Texas Inshore Angling is as Simple as 1-2-3 During the Summer Months
July ushers in one of the most diverse times of the year for Texas inshore anglers. There are lots of available species and more areas of productive water. But, although there are a lot more variables at play in regards to species, depth, and location, there is no need for a complicated game plan. In fact, being successful during mid-summer is as easy as 1-2-3…
All three of Texas’ traditional inshore venues will be in play come July. The fact all of these areas will be productive allows fishermen to spread out over a much greater expanse of water than they have been able to during spring. This not only allows anglers to spread out, thus reducing the impact of the summer crowds, but also allows fishermen to enjoy a bit of variety in their angling routine.
1. Bays – During July, almost every stretch of bay water will be productive at some point during the day. Again, there are plenty of available species – speckled trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, and, in some bays, tripletail and/or snook. Regardless of which species they are targeting, anglers can be productive throughout the entire day if they are willing to shift with the fish as temperatures rise and fall. Essentially, fish will be in shallower water – or nearer the surface in deeper areas – during the cooler portions of the day and will be found progressively deeper as temperatures rise.
2. Passes & Jetties – Passes which exchange water between the bays and the open Gulf become extremely productive during the summer months. Gulf water is usually cooler than bay water, so fish in or near passes will usually be a bit “spunkier” than those in the back bays. When incoming tides push clean, green water into passes, fish will be in the channel. When outgoing tides drag dirtier, warmer bay water out into the Gulf, fish will be hanging on the outside of the flume of warm dirty water, waiting on whatever prey items are swept out with the current.
Jetties line many of these passes and are fish attracting structures. Passes lined with jetties offer the greatest variety of fish during summer months – speckled trout, redfish, sheepshead, snook, shark, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, tarpon, and mangrove snapper are among the regular catches for rock hopping fishermen.
3. Beachfront – The long awaited “green to the beach” conditions begin in July. Ice cream conditions along the beachfront offer not only great speckled trout fishing, but also the opportunity to tangle with Spanish mackerel, pompano, redfish, jack crevalle and other species. Depending on which portion of the Texas coast fishermen are on, they may be able to reach first gut or two from dry sand or they may need to wade a bit to reach these deeper depressions where fish concentrate. Early and late, fish will be found in the first gut, then will move increasingly further offshore as the day wears on.
Whether fishing in the bays, on jetties, in passes or along beachfront, the productive portion of the water column will change throughout a summer day, as air and water temperatures fluctuate greatly during a 24 hour cycle in July.
1. Shallow -- During the coolest portions of the day -- early and late – the milder water temperatures encourage fish to feed in the shallows. But, the bite won’t last more than about an hour past sunrise and won’t begin again until about an hour before sunset (although a hot bite can extend well after sundown, especially if there is a favorable tidal flow). The exception to this is an overcast day, which keeps temperatures lower than normal later into the day.
2. Mid-depth -- Once the temperatures start climbing, fish will alter they behavior and, often, they physical location. From mid-morning until early afternoon, the period of time when it is getting hotter but the temperature is not quite at its zenith, fish will begin burying in grass or moving into transition areas such as channel edges and deeper flats.
3. Deep – In the afternoon, when temperatures peak, fish will be looking for the coolest water they can find. This will typically be in either deeper flats or channels or in shaded areas. So, anglers should concentrate on channels, deep shell, deep structure or shaded structure like oil and gas platforms, bridges and docks.
Although many anglers believe it is necessary to switch to natural baits in order to draw action during the summer months, a wide variety of artificial lures can be productive if utilized correctly…
1. Topwaters – Early in the morning, when fish are feeding in the shallows, topwater plugs can be very productive. While surface plugs seem like an obvious choice in bay, they are also very productive in surf or around jetties. When fishing in back lakes and bays, small to mid-size baits tend to work best in the summer. Along the beachfront and jetties, full-size plugs produce better results.
2. Shallow runners, slow-sinkers, spoons, light jigs – When the topwater bite turns off, anglers need to utilize something that can work the upper two or three feet of water column. There are a wide variety of artificial lures capable of being productive in this depth range. Among the most productive for summer inshore action are shallow running crankbaits, slow-sinking and suspending plugs, spoons and unweighted or lightly weighted soft-plastics work well.
3. Heavy jigs, lipless cranks & deep diving plugs – During the heat of the day, when fish are found at depth, anglers need to utilize lures when can get down in a hurry and stay low in the water column. Lipless crankbaits and deep diving plugs are good choices with mild or moderate current. However, when the current flow is strong, slim profile lures are needed to cut through current. Under these conditions, heavy jigs and jigging spoons are better choices.
For those fishermen who are still unwilling or unable to utilize artificial bait, natural baits are always productive during summer. For most natural bait fishermen, keeping baits alive can be the biggest challenge as summer temperatures soar. But, anglers who are able to keep their live bait lively can usually expect good results.
1. Shrimp – Whenever shrimp are present in a bay system, they can effectively be used as bait. During summer, shrimp are at times scarce, but when available, they are plenty productive. At some points during summer, shrimp dumped into livewells will be varying tremendously in size. Anglers will enjoy the most consistent action using the most prevalent size (the size there is the most of). But, if looking for big fish, ask for “jumbos” – especially if fishing along the jetties or in Gulf passes. In the bay, anglers may lose many jumbo shrimp to pinfish snacking on the shrimps’ legs, but often times the jumbos that can avoid the onslaught of pinfish will get inhaled by jumbo trout.
2. Croaker – Probably the most popular live bait item for Texas inshore fishermen during the summer months, croaker are generally used to target trout, although they will also account for a fair number of redfish as well. Croaker are one of the more difficult baits to keep alive, so if you don’t have a large, well-functioning livewell, it is probably best to opt for another type of live bait.
3. Pinfish – During warm weather months, most Texas bays are overrun with pinfish – and just about every species of predator fish likes to dine on pinfish. They are especially productive around potholes on grass flats and around docks and pilings. The key to having a productive pinfish is allowing it some freedom of movement and making sure the fish is healthy and strong enough to swim in a somewhat natural motion.
LIVE BAIT TECHNIQUES
Like lure fishermen, those anglers utilizing live bait must also adapt their tactics to keep up with the changing conditions throughout a summer day in order to remain productive.
1. Freelining – Early in the morning, anglers should keep baits at or near surface by freelining -- utilizing just a hook and the bait. To avoid line twists, anglers may want to add a barrel swivel about 18 inches up the line. And, if they need the bait to get a little lower in the water column, a split shot or two can be added about 6 to 9 inches above the hook.
2. Popping cork – Later in the day, as fish move a few feet deeper, popping cork rigs can keep baits in the productive strike zone longer. The leader below the cork may be anywhere from 18 to 36 inches depending on time of day and depth of water. Some anglers go as long as 42 inches with a leader, but such a rig can become unwieldy to cast.
3. Carolina rigs – During the heat of the day, fish will be holding deeper – near the bottom. At this time, utilizing a Carolina rig can be useful. Whether using shrimp, mullet or croaker, a Carolina rig allows bait to be a foot or so off the bottom and allows anglers to feel even the slightest take. If fish are suspended a little higher in the water column, fishermen can use either a longer leader or lighter egg sinker.
So, while July is the quintessential summer month that comes will all the trappings of summer (ie: crowds, extreme heat, etc.), it can also be a boon for inshore fishermen. And rather than coming up with a complicated plan of attack in order to be successful, anglers need to keep it as simple as 1-2-3…