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WOOD, WINGS & WATER: Swelling tides great for catching redfish

Sept. 15, 2013 at 4:15 a.m.

Swelling tides push fall reds to back lakes.

When Rockport guide Charlie Newton backed his boat down the ramp at Cove Harbor, he didn't have to tell me he had been doing this for 25 years - his tanned, leather skin conveyed that message. Had I missed that telltale sign, his boat trailer would have spoken up.

If Newton, like most charter captains, decided to stay pinned to the dock every time the ardent wind blew, there wouldn't be rust on his trailer and a creaking sound coming from its wheel bearings.

As we eased through the mouth of a bayou, an oyster reef carved more scars on the flatbottom. Newton saw mullet flipping, so he eased the anchor overboard and begin preparing Carolina-rigged Kahle hooks with chunks of fresh mullet.

Newton has arguably put more people on redfish than anyone along the Coastal Bend. As the name implies, Redfish Charters is all about catching the bronze-backed fish with the spot on its tale.

September is a prime month along the middle coast to catch redfish, especially with swelling equinox tides.

"Sometimes, reds want mullet, sometimes crabs, sometimes piggies, sometimes shrimp. You have to give them what they want to catch fish consistently," said Newton.

Oyster shell in Christmas Bay and Chocolate Bayou near Freeport also hold redfish this time of year. Cracked crabs and shrimp have been the ticket.

In Matagorda, fish the back lakes of Lake Austin, Crab Lake and Oyster Lake to find reds. The higher tides also push trout to the lakes, and the out-flowing of shrimp from the marsh makes the fish congregate, usually under diving gulls.

"We have been targeting the points and bayous in the back lakes," said guide Michael Rolf. "There are some big reds back there."

Guide Tommy Alexander, fresh off his second-consecutive win in the CCA Matagorda Bays Guide's Cup Championship this week, said big reds in the back lakes put him over the top.

"I caught enough reds in the middle of the bay along with the trout, but I knew I needed bigger fish, so I went to the lakes," said Alexander. "Those fish are just heavier back there."

With a disturbance churning in the Gulf and stiff east winds this week, tides have swelled well above normal levels. That is a boon for redfishers.

"Those back lakes are full of fish," said guide Albert Garrison. "There are just as many fish on the north shoreline as well, tight in the grass."

Garrison said he was able to catch limits of reds this week on live bait or artificials.

"It didn't seem to matter," he said.

If you like even bigger redfish, the beachfront is teeming with giant bull redfish. Pier anglers along the 61st Street Fishing Pier in Galveston reported impressive catches all week, even with seas running 4 to 6 feet.

"The surf was sandy to sandy green even with the rough water," said pier staffer Mike Wodecki. "Large sand trout, speckled trout and slot-sized redfish were caught in shallower water."

The good news is this pattern is just beginning and should hold for the next two months.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net).

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