West winds drop tides, push fish to deeper water
July 20, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.
Low summer tides, hot, cloudy water and west, southwest winds are nothing new for a July day on the bay. It certainly makes for a tough day of fishing, giving rise to the phrase the "dog days of summer," which has certainly been the case recently.
When west winds persist, there are few places to hide, and there are only so many westerly leeward shorelines. Those back bay areas that so often provide refuge from the wind, well, those west winds have drained tides to more than 2 feet below normal in most estuaries.
So, where do you find fishable waters?
Cuts and channels have been my focus. Though waters have been chocolate in the bay, incoming tides from the channels and Intracoastal Waterway have ushered clear water through the cuts. Speckled trout use these channels to swim with the tides, especially during the summer. Those deeper channels hold cooler water, an established locale when water temperatures inch close to 90 degrees.
I have waded the edges of channels with heavy jigs on the incoming tide, bouncing soft plastics on the bottom, much like I did during my teenage days at Rollover Pass. Sensitive graphite rods and braided lines have been a must, especially when the tide is really rolling. Sometimes, all you feel is the slightest twinge of the fish closing its mouth on the bait.
Live bait has been the best bet for drifters in the west wind. Remember: Fish still feed in muddy water, and oftentimes, what seems off-colored on the surface is clearer a few feet down in a deep channel. Nevertheless, a live shrimp has proven its worth lately, not to mention a pearl-colored Gulp shrimp under a popping cork. Though visibility has been limited, the smell and sound factor from scented baits under a rattling cork has kept anglers in the game.
Oil and gas wells in the bays have held quality fish. Most are stationed in at least 10 feet of water with shell pads around the legs of the well, perfect terrain for fish to stage and cool off. Again, though the water may seem off-colored on the surface, often it is much clearer on the bottom. Work the entire water column with baits. Sometimes, the fish can be caught under a popping cork. Sometimes, they can be coaxed with jigs, and sometimes, a free-lined shrimp is the answer. Those prepared for all the above scenarios have a better chance of scoring.
Remember those shorelines with low-tide reefs and sand flats exposed? Somewhere adjacent to those pieces of shell and sand is a gut, and chances are a redfish or two can be found in those holes. Think about those days you waded to your chest in June - those same locales are probably waist-deep now.
With an incoming morning tide, these spots and the fish that linger nearby are just waiting for fresh currents to usher shrimp, shad and mullet to these hangouts, not to mention your live shrimp, soft plastic or floating plug.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed fishing guide. Email him at email@example.com.