Late Spring Fishing Along the Texas Coast
First things first -- May is a spring month. Temperatures in the Lone Star State will undoubtedly have a summer feel by the end of the month, but spring won't end until mid-June. So, fishermen should still approach May as part of the spring season, which almost always means "transition" in the angling realm. Over the next few weeks, speckled trout and redfish will be making their final "spring transition," as by month's end, they will have established a pattern of behavior they will follow through summer and into early fall.
During the final full month of spring, although the temperatures will be rising, the water will still be pleasantly cool enough for fish to stay up shallow throughout most of the day. And, as the water warms, fish will be found over sand rather than muddy bottom areas of the bay. This makes wade fishing an outstanding option during late spring, as the hard bottom, shallow water areas that make for easy wading are also holding plenty of fish this time of year. As an added bonus, fishing shallow water makes for a great way to avoid the spring winds, which will still be blowing a substantial portion of the time during May.
However, knowing what to throw in shallow water during spring is a little trickier than when fish are found on the flats during fall or in the early morning hours of summer. That is because, again, spring weather changes from day-to-day while summer and fall weather tends to be more stable. The ever-changing weather, of course, affects the water conditions. While one day may find the water over the shallow flats clear and calm, the next day may see it roiled and muddy. The fish won't leave just because the water turns dirty, but anglers will need to adjust their lure choices and presentations.
Regardless of water conditions, when fishing during May, anglers will generally do better using small baits, as most of the prey items are still in their juvenile stage following the spring hatch. Of course, clear water is certainly a bonus when using "junior"-sized baits, but it's not a necessity. If, however, the water is clear and the wind is at least reasonably calm, anglers can experience some excellent sight-casting opportunities during May.
SEE YOUR TARGET
Clear, calm conditions and plenty of active fish on the flats equates to excellent sight-casting. Whether wading, drifting or poling, if they are fishing over shallow flats inshore anglers can expect plenty of sight-casting opportunities for both speckled trout and redfish over the next month. Both conventional tackle anglers and fly fishermen can get in on the sight-casting action during May.
As is always the case when sight-casting, using smaller, soft landing lures and flies is the best bet. But, since fish are quite a bit more active during May -- meaning they will swim a greater distance to attack a bait -- anglers often don't need to "put it right on their nose" to get a strike. In fact, when fish are active, it is often better to cast beyond the sighted fish are reel back in front of them to prevent them from spooking. Spoons are outstanding for this type of duty, while anglers using the traditional sight-casting approach of placing a lure close to a feeding fish will do well with DOA Shrimp or 3 1/2 inch soft-plastics on 1/16 ounce jig heads.
One method anglers use to "psuedo sight-cast" when fish aren't regularly being sighted, is to cast into sand pockets or "potholes" over grass flats. Often times, fish will lurk in the grass ringing these bare spots and ambush prey swimming through the pothole. Anglers can take advantage of this behavior by placing lures and baits in the potholes and tempting fish to strike.
When the wind or tides kick up or when the notoriously copious amount of water moved by spring tides serve to dirty the water on shallow flats, anglers can still experience good fishing by adjusting their lure choices and techniques. Blind casting over shallow flats can produce plenty of fish. Often times anglers will resort to live bait when the water becomes stained or dirty. But, while natural baits can result in good catches under these conditions, so can artificial lures. Anglers simply need to use lures that emit sound and/or vibration. Noisy topwater plugs and paddle-tail soft-plastics are generally the best options. Whether throwing natural or artificial baits, when the water is wind-blown or otherwise dirty, pinning baits under a popping cork can help attract more attention.
MAY MEANS POWER
Another bonus for coastal fishermen in May is that late spring's mild to moderate water temperatures usually results in more active fish. This means a greater variety of species will be in play and all of those species will be much more actively feeding than they were in winter or early spring. Depending on which area of the Texas coast anglers are fishing, they can expect to find flounder, speckled trout, redfish, snook, black drum, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, tarpon and more. And, again, because the water temperature is generally "comfortable" for the fish, they are feeding more actively. This allows fishermen to use more "power" fishing techniques, which allows them to fish faster and cover water at an increased clip.
With that in mind, spoons can be used to cover water quickly and will draw fish from a great distance, especially with decent visibility and sunlight. When the water is too stained for using spoons, paddle-tail plastics, either fished straight-lined or under a popping cork, will produce good results.
Something else to keep in mind during May is that late spring generally means a varied diet for speckled trout, redfish, flounder and other predator fish. During this time, fish will be feeding not just on the masses of shrimp moving out of the bay, but also on finger mullet, pinfish, shad, marine worms, sand eels, crabs and glass minnows. The key to finding success on many days is figuring out the preferred meal of the day. Although it may seem as if fish are enjoying a never-ending smorgasbord during late spring and gorging on anything that swims, the target prey is actually usually very specific at any given time. For instance, when glass minnows are freshly hatched and covering the bay surface, it is often hard to get fish to strike a shrimp or mullet imitating lure. They tend to key in on whatever is the dominate bait source at that moment. During late spring, that can vary widely and change often. Fishermen should make observations of active bait from day to day and even from area to area within the same bay.
SPRING TIDES AFFECT FISHING
Tides are always a factor for coastal fishermen, but in spring this impact is usually most extreme. The majority of inshore anglers associate spring with extremely high tides. While it is true the spring months see unusually high tides, the spring season also sees some extreme low tides. As a rule, spring tides have higher highs and lower lows. With such water level extremes, anglers must remain flexible in order to find fish.
When a huge flood tide rolls into the bay, areas that had been too shallow - or, in some cases, high and dry - during low tide, will be in play. Fish will take advantage of this new real estate and spread out over the newly flooded bars and flats. Often times, these fresh patches of water also benefit anglers in that they are in areas that are somewhat protected by the wind, giving fishermen more options when the wind is really howling. Conversely, some of the mid-depth and deeper areas of the bay will become too deep - and at times too rough - to fish on high tide.
Low tide fishing during spring can be reminiscent of fishing low tides during winter, after a north wind has blown all the water out of the bay. Those flats that held schools of fish on high tide are often dry or too shallow to fish on low tide. But, although an extremely low tide may eliminate some shallow water areas, it also serves to concentrate fish in channels, holes and around mid-bay structures. Additionally, some mid-bay structure is easier and more productive to fish on a low tide.
The other factor, which is often overlooked, dealing with spring tides is the velocity of current during periods of tidal movement. It only stands to reason that when more water is moving in and out of the bay, the current will be stronger and, often, longer. Stronger current doesn't always mean better fishing. In fact, some areas close to major passes may become unfishable during periods of peak tide movement as the current may be rushing through too fast. Those areas are better fish as the tide first begins moving or as it slows right after peak movement. Conversely, some of the back bay areas that rarely see a noticeable tidal flow will often benefit from a strong, sustained flow during spring.
Spring tides have other impacts on the bay as well. Large amounts of water moving in and out of bay often cause the water to be murky, especially in areas with heavy current flow. Coupled with the previously mentioned effects of the high wind on water clarity, anglers can certainly expect at least portions of the bay to be "off-color" more often than not. But, again, as noted above, anglers need not fret fishing in murky water. Instead, they just need to be prepared for it and make good choices in regards to lure selection and retrieve.