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Warming tides heat up Texas surf

June 18, 2011 at 1:18 a.m.

Southwest winds have roughed the surf, but calmer days and greener tides are on the horizon.

As my tires hit the Matagorda sand, it was evident my backyard pool had more of a chop on it than the Gulf of Mexico.

It's a plugger's dream to work a topwater in an emerald surf, hearing every ball-bearing click as it dances left and right. The anticipation of a crushing blow from a intense speckled trout is what sends many anglers to the beach when winds calm and green tides creep close to the beach.

With water temperatures in the mid-80s, the surf is only a light north wind away. Fishers got their first taste of ocean-runners last week as waters cleared and calmed. Trout did not disappoint, as numerous limit catches were taken on topwaters, soft plastics and live bait. Obviously, the appealing attribute of the surf is its access by anyone on foot; and, with the invention of surf cams up and down the coast, you don't have to waste a trip and the near $4 a gallon gasoline, praying all the while the water is green and the waves are flat.

Know the tides before you take the plunge. You are wasting your time fishing the first gut at the end of the outgoing tide. Likewise, you are probably stepping over fish to get to the second bar at high tide.

Hopping shrimp and flipping mullet are strong indicators of fishy locales, so are picking seagulls and diving pelicans. Speckled trout are ambush-feeders and like to use structure to flash prey. The only structures on the beach short of a sunken shrimp boat are the guts and sand bars that run parallel to the shore.

Breaking waves tell you where bars are located. The swells build in the deeper guts and crest on the shallower bars.

Though wading the surf is a welcomed rite of summer, anglers should always take precautions before diving into the ocean. Too many anglers die needlessly every summer due to neglect and/or disrespect for the foam.

Riptides most often occur on a falling tide; and, most waders fall victim to rips because tides are receding and anglers must fish the outer bars in deeper water. Best advice is to use common sense: if currents and tides are too strong, get out of the pool. No fish is worth a life.

Beside the safety factor, there is an advantage in fishing the Gulf from a boat, especially on an outgoing tide. Drifting allows you to cover more ground and work deeper water that could not be reached on foot.

There have been days I have worked the entire 28-mile span of the Gulf from Matagorda to Port O'Connor, picking up a fish here and there. Then there have been those days when I made my first drift, hit a fish, anchored, and never moved.

On several occasions, I have found speckled trout in 5-7 feet of water on the end of the falling tide. Those fish hit topwaters, too, but really love MirrOures. One of my favorite spots is on the south side of the Port O'Connor jetty. We call it the "pocket." It is shielded from easterly winds, allowing a break from swells on those marginal wind days.

Anglers often enjoy the best fishing the first day the surf clears, then endure a tougher bite the second and third day the Gulf remains clear.

Typically, the farther south you travel in Texas, the clearer the surf becomes. The upper coast's rivers allow for more sediment and cloudy water clarity, while South Texas estuaries don't get the muddy, freshwater inflow.

Yeah, I know, the wind kicked back up this week, irritating the Gulf with large waves. However, summer patterns promise more tranquil days.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed fishing guide (binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net or www.matagordasunriselodge.com).

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