One of the most popular fall fishing activities is looking for bull reds along the beachfront. However, many fishermen don’t realize the majority of the spawning size red drum have already made their way in from the open Gulf by September and are hanging out in the passes and along the beachfront awaiting the migration of mature fish from inside the back bays. In fact, the stage for this frenzy of fish fishing activity is usually set in August when oversize fish begin showing up around the jetties, passes and beachfronts.
September also offers the often calm conditions of summer. Though fall is on the horizon and one or two weak fronts may push through, September is usually too early for any really strong front. And, September is far less crowded than summer months, offering fishermen their pick of productive stretches of water.
But, enough about the conditions anglers experience during September. The fish are the main attraction and in September, inshore and nearshore anglers have their pick of plenty of available species.
As mentioned early, bull redfish will be thick around the jetties, in Gulf passes and up and down the beachfronts. Anglers fishing the surf zone should concentrate on stretches of surf adjacent to a Gulf pass in order to enhance their chances. During September, the vast majority of redfish found “on the outside” will be oversize, with many truly monstrous specimens being caught every year. Later in the month, these “bulls” will be joined by upper slot size fish leaving the bays. But, for the first few weeks of September, most slot size redfish will still be “on the inside.”
Over the days and weeks following Labor Day, redfish which have spent their entire life in the maturing in the back bays and lakes will be preparing to move on to the next stage of their lives. These fish will be stacking up on flats and beginning to move toward exit signs – i.e. Gulf passes. Generally like-sized reds will gather in groups. Those groups will merge into larger schools as they make their way out of the bay. Finding large numbers of redfish on the flats is one of the more exciting angling experiences during September. Once anglers find a school, they can usually follow them day after day as they move ever closer to exiting the bay. When in doubt as to where to find fish, anglers should begin looking for reds on the flats nearest Gulf passes, then work further into the bay until they find a school.
Savvy saltwater anglers know fall fishing isn’t all about redfish. And, neither is the month immediately preceding fall, as speckled trout action is generally hot in September. Over the next few weeks, speckled trout will be fattening up for secondary spawn that takes place in early fall. During September, trout fishermen will actually have a choice to make - they can choose to selectively fish for trophy fish or focus on getting full boxes of solid keeper size specks. Most often, larger fish will usually be found along the shorelines or on shallow flats. Out a little bit deeper, just about any mid-depth structure – grass beds, shell pads, oyster reefs, etc. – will be jam packed with keeper-size speckled trout in September. So, anglers simply need to adjust their target areas based on whether they are wanting trophy fish or good numbers of keeper-size trout.
Down on the southernmost reaches of the Texas coast, the less heralded, but very exciting mangrove snapper run will be in its early stages. The mangrove snapper run will be going full blast in October, but it usually begins in September, with myriads of mangrove snapper will congregating around jetty rocks on Boca Chica Beach, South Padre Island and Padre Island National Seashore. Although they are not as well-known or widely distributed as redfish and speckled trout, mangrove snapper are hard-fighting and great tasting. They are considered outstanding light-tackle fare wherever they occur, which thanks to recent warm winters is an ever-expanding swath of the Texas coast. The mangrove snapper run in September and October not only allows anglers to catch more mangrove snapper, but also larger specimens as fish up to 10 pounds can be found lurking around deeper jetty rocks during this time of year.
Another subtropical species which has spread across the entire Lower Coast with the recently warm winters is snook. Like mangrove snapper, snook fishing’s zenith is October. However, there will be a lot of linesider action in September. There will still be a good number of snook hanging around the jetties. But, September sees a good population of snook on the shallow flats as well. These fish will continue to feed on the flats until the first few fronts push through in October or November. So, inshore anglers can expect to have a full month of good snook fishing in September.
One last “fall” species that will be getting frisky in September is flounder. Although the true flatfish run is still a couple months away (usually starts after Thanksgiving), flounder will begin to concentrate around marsh drains, etc. These fish are usually easily caught once they are located by slowly dragging a live or artificial bait across the bay floor. Since they are usually in fairly shallow water during September, it is much easier to target flounder than it is earlier in the summer. Like redfish, flounder will be joining ever-growing schools throughout September, meaning once the fish are located, anglers can usually expect to catch more than one.
Regardless of species, anglers can expect a bit more surface and shallow water action during September. Sure, the middle of the day is still hot, but the days are much shorter so water temperatures begin dropping fairly rapidly. As a result, fish will be much more active in shallower water through a longer portion of the day. Fishermen can expect a much longer window for topwater action. And, once the surface bite subsides, anglers can still experience several hours of sight-casting with subsurface lures on the flats.
While the topwater bite can be hot, it is something of a stealthy surface bite. Due to the typically calm conditions during September, “Jr” size plugs and other relatively “silent” plugs like Cordell Redfins are often more productive than large, loud surface plugs. On the flip side, since the fish are more active, anglers can usually retrieve their baits at a fairly quick clip, allowing them to cover a bit more water than they normally can with topwater lures.
When the fish quit hitting topwaters, it doesn’t mean they quit hitting. Through the balance of the day, fish found in the bay will hit both hard and soft-plastic jerkbaits, such as the Bomber 14A and Down South Southern Shad. Now is also the time to break out the venerable weedless spoons in the back bays. And, plenty of fish will still fall for soft-plastic jigs. Of course, popping corks rigs will still produce, especially when fishermen are looking for numbers around mid-depth breaks and structure. Both live and artificial shrimp under corks are very productive, as shrimp are usually found in abundance in September.
In the surf zone, a variety of live and natural baits will produce good results this month. Many anglers choose to leave a large natural bait soaking on a big rod in a rod holder while they ply the surf with plugs, spoons and jigs. These natural bait likely to attract bull reds, sharks, etc, while the plugs are cast to redfish, specks, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and other species that are active in the first and second guts. As is the case in the bay, light-tackle fishermen can usually expect a pretty good topwater bite early and late. Spoons like the Johnson Sprite, a traditional surf favorite, will produce good results during bright light hours, as well jigs and sinking plugs.
In essence, September really does bridge the gap between summer and fall. And, beyond the outstanding angling action, another great thing about September is fishermen generally only share the water with other fishermen, meaning everyone has plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the bounty of inshore angling action.
September is still summer – make no mistake about it. And, anyone who has spent any time on the Texas coast during September can certainly attest to the sweltering temperatures usually felt during the ninth month of the year. However, even though both the calendar and thermometer confirm September is a summer month, there are unmistakable signs of fall in the air in the weeks immediately following Labor Day. Public schools are back in session. Hunters have unpacked their shotguns. Football season has kicked off. Days are getting shorter and, along the Texas coast, the table is being set for outstanding autumn angling action.
September Sees First Signs of Autumn for Inshore Anglers