AUSTIN – Many Texans opt outside to reconnect with nature after a long winter, but spring break adventures aren’t limited to swimming, camping and hiking. Fishing also offers a great way for families to experience the diverse aquatic life and scenic places that Texas has to offer.
Here are 10 ideas to help families to make memories fishing this spring break:
Learn the basics at a fishing class: More than a dozen Texas State Parks and other locations around the state are offering beginner fishing classes throughout March to help anglers learn the fundamentals of fishing and give them an opportunity to catch a fish. Fishing poles and bait are available for families to borrow for the day at many locations, and no fishing license is needed to fish in a state park. Find a full list of events, details and maps and directions in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Fishing Events Calendar online.
Go kayak fishing on the Texas coast: The newest coastal paddling trail, the Seadrift Paddling Trail, features 20 miles of freshwater and saltwater paddling from the Guadalupe River to San Antonio Bay. Anglers can find prime red drum and spotted seatrout fishing opportunities along this scenic float, along with wildlife watching opportunities for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and a variety of shorebirds and migratory birds. Kayak and canoe rentals are available in nearby Victoria. Eight other coastal paddling trails can be found on the Texas Paddling Trails website.
Catch your first fish at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center: The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, located about an hour drive from Tyler and Dallas and less than two hours from Fort Worth and Waco, offers several stocked fishing ponds, ample fishing loaner equipment, a full production hatchery and a vast array of aquatic exhibits to explore. After catching catfish and rainbow trout in the fishing ponds, spring breakers can see other interesting creatures like paddlefish and American alligators, watch a live fish-feeding dive show, and take a narrated tram tour through the outdoor hatchery facility.
Experience the spring white bass run: White bass provide anglers of all experience levels with exciting action during their annual spring spawning migration up river and stream tributaries. The best time for white bass fishing is usually in March, but with the recent cold snap anglers should look for areas where the water temperature has reached at least 54 degrees, or where the redbuds or dogwoods are blooming. In East Texas, anglers can try Chandler River Park on the Neches River or the Grand Bluff Boat Ramp on the Sabine River for white bass fishing access. Central Texas locations can be found in the TPWD publication White Bass Fishing In Central Texas.
Visit marine life at Sea Center Texas: At Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, visitors can explore aquaria and exhibits of Texas marine life, the largest redfish hatchery in the world, 36 one-acre fish culture ponds, an outdoor wetland exhibit and a youth fishing pond. A 20-foot touch pool allows visitors to gently touch marine animals such as blue crabs, hermit crabs, stone crabs, snails and even anemones. On April 6, families can attend the free Kids Reel Big Fish Event to learn how to catch and release fish and get a free fishing pole (limited to the first 100 kids).
Fish for rainbow trout in East Texas: In Texas, cold-water loving rainbow trout can’t survive past the winter. Spring breakers can harvest the last of the year’s stocked rainbow trout for free 8 a.m. to 12 p.m March 11-14 at the Tyler Nature Center in East Texas. TPWD Inland Fisheries staff will have loaner equipment, tackle and bait on hand to help families catch and clean up to five rainbow trout each at the free event. No fishing license is needed to participate. After spending the morning on the water fishing, anglers are encouraged to put on their hiking shoes and explore the nearby scenic outdoor hiking trails.
Catch and cook a crappie:Crappie are a delicious and popular sport fish that are easiest to catch in the spring when they move to shallow water in preparation to spawn. At Granger Lake, north of Austin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates four parks that provide campgrounds, restrooms, picnic areas, boat ramps, and opportunities for shoreline fishing on this reservoir. Other popular crappie lakes include Lake Fork, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Target the state fish of Texas:Guadalupe bass, the state fish of Texas, can be found in the rocky, spring-fed rivers of the Texas Hill country. Anglers can find public fishing access, kayak and canoe launches and other amenities on several of the rivers that Guadalupe bass call home, including three sites on the Colorado River, two sites on the Brazos River, and four sites on the Llano River. A list of all of the public fishing access sites, along with details and directions, can be found on the TPWD River Access and Conservation Area Program website.
