Inshore Big Game Fishing Opportunities
During the summer season, inshore anglers will have no fewer than a half dozen hard fighting species roaming the nearshore waters at any given time. These are the most commonly caught hard fighting species along the Texas coast.
Sharks - At least a handful of shark species occur close to dry sand in every corner of the Gulf. Although they're often found within casting distance of the beach, not all of these sharks are 'pups.' Legitimate 'big fish' are often found within a few hundred feet of the tideline.
While fishing off Gulf beaches, anglers are most likely to encounter blacktip, Atlantic sharpnose and bull sharks. However, tigers and hammerheads are also legitimate possibilities.
Bull Reds - Although anyone who fishes for reds on the inside flats would hardly consider them 'big game,' fish of this same species routinely reach the 48-inch mark and fish topping 50-inches are entirely possible. Red drum of those proportions are capable of slugging it out with anglers equipped with heavy tackle as well as any fish that swims.
Jack Crevalle - Since they do not provide palatable table fare, jack crevalle are typically shunned by inshore anglers. However, when schools of brutish bull jacks - fish between three and four feet long - move in, they are impossible to ignore. For fishermen simply looking to test their tackle and tangle with a powerful fish, it's hard to go wrong with a jack of those proportions.
Tarpon - Silver Kings can show up close to the beach along any stretch of the Gulf Coast. The previous Texas state record fish, which weighed 210.70 pounds, is a perfect example. That tarpon was taken from a Galveston Island pier. So, close-to-shore tarpon can literally show up anywhere. However, some areas routinely see fish within casting distance of the beach. Fishermen specifically targeting tarpon from the beachfront, piers and jetties, should focus their efforts on Deep South Texas although up and down the Texas coastline they are consistently encountered close enough to shore for fishermen in flats boats to reach.
Kingfish - In some areas, anglers must travel several miles offshore to get into reliable kingfish action. However, in areas like South Padre Island and Port Aransas pier and jetty fishermen expect to tangle with kingfish during the summer months. At times, surf fishermen along the Padre Island National Seashore will also find themselves within casting distance of kings. Again, these are not just juvenile fish. In fact, anglers casting to kings from the South Padre Island jetties rarely encounter fish below the state's minimum length of 27 inches. Most often, fish caught off this rock structure tape a solid three feet or more.
Ling - On the very southern tip of the Texas coast, ling are also very much a possibility for fishermen perched on beachfront jetties and piers. Though they are rarely encountered from the beach itself, manmade structures jutting into the Gulf certainly put anglers in the fish's path and, in many instances, attract ling. Further up the coast, small boat anglers are usually able to find ling around nearshore buoys and production platforms.
Stingray - Though it's not considered a 'glamour' species, anglers looking to catch 'something big' from the beachfront very well may want to target rays. Again, anglers accustomed to fishing the inshore bays, where the average ray is the size of a 5-gallon bucket, may be quick to dismiss them as 'big game.' However, along the beachfront, rays topping 200 pounds are entirely possible. These colossal rays are much more commonly hooked than landed, a testament to their ability to test the tackle and will of an angler.
Grouper - Another fish that is hooked more often than it is landed, goliath grouper routinely seek shelter along beachfront jetties and rock groins, as well as around nearshore wrecks and productive platforms. Because they are so incredibly strong and rarely venture far from dense cover, goliath grouper - especially the larger specimens - are nearly impossible to coax from the water. However, from time to time one of these catch-and-release only fish is muscled to the surface.
TACKLE & TECHNIQUES
Although plenty of light-tackle 'pluggers' are accustomed to using standard issue bay tackle in the surf for specks, slot-size redfish, and Spanish mackerel, anglers looking to tangle with beachfront big game need to seriously beef up their equipment. Of course, the tackle still needs to be relative to how and for what species anglers are fishing.
As a rule a 7-foot, medium/heavy rod paired with a reel capable of handling 225 yards of 15 pound test should be considered the absolute minimum for 'big game' duty. This type of outfit is suitable for casting lures and baits to juvenile tarpon, kingfish, bull reds, small shark and mid-size jacks.
Anglers looking for larger fish should step it up another notch. Heavy action rods paired with reels capable of handling 300 or so yards of 20 pound test are a good starting point for jetty and pier fishermen. When fishing from these structures, 7- to 7 1/2-foot rods will suffice. Fishermen working from dry sand should opt for a longer rod, in the 8- to 10-foot range, and a reel capable of handling at least 350 yards of line.
In general, spinning rods are a better fit for making long casts and are the way to go when using artificial lures or casting baits. However, many beachfront fishermen employ kayaks to paddle their baits into place. Casting outfits are a better choice for this duty, as they typically offer anglers better leverage and increased line capacity.
As is the case with tackle, choosing the best lures, baits and techniques should be based on target species. Tarpon, kingfish, jack crevalle and ling are all easily targeted with lures. The same goes for bull reds in situations where the water visibility allows anglers to spot approaching schools. Flashy, noisy lures like 1-ounce lipless crankbaits are commonly thrown by fishermen prospecting for kingfish, jacks and tarpon.
Swimbaits are very versatile baits that can be cast for tarpon, kings, jacks, ling, and bull reds, as are 1/2- and 1-ounce bucktail jigs and spoons.
Of course, these same species are also targeted by fishermen using natural baits. Live crabs, jumbo shrimp, finger mullet and ballyhoo are all good choices for bull reds and tarpon. Ribbonfish and ballyhoo are excellent kingfish baits.
Additionally, anglers targeting shark, grouper, and stingray, or just wanting to set out a rod and see what hits are better off using natural baits over lures. Live or dead ladyfish (skipjack), jack crevalle, and whiting are good choices for these species.
Regardless of the target species, anglers fishing from the beach, jetties or piers will usually use one of three basic methods with natural baits. Usually, these baits will be fished on bottom, freelined or dangled beneath a balloon. Shark, grouper, stingray and bull reds are all likely candidates to grab a bait off the bottom. Freelining is the way to go for tarpon and ling, but will also attract kings, shark, jacks and bull reds. Balloon rigs are a great way to suspend baits for shark and kings.
Boat fishermen have a few advantages over pedestrian anglers. Obviously those fishing from a boat can cover more water than those confined to beaches, piers and jetties. And, fishermen working from a boat also have a few more options as far as tackle and techniques. While they can always cast around structure or into frays of feeding fish, they are also able to employ techniques such as trolling, vertical jigging and drifting.
Quite often, boating anglers will be using the same lures and baits as pier, jetty and surf fishermen. The difference is how these baits are presented. Lipless crankbaits, spoons, jigs, swimbaits and large lipped plugs can be either cast or trolled. Of course, most bay boats venturing out along the beachfront during summer months aren’t equipped for trolling, but anglers can make due by holding rods or adjusting the angle of rod holders. Lipless cranks, spoons, jigs and various natural baits can also be utilized with a vertical jigging technique. Boating fishermen can also drift natural baits under a balloon or freelined.
But, regardless of fishing on foot from a pier, jetty or beach, or utilizing a flats boat to ply the beachfront waters and nearshore structure, July and August offer light tackle anglers in the Lone Star State an outstanding opportunity to tangle with species they do not encounter other times of the year. Basically, during late summer fishermen can expect offshore action to move inshore, providing them with plenty of hard fighting fish to target and a great way to change up their typical inshore fishing adventures.
Summer means warmer weather, warmer water and more available species within reach of fishermen working the nearshore Texas coastal waters by foot or small boat. During the prime months of summer – July and August -- it also means inshore anglers are able to get in on some “offshore action” by catching larger species, many of which are found further out in the Gulf during other times of the year.