Originally published on Saturday, July 21, 2012
I don't remember it being this hot when I was younger; and, according to meteorologists, I guess I am right since the past two Julys have been some of the most arid on record.
Fish early, fish late, find a shade tree, drink lots of water and drink more water.
Many charter captains, including myself, have encouraged half-day trips that get anglers back to the dock around 11 a.m. before the sun really begins to bake.
As is often the case with summer fishing, the bite is early, then tapers as the day progresses.
Hear me out, I am not saying you can't catch fish during the heat of a summer day, just not as likely when wading a shallow flat or drifting back lake reefs.
It is not that the fish are not there, it is just a tougher bite in the heat. Seasoned captains see it every year.
Concentrate over shallow (three feet or less) reefs at sunrise, then work deeper water as the mercury rises. The same pattern can be applied to all bay systems.
Work close to deep water, like the edge of the ship channel, the jetties or wading chest-deep water.
The water is a few degrees cooler in channel. Think of it as the difference in running your air conditioner at 70 degrees instead of 75 degrees.
One of the keys to beating the heat and keeping catches constant is a switch from artificial to live bait.
Whether it is live finger mullet or shrimp, speckled trout and redfish want it natural during the dog days of summer.
Matagorda captains have adapted as well. Most charters used to be artificial-only affairs, pros are adapting with the times to keep clients on fish.
For years Matagorda guides would not consider using live shrimp while drifting deep reefs. Now, few leave the dock without live shrimp when drifting.
Last week I had a group of guys who insisted we throw plastics. I obliged after warning them of the strong summer pattern of live shrimp under a popping cork.
Final tally: five trout, while boats next to us with live shrimp scored limits to near limits.
"It is 10-to-1 in the summer," said guide Tommy Alexander. "We catch 10 good trout on live shrimp to one good one on plastics while drifting."
Wading is a different story.
"I can take a Bass Assassin and wade the drop-offs of mid-bay reefs and catch all the trout I want," said guide Bill Pustejovsky. "But, if you fish out of the boat, you better have live shrimp."
July tides, hot water and the recent floods have made it difficult for bait camp operators to find live shrimp; and, when they do, it is even tougher to keep it alive. As a result, live shrimp is not always available.
Enter the three-inch pearl Gulp!
Rigged 2-3 feet below a Mid Coast Products cork, Gulp! has saved many fishing trips.
"When the water is off-colored, many times Gulp! catches more and bigger fish than live shrimp," Alexander said.
Look for this pattern to continue until the first significance cool down of fall.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (email@example.com).