December. Hunters are deep in thought about trophy whitetail and flocks of geese filling the skies over Katy rice fields. And you can’t blame them. With an autumn chill in the air, it’s only natural for outdoorsmen’s thoughts to turn toward hunting. But for many Texas anglers the arrival of the hunting seasons reminds us that it’s time to get out the waders and head for the shorelines of West Bay. This is the time of year when big sow trout and vast schools of redfish abandon the deeper areas of the bay and move onto the shallow flats and into the grass lined coves in search of food. Starvation, Dana’s, Jumbile, and Snake Island coves are all names well known to those of us who spend our winters wrapped up in layers of warm clothing and neo-prene waders. Some of these shallow coves have a bottom with the consistency of thick pudding. This may keep many anglers from attempting to wade them, but according to Captain Pat Murray that softness is the very thing that attracts the fish to the coves. “The soft mud seems to hold heat better than a hard sand bottom, explains Murray, so during slightly warmer weather, big speckled trout move into these areas to feed.” These trophy class trout are usually loners. They may be found in schools as small as five fish, but will not school in larger numbers as do smaller fish of about eighteen inchs and under. One theroy on the reason for this activity is the competition for food. Smaller fish feed on shrimp and other small foods while biggre trout feed less frequently and when they do eat it’s usually a baitfish such as mullet, croaker, or piggy pearch. Trout are not the only fish which frequent the flats of West Bay. Redfish and flounder also move onto the flats as the water temperatures begin to drop below boiling. Flounder are on many anglers minds during the fall and this area is a main staging are for the flat fish before they head toward San Luis Pass on their way to the gulf for the winter. A live mud minnow rigged on a slip weight rig or a plastic shad tail worked along shallow flats will most definately bring home a couple of these fine eating fish for dinner. The past few years have seen an obvious increase in the use of topwater plugs in Galveston Bays. Storm ThunderSticks, Rebel Jumpin’ Minnows, and Cordell broken-back Redfins are prime examples of the lures used for this exciting type of fishing. The best method for catching trophy trout on topwaters is to locate schools of bait working nervously near the surface. Begin casting and working your lure along the edges of the school. If you don’t draw any strikes, move the next cast closer toward the center of the school. Another good tip is to work the lure fairly agressivly. Drawing attention to the bait is more important than you may think. Imagine that you’re looking at apples in the grocery store. What makes you choose one over all the others? That’s exactly what a speckled trout sees when he’s charging through a school of mullet. Some slight difference, it could be a difference in swimming, the shape of the tail, or a straggler. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you use every bit of technique at your disposal to make that lure stand out from the rest of the school. With Jumpin’ Minnows it’s the quick side-to-side motion, broken-backs the swimming action, and ThunderSticks, the diving-floating. All of these baits are fairly simple to use, but the Storm ThunderStick is probably the easiest. Simply cast the lure and slowly twitch it back toward you. The important thing here is to TWITCH it lightly so that it will dive just below the surface. After each twitch, take up the slack, but allow the bait to rise back to the surface on its own. BE PREPARED! A trout or red will usually hit this type of lure on the rise. West Bay is about to come into it’s own and if you’re a wader like I am “now is our time of year”.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide