Colder weather alters fishing patterns
It had been a long time since Capt. Chuck and I fished a group of clients together, but there we were Sunday morning enjoying a stiff northeast wind with the temperature hovering at a brisk 36 degrees at daylight. It is very seldom that I fish on a Sunday and I think the uncomfortable weather was a tap on the shoulder just to remind me that I should not have skipped church!
I was very much surprised to find the birds working all over the north end of the lake most of the morning. I know it is getting more and more difficult for them to garner a substantial meal from the last of the small shrimp exiting the marshes, but they were doing what they had to do. I was also not only pleased with the average size of the trout, but the fact that the sand trout had thinned out as well.
We caught all the fish we wanted to catch by noon with soft plastics and swim baits, but I still believe that we are getting very close to the end of that user-friendly action. When the wade fishermen start catching decent numbers of trout over the 25-inch mark on a consistent basis, the main entrée is bait fish rather than shrimp. That bite has improved daily for the past couple of weeks and it invariably signals the end of the easiest fishing of the year.
I have not done well on the stripers thus far this fall, but I have not really hounded them as much as I have in years past. Some of the better areas on the lower end of the river and ICW have been ruined at least for the short term by the pipeline activity. They have gouged out a great deal of the more productive submerged structure with barges and back wash and there is a never ending two foot wake generated by crew boat activity that eliminates fishing the shoreline.
The redfish bite and the catfish bite both improved this weekend following a significant rain and two days of colder temperatures. The water muddied up a little due to the runoff and stiff north wind, but that combination forced the fish into the deeper water.
Those in the “know” caught a lot of slot reds Thursday through Saturday on the river from the Port of Orange all the way to I-10 on Hoginars, GULP, and live finger mullet. They also did well in Burton’s and Cow bayou when the boat traffic allowed. The duck season split eliminated some of the mid-morning traffic.
The redfish in the river seemed to be holding deeper during the morning hours. The most productive bite was in 15 to 22 feet of water. After lunch, the better bite was in water as shallow as three feet as the fish chased bait up on the warmer mud flats.
The catfish purists had been waiting for these conditions all fall and they caught excellent numbers of nice blues both Friday and Saturday. Some of the smaller cats were caught on frozen shrimp, but most of the five-pound plus fish were taken on cut mullet fished on a Carolina rig.
Dale and Lauren Tate caught twenty-two catfish up to nine pounds and released several limits of slot reds in two afternoons fishing cut mullet in Black’s. “We didn’t want the reds, but they would not leave us alone,” said Dale. “I think we would have done even better on the cats had it not been for the redfish.” That is a nice problem to have!
David Theriot only kept four catfish Saturday morning, but his smallest was 8 pounds and the largest was 26 pounds. He was fishing a cut off the ICW east of the Vinton drain ditch. David said he lost at least three more that large that broke off when his drag hung up on his 808 reel. He also added that he has continued to move east due to the crew boat traffic, but the new spots he has been forced to fish are not all that bad.
In the event that you cannot throw a cast net or cannot locate any mullet, do not fret. The Tate’s said that they caught five of their keeper catfish on GULP crabs after the reds finished off the last of their mullet. “The reds ate the artificial crab too,” added Dale, “but it was GULP or nothing. We will have some more with us next trip just in case!”