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WOODS, WINGS & WATER: Absence of cold fronts stalling fall fishing

Oct. 25, 2012 at 5:25 a.m.

When fall finally arrives, sights like this will be common on Sabine Lake, Galveston, Trinity and East Matagorda bays.

"Things seem to be later and later every year," says the seasoned pro.. "October has become hotter and hotter, and we haven't been getting the first cold front of the year until November, so fall fishing has been late."

Those words were said to me about five years ago by an angler who has many autumns under his belt. I have to say he is right - it feels like the seasons are changing.

The first few cold fronts of the year have significance. Swelling October tides push water to the back reaches of the marsh where shrimp stage before starting their trek to the Gulf of Mexico. Not until a blast of cold wind hits the coast do tides fall and shrimp begin descending out of the marsh.

Picking and hovering gulls point the way this time of year; however, that hasn't happened yet.

White shrimp determine how successful autumn fishing can be; and, salinity levels usually determine the fate of white shrimp. "Whities" grow in the marsh during the spring, with optimal brine levels around 15 ppt (parts per thousand). White shrimp do not mature and grow in high salt contents like a brown shrimp, so in periods of drought, like the past few years, white shrimp crops have been below average. Hence, there have been fewer birds to work.

Nevertheless, spring and summer rains have sweetened the marshes this year, evident by thriving aquatic vegetation like wigeongrass; and, when wigeongrass is growing in the marsh, white shrimp are too.

October was once the month to work the birds, but changing seasons seems to have pushed that pattern back to November.

"We catch fish whether the birds work or not," said guide Charlie Paradoski of Matagorda. "I kind of hope the birds don't work so there won't be so many boats out here."

While most folks put their fall fishing hopes on working the birds, mid-bay reefs are left alone. Few people wade during November, but there are some great fish to be caught on the shell. Big trout hang on those reefs and eat topwaters, especially when we have a good shrimp crop.

The tips of the reefs are where most of the trout hang. Most of the reefs have drop-offs from years and years of oyster dredging, and the trout like to work those edges.

Topwaters like Super Spooks, Top Dogs, She Dogs and SkitterWalks are the popular plugs, while MirrOlure 52M and Corkies entice fish under the surface. If fish are not on one piece of reef, try the next. Persistent reef-hopping normally finds fish, even on marginal days.

Feel blessed when birds pop up along the same shoreline you are wading. It doesn't happen often, but it is much easier to stay up with a group of working birds on foot than by boat. Normally, when birds are working over shallow water, they are on bigger trout and redfish.

Those are the days you cherish.

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

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