founded. In the modern era, Texas inshore anglers such as Rudy Grigar were among the first saltwater fishermen anywhere to use artificial lures. Wade fishing with light tackle was pioneered in Texas. MirrOlure created the 51 Series plugs just for Texas wade fishermen casting in the shallows for specks and reds. Popping corks, skooter style flats boats, 7-foot popping rods, floating stringers and many other pieces of the saltwater fishing puzzle originated here in Texas. Every time a Texan casts a line in a salty river, bay or back lake or along the beachfront, he or she is taking part in a long and rich angling tradition that has included many generations in Texas.
So in the weeks leading up to America's Thanksgiving, Texas inshore anglers should celebrate their own angling thanksgiving by spending as much time on the water as possible. With cooler weather, plenty of frisky fish and lots of water to spread out on, November truly is a time for saltwater fishermen in the Lone Star State to be thankful.