Tour a Texas state fish hatchery: Anglers and future fisheries biologists can see first-hand where millions of fish are raised each year for stocking into the public waters of Texas at five inland fish hatcheries located across the state and three saltwater fish hatcheries on the Texas coast. Many of the hatcheries welcome the public to come and visit their educational and informative facilities through scheduled tours or by appointment. Learn more on the Texas State Fish Hatcheries website.
Catch a big bass in West Texas: In Texas, March is considered one of the best months to catch a whopper bass. With recent rainfall, many West Texas lakes have higher water levels and are producing “lunker” bass for anglers, including Oak Creek Reservoir, O.H. Ivie Lake, Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Amistad, to name a few. Pick a fishing spot in the TPWD Angler’s Guide to West Texas online, and find detailed fishing regulations, angling opportunities, cover & structure, and tips & tactics for it in the Texas Freshwater Lakes list.
For anglers over 17 years old, a valid fishing license with a freshwater or saltwater endorsement is required to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas. A fishing license is not required if fishing from the bank in a state park or in waters completely enclosed by a state park.
More information on current fishing regulations, limits and license requirements can be found online in the TPWD Outdoor Annual, or get the mobile app free for iOS and Android here.
This go round in Port had some highs and lows. We started off the trips with just a handful of trout bites, but the right ones with fish between 5-8.5# and 29″. Our most productive areas were ones holding rafts of mullet in knee to crotch deep water. Areas that just had widely scattered jumping mullet didn’t produce much more than a handful of 16-18″ trout and a few mid-slot reds.
Water color ranged from clear, sandy green, and muddy. Our bait selection ranged from topwaters, DSL soft plastics, to Corky Softdine XL’s. Matching up color selection in these different waters was key, and once we had the right match we had a consistent bite. The majority of our fish were caught in clear to sandy green water, walking slow and targeting edges of grass mats worked well. Sometimes it was on the third or fourth cast to the same area.
Unfortunately as the last couple days we were met with a good bite until about 11am then the bait seemed to disappear and the bite of big trout shut down. When that happened the redfish bite was good. We kept at it because I am a firm believer that big trout roam behind redfish, and you just have to be lucky enough to slip it past the aggressive reds to give that big trout a chance to eat it.
All in all it was a good trip, these repeat customers always seem to have a ball no matter the conditions, personal best were matched this week, and two were lost. One from the violent head shaking these big fish are known for, and the other broke of a topwater moments before being netted. Give us a call for open dates to go try your hand at landing your personal best, it has been a great winter in Port Mansfield, and I am confident it will continue to produce for us.
Capt. Todd Jones– Today consisted of a solid morning of “fun fishing” with good buddies! Several trout in the 22” range. Somehow our math skills were a little lacking, but it’s always good luck to leave one out there for next time! Wade fishing with lures should continue to improve into February, March, and April, so call (888) 677-4868 today to take advantage of a $25 per/person discount on food and lodging when you book a wade fishing trip (with lures) for any day in February.
FRIDAY – Jan 18th
Capt. Steve Boldt– There was a definite chill in the air, but this morning’s crew got the job done. For being a half-day trip, they managed a very descent box today with a three-man redfish limit and several black drum to top things off. They’ll all eat well when they get home!
SUNDAY – Jan 20th
Capt. Doug Russell– A cold front blew through town overnight, so by shooting time this morning things had cooled down quite a bit as the thermometer dropped into the 30’s. The morning didn’t turn out being one of the absolute best days of shooting for us, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either with nine birds. Hoping for more cold weather soon!
For the next couple months along the midsection of theTexas coast, speckled trout anglers can prosper when keying on mud and grass in protected coves, area drains, small bayous, and narrow channels that lead out of the back lake areas that are situated out on Matagorda Island. Many big wintertime trout have been hooked while slowly working natural and artificial baits in just such places out on “the Island” during February and March. However, in order to catch one of these big fish, you’ll first have to target them.
