WOODS, WINGS & WATER: A few tactics that still catch fish
In the "good ole' days," fishermen wanted to catch a big trout and didn't mind wading for hours for the big bite.
Now, time is more precious. The texting generation has distorted patience. It's more "we just want to catch fish."
Texas enjoys an estimated 2,000 new anglers a month on the brine; that's 24,000 rookies a year, and this past year, it seemed like 10,000 of them boarded my boat.
With so many new anglers out there, here is a list of tried and true tactics that still put fish in the boat:
Guide Kirk Stansel dropped his trolling motor and began working a stretch of shoreline teeming with finger mullet. With a dozen tosses of the cast net, we had all the "trout candy" we needed. With a single Kahle hook, Stansel Carolina-rigged a couple of pinch weights and threaded a spirited 4-inch mullet through the lips. Anchored within a cast of an old set of jetty rocks, he tossed the offering toward the granite. A 3-pound speck found the candy store. The first five years I owned my boat, I never knew if my live well even worked. Now, in my home waters of Matagorda, especially during the summer, I never leave the dock without at least a quart of live shrimp ready to be rigged under a popping cork.
My favorite method of fishing from the boat for trout is drifting. Pick a piece of scattered shell, start upwind then gingerly work the area as anglers fan-cast in every direction. When we hit a fish, I mark it. When we hit another fish, I stab the Power-Pole down and work the area more soundly. Rarely when the Power-Pole goes down do we draw a blank. Most of the time, we put another half-dozen trout on ice. When the action slows, I pull the pole and keep drifting until you mark another school. Sure, we caught plenty of fish this way when all we had was an anchor, but now, our back and shoulder muscles are not as sore. Change is often a hard pill to swallow.
The myth that surface plugs only work in shallow water is just that - a myth. My largest speck of all time, a 31-incher, was fooled on a chartreuse-headed, black-bodied, prototype MirrOlure Top Dog in 7 feet of water out of a boat at high noon in June. One of my most memorable days with a topwater came at the Sabine Pass jetty as I consistently duped 5-pounders against the granite in 14 feet of water. I can still picture the 9-pounder that followed my dad's plug to the boat. Topwater plugs work only when you throw them, so don't be afraid to think outside the box or, for that matter, pull one out of the box.
A solid sonar with water temperature and mapping capabilities is a reliable friend when traversing the estuaries. The sonar shows bottom undulations and what we Texans call "toeheads," or protruding clumps of shell. Often, trout are found tight to toeheads, since shrimp, mullet and shad use the oyster clumps as refuge. A good unit indicates the tides for the day and how strong the water flows throughout the exchange. My Garmin unit (echoMap70) also gives me the major and minor feeding times according to the rise and set of the moon.
When fishing with live shrimp, MidCoast Product's line of popping corks is a favorite of mine. Combining a frequency of beads and corks, the Mojo, Texas Swing, Nexus 5 and Outcast attract keen speckled trout. The castability of the corks allows anglers to cover more water, and more water covered results in more fish caught.
There are few things better than a day on the water on the Texas coast, and it's a whole lot better when you bring home a few fish fillets.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain; email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.