by Captain Chris Martin-Bay Flats Lodge
If the month of April was to have been an indication as to what lies in store for us in May and the rest of the summer months, then things may heat-up around here quite rapidly. Rainfall wasn't very abundant, and the ground and the air are both fairly dry. We can only hope that we don't have a repeat of last year's grueling drought conditions as it would only further the hardships being experienced by folks all around our state, not to mention the effects it could have on our coastal fisheries. Since April didn't bring many showers, maybe the month of May will – according to the weather experts the Texas coast is either in store for an unusual wet May, or the spring rains simply are not going to occur this year. Although we had rather low precipitation levels in April, we still encountered the accustomed strong winds of springtime, and they haven't tapered-off much, if any, as of this writing. The air temperatures, too, seem to be a bit higher than normal for what we are used to seeing at this time in the year. Some locations around the state have already reached beyond the century mark on their thermometers. The past month also showed us abnormal and unpredictable tidal activity that made it extremely difficult for me to plan any one given fishing strategy for any one given day – normal or high tide one morning, with an absolutely exposed muddy shoreline low tide the next. In a nutshell, I guess what I'm trying to explain here is that this past month and the next couple months ahead are probably some of the more notable times of the year for changing conditions and that these are times that call for changes in our blueprint for fishing success. There are a lot of us out there who will embrace these changes and drive onward, but there are also those of us who may just find the immediate upcoming months as being some of the more challenging times of the year simply due to the amount of change taking place right now.
You don't have to become a victim of the changing times. Since change always seems to be inevitable, why not learn to plan for it accordingly, and then act upon your plans? Sound like a good idea? Well here are a few suggestions that might help you along the way. One of the first changes I begin making to my tactics at this time of the year is that I start looking for pods of baitfish instead of single baitfish when scouting for a place to stop the boat and begin wading. Springtime is when everything in nature rejuvenates and comes alive with action. And this means the baitfish will be doing the same, and a lot of times in great numbers. The pods will tend to position themselves over the cool and protected depths of shallow water shorelines during dark and early morning hours prior to the sun advancing high into the sky and heating the water. This brings about yet another change for me that makes this month different from that of earlier months of the year, and that's the fact that I now will be focusing on beginning my wading sessions earlier in the morning each day – no more mid-morning starts! From now on, I'll be getting out of the boat before the sun breaks over the horizon. Also, instead of starting out the morning in deeper water, I now will probably not be getting my thighs wet until at least the second or third hour of bright sunlight, possibly even later if presented with heavy overcast conditions. I'll position myself so as to be able to take full advantage of the larger pods of baitfish that have sought refuge upon the shallows overnight. Then, as the sun rises