These “big gals” can often be persuaded to eat a number of different artificial baits this time of the year, but some types of lures certainly outperform others. One steady producer that anglers can usually depend on is the slow sinking and suspending baits. These are the ones like the original plastic Corky, the Corky Fat Boy, and the Corky Devil – and now the newer line of Soft-Dine baits – of which all sink slowly toward the mud and grass until messaged to return toward the surface via a smooth, minimal motion of the rod tip. Some of the older, more popular suspending baits, depending on the brand and model (the Catch 5, Catch 2000, and the 27MR MirrOdines), will automatically position themselves in the water anywhere from 6 to 12 inches, or even two feet, below the surface. They can generally be retrieved at a steady pace with an occasional slight twitch from the end of your rod tip throughout the course of the retrieve. They’re nothing short of fun, and can be downright effective at catching big cold-water trout when worked properly amongst the right conditions.
Top waters will also produce during the next couple months, with some of the favorites being any of the larger surface walkers by MirrOlure, Heddon, and Rapala, to include the newer ones made available by the Paul Brown line of lures. One reason to throw top waters this month and next is that you’ll need to be presenting bigger baits because big trout are usually looking for a large meal right now, like a single (big) mullet for example. You’ll also find that these heavier top water baits are quite easy to toss and to retrieve in high-wind conditions that we’re so often faced with during this time of the year. Large top water lures should definitely have a permanent spot in your wintertime tackle box, as they have certainly yielded full stringers on many wintertime occasions.
If you prefer hunting your big trout this winter using soft plastic tails, then you might think seriously about lightening your overall presentation. Cold weather trout tend to move rather slowly during this time of the year, and because of this you should look at using a 1/16-ounce lead-head with your plastic tails versus the 1/8-ounce head that you may typically otherwise throw. Granted, numerous and massive strikes in February may become few-and-far-between, but try not to get frustrated when the action’s slow. Just keep grinding, and remember that good things always seem to come to those who persevere the cold during wintertime!
In closing, we’d like to remind everyone of our 2019 HUNT FOR TROPHY TROUT SPECIAL. From now through the end of February, wade fishing guests will receive a $25 DISCOUNT off their nightly lodging and meals each day. There are several February dates still available, but they’ll go fast, so don’t hesitate in phoning and making your reservations today…1-888-677-4868.
Capt. Stephen Boriskie– Good few days with calm conditions and pleasant temperatures made for some relaxation and trout catching on Vudu Shrimp and Texas Tackle Factory soft plastics. The bite is steady, and they don’t care what they eat, so come get you some at Bay Flats Lodge Resort & Marina in Seadrift, TX 1-888-677-4868.
Capt. ‘Lil John Wyatt– Great times were made Wednesday and Thursday with these guys. Lots of stories were told, and plenty of fish were put in the box. It was one of those trips where I feel like there will also be a lot of stories told when they home! Good times!
FRIDAY – Nov 30th
Capt. Chris Martin– Went grocery shopping today with Capt. Buzz Dillon. Today’s grocery store was made up of drains over mud and grass, where the tides came up along with the temperature. It was foggy early in the day, but south winds later in the morning gradually built to 15-18mph. Glow colored Corky devils worked well, along with Reaction Strike plum/chartreuse plastic tails rigged on a 1/8oz. jig-head while being dredged across the bay floor. I may not have achieved a personal-best fish today, but I certainly had a great day of fishing with a fellow fishing guide.
Capt. Doug Russell– Three at a time today for a solid hour. Burning arms and a broken net, but fun! These monsters provided some great fun today, and everyone got in on the act!
Capt. Perry Rankin– Well, the day started off being a bit foggy with lots of smaller fish, but Jerry and Gary finally picked up some good fish. These guys had a great time with lots of fish to take home. Looks like they will be back next year!
SATURDAY – Dec 1st
Capt. Jeremy McClelland– Got to guide some good men on Friday and Saturday with good results! The trout we found were “thick” fish (lots of meat to ‘em)! We got into some reds also that were perfect for both a tremendous fight, as well as a spectacular meal!
