Fishing Shallow Texas Flats During Early Summer
Most often, the beginning of June feels like mid-summer along the Lower Texas Coast, although the calendar says the year’s hottest season won’t officially begin until near the end of the month. But, thanks to warm spring tides, flats fishermen can jump start summer fishing action on the shallow flats of South Texas.
Along the Lower Texas Coast, most flats begin filling with fish during April. By June, fish are already beginning to inch closer to the deeper channels and holes adjacent to the shallow flats. But, because the midday temperatures in June aren’t near as sweltering as they are in August, fish will be active on the flats throughout the day during early summer.
Although the temperatures are relatively mild compared to what is yet to come later in the summer, anglers hoping for surface action will still find the most consistent topwater bite early in the day. During the early morning hours, the shallows are sufficiently cool to encourage fish to feed aggressively. Throughout June, “Jr” size topwater plugs work best. On relatively calm days, floater/divers like the Cordell Redfin and Bomber Long A can produce plenty of fish as well. While the topwater bite generally won’t last all day like it might during the fall, the early summer surface action can very well extend late into the morning. And, on overcast days, anglers can often find fish willing to strike surface plugs into the afternoon hours.
Those same calm days that allow floater/divers to be productive can result in good sight casting action on the shallow flats. Usually, just about the time the topwater bite begins to subside, the sun is high enough to allow anglers to target fish beneath the surface. And, on most June days anglers can expect good sight casting conditions from mid-morning on.
There are essentially two types of terrain for sight casting on the shallow flats of South Texas bays – grass flats pocked with sandy potholes and bare sand flats. Both of these type of areas can be productive in June. It is really a matter of which species anglers want to target and whether they want to strictly target sighted fish or mix in “selective blind casting” when specific fish are not sighted.
Most often the bare sand flats will be populated with redfish, although the occasional rogue sow speck will be cruising the shallows. The advantage of working over the sand flats is fish are easily sighted. The disadvantage is fish are usually a bit more skittish when found over “the sand.” As a result, anglers need to be prepared to make long, accurate casts. And, they need to select lures that will land somewhat softly. For this reason alone, anglers along the Lower Coast have become adept at utilizing spinning rigs. However, even when making such casts, hooking up with fish on the sand flats can be challenging – but it is a blast when it happens, which is why so many anglers continue to pursue skittish fish over sand flats.
The other possible downside to spending a day on the clear, shallow sand flats is the fact that when fish aren’t seen, they likely aren’t there, meaning there may be more time spent looking than casting. Sand flats are pretty much devoid of structure. There may be slight depressions or undulations in the bay floor which fish will relate to while feeding on the flats, but generally speaking, they only are on the flats when they are feeding and there can be long stretches of empty sand between feeding pods of fish. So, while anglers’ adrenaline may run high when feeding fish are in sight, they also usually have to cope long periods of inactivity.
Anglers wanting to fill the void between sighted fish with casts that can possible entice a strike from an unseen target should opt for grass flats instead. The most productive grass flats are not a solid carpet of grass, but rather filled with bare areas known as potholes or sand pockets. If fish are suspended in potholes, they are just as easily seen as when they are over sand flats. But, when they are hanging in or over the grass, they are much more difficult to see – especially speckled trout, which tend to blend into the turtle grass. And, a good portion of the time, the fish are not in the potholes, but rather lurking in the grass beside them.
When fish, whether over grass or in the potholes, are not sighted, anglers can engage in “selective blind-casting.” This entails casting lures in or near potholes to entice fish that are awaiting to ambush an easy meal swimming through the potholes. A wide variety of baits and lures can produce results in this situation, but most anglers employ soft-plastic jigs or weedless spoons.
While June provides many more calm days that the spring months, not every early summer day is without wind. When the wind blows, anglers may be able to find some decent visibility in protected coves and along protected shorelines. More often than not, however, high wind spells an end to sight casting. But, they certainly do not end anglers’ chances at steady action. Rather, fishermen just need to alter their techniques.
Blind casting can be just as productive as sight casting. Generally, drifting over grass flats will provide the most consistent action for blind-casting. There are basically two styles for blind-casting – with a popping cork and without. Both types can be effective over South Texas flats during June.
Popping cork rigs can be used with natural or artificial baits -- then you have the scented baits such as GULP! and DOA Shrimp, which can be used essentially in place of live bait. The vast majority of fishermen use live shrimp or one of the aforementioned scented plastics when fishing a popping cork. They key to consistently producing good results with these popping cork rigs is to find the right rhythm on a given day and make the right amount of noise. As a rule of thumb, the rougher the water, the noisier the cork rig needs to be.
When throwing plastics without a cork in windy conditions, baits that produce vibration, such as paddle-tail plastics work best. Along channel edges and deeper flats, lipless crankbaits – which give off fish attracting rattling sounds as well as vibration -- can also produce good results, although they are very much underutilized by Texas flats fishermen. Regardless of what lure is being thrown, anglers usually need to slow their retrieve in off-colored water in order to give fish a chance to locate the lure.
Of course, blind casting isn’t just for high wind, ugly water days. When the water is “trout green” over the deeper flats (thigh- to waist-deep), anglers can do very well blind casting with plastics or shrimp and popping cork rigs. Often times, anglers can gain casting distance with the added weight of a cork, even when using plastic jigs. If the water clarity is very good, anglers can effectively use straight-tail soft-plastic jerkbaits, as well as hard plastic jerk baits and slow-sinking plugs such as 51 and 52 Series MirrOlures and Bomber Mullets.
Whether blind casting or sight casting, anglers can be productive in or out of the boat in June. By June, the water is warm enough for “wet wading” – that is, wading without waders. And, since fish are found over sand, wade fishermen have sure footing over hard bottom. Then again, June usually also regularly features near perfect drift-fishing breezes – winds that push the boat just quick enough to efficiently cover water, but slow enough to place plenty of casts in productive areas. So, anglers can usually be effective no matter what their preferred method for covering water.
An added bonus for flats fishermen is the usual presence of glass minnows during June. When swarms of glass minnows are present, speckled trout and redfish will often go on a feeding frenzy. However, although it may seem the fish will hit anything at times like this, they are usually so tuned into the tiny profile of the prolific glass minnows that they will only strike lures of a similar size and shape. Lures such as MirroLure MirroMinnows, small silver spoons and 2-inch Yum Money Minnows are the best options when casting to fish feeding on glass minnows.
Regardless of whether they are sight-casting or blind-casting, anglers will find plenty of opportunity awaiting them on the early summer flats of South Texas. As long as they are willing to adapt their techniques based on the prevailing conditions, anglers can expect to catch fish virtually every day in June.