SHELL GAME PAYS OFF FOR SALTWATER ANGLERS

“Another good fish”, D’wayne said of the 2 pound trout added to the cooler. “We’d better stop for a second and take a count, we wouldn’t want to end up over the ten fish limit.” This type of fast and furious action can take place, during certain times of year, over any of the several shell reefs that dot the Galveston Bay system. And thanks to a combination of prime nursery areas and the many reefs, Galveston may hold the largest population of speckled trout and redfish on the Texas coast. Texas Saltwater Fishing ReportAlthough many of Galveston’s reefs are oyster shell, both alive and dead, others can trace their origin to the oil boom to the drilling pads left over from a more prosperous era. One person who knows the ins and outs of productively fishing the reefs is Galveston Bay guide Captain Pat Murray. “Bass fishermen probably have a better understanding for the technique used in reef fishing because they are more accustomed to fishing structure”, says Murray. “In general, he continues, the trick is to treat the main body of the reef as the primary structure. While trout and redfish will hold to this area, they will more likely be found on the secondary structures such as rocks, patches of shell, and variations in bottom contours.” Winter’s cold temperatures can make it harder than normal for the average fisherman to locate fish. Murray says that working shell with a close proximity to a mud bottom could help narrow the odds in your favor. “Mud holds heat better than shell or sand, says Capt. Murray, Areas such as Confederate reef and Green’s Cut in West Bay are both excellent examples of this situation. Both will hold fish during warming trends due to their close proximity to soft shallows. When Spring rolls around Murray moves his operation from West Bay to East Bay. “During Spring, the shell becomes more important to the fish and the fisherman, he says, Around East Bay reefs this is especially important since many of the fish in the bay will move onto the reefs to feed on shrimp and small bait fish. Although locating one of the many reefs in Galveston may not be nearly as hard as finding bottom structure in local lakes, locating the shell is just the beginning. “Pat says, “Once you’ve confirmed the locations of several different reefs, there are a few things that fishermen can look for that will tip them off to an area where fish are activily feeding.” The two most obvious signs are feeding birds and bait moving around nervously on the surface. Both are easily seen, by the observant fisherman, and both are farily positive signs that there are gamefish feeding in the area. Especially in the case of birds, the shrimp will leave the soft bottom to flee a school of feeding trout and get trapped over the shell with nowhere to go but up toward the surface. Once there, the birds feed on the shrimp trying to jump to freedom while the fish are feeding on them from below. Another good clue used to locate feeding fish are “slicks”. Slicks are left by activily feeding fish as they gorge themselves and regurgitate so that they may keep on feeding (the little gluttons). This forms a type of oil slick on the surface that smells like watermelon or fresh cut grass. The trick to successfully fishing slicks is to find the smallest ones in the area. Once the slick has spread to the size of a small wading pool, the fish have most probably moved on to another spot. Mud boils are also a fairly good indicator of feeding fish, especially redfish. Reds feed primarily on the bottom by rooting in sand or mud for small crabs, shrimp, and other crusteans. When a school is working an area the angler will be tipped off by the “mud boils” or spots of cloudy water. Fishing shoreline shell is especially important for the wadefisherman since even a small secondary piece of the main reef, such as Sportsman’s Road off Confederate Reef, may be the only structure in the area. Although working a shoreline on foot may limit the anglers ability to move with a flock of feeding birds, the ability to locate fish with these suggestions is still valid. Look for baitfish nervously schooling on the surface, shrimp jumping on the surface, or mud boils. If you are unable to spot any of these give aways try changing locations before you don the waders and head into the water. The important thing to remember that fish are creatures of habit and whether you’re wading, drifting, or using your boat to gain access to areas for wading, try working the reefs for some of the best fishing on the Texas coast.

– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide

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