As I halt all outdoor activities while this strong cold front bears down on us today in the middle coast I am reminded of how solid the first half of October has been. When the calendar turned to ten-one, it was almost like a switch was flipped and all of the sudden we had higher, more normal Fall water levels. The air seemed different even though a front had not slipped through. The water seemed cooler and the fish more active. The days are shorter giving way to more overnight rest. Even the crowds had thinned out around here as if deer season had already begun. Add it all up and the result was a fish almost every cast!
Redfish are the talk right now with numbers of undersized fish in the 18″ to 19″ range abundant. My experience has been the smaller under 10″ rat reds are not as common as these larger ones ending up on the hook. Limits of slot redfish are almost the norm with a few oversize thrown in to keep it real. I have polled our guides with text messages throughout the day and they are catching similar fish too. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s live or dead shrimp but they are both working better than cutters.
The speckled trout catch isn’t up to snuff in my trips right now like in the past few years for this time of year. Most of my guys are in the boat throwing bait and I chalk it up to the higher than preferred winds we have been seeing due to these fronts that are now blasting through Texas. I cannot seem to get out on the reefs where they have been holding because of the angry bay both before and after the fronts. The wade fishing trips however have produced impressive numbers and size of trout using either croaker or lures, true to wading year round.
Black drum and Sheepshead with a rare showing of Flounder are the other species we have been boxing regularly in this first half of October. This is to say we are not limiting out on these guys but seeing good numbers. This should continue in the rest of the month and on into the end of the year.
It’s no wonder why this is our favorite time of the year and why the lodge is booked almost every guide for every day. This is the perfect time to round up the family or customers and get to the coast. When you are catching a fish on almost every cast it makes you realize what a wonderful abundant resource we have in our coastal waters. There are many to thank for such a bounty aside from mother nature and the time of the year. Conservation efforts are working and you can see that in the numbers of fish we have and also in the health of our bay and our estuaries. Donate where you can to these groups and participate with your time and effort to ensure the future generations not only will have the right to fish and the waters to do so, but they will likely enjoy days like we are having right now wearing out your arms and putting some fine fish on the dinner table.
The first couple weeks of October have produced a steady flow of fish for our guides, particularly large numbers of redfish and black drum. This is probably due to the higher tides we’ve experienced so far this month, and the fact that we didn’t seen any substantial change in the weather along our coastal bend area during the first part of the month. Until now, we’ve gotten a bit of rain and a brief north wind that cooled the daytime and nighttime temperatures a bit, but up until the third week in the month, trout catches have been shadowed by some really impressive catch-and-release activities on redfish. However, that’s all going to turn around for us now that the first major frontal passage has arrived.
The weather is changing right now, and so is the fishing pattern as we progress into the fall season. The weather one day might be cloudy and cold, and the next day sunny and warm. It’s for this reason that anglers should look for a bottom made-up primarily of mud, not sand. The atmospheric changes are telling the fish that it is now the time for them to begin transitioning to the insulating qualities offered by that of the wintertime mud. As bay waters continue to cool, a mud bottom acts as an insulator of sorts – the mud absorbs the heat of the daylight sun and holds the heat for a much longer period of time over that of sand. Big trout will instinctively probe the bay bottom in search these warmer spots, and will look for food in surrounding areas. This transition to mud takes place every year at this time, and wading anglers who don’t mind getting into water with knee-deep mud can often expect rewards that outweigh the difficult walking.
An effective wading pattern to exercise during this period of seasonal change is the zigzag routine. At this time of the year you may find the fish warming themselves in bright sunlight in skinny water, or they might be clinging to the depths of deeper water for security and warmth. That’s why walking back-and-forth between shallow and deep water is a good idea. Start your wade session in deeper water so you don’t startle any fish that may already be in shallow water – face the shoreline and walk toward it. Fan your casts from three o’clock to nine o’clock as you walk in a diagonal line directly toward the shore. Once you’re in shallow water, turn your back to the shoreline and walk in a diagonal line away from the shore while heading back out to deeper water. This is a proven method of attack during this changing time in the year, and it allows you to cover a lot of territory, as well. Good luck out there, and be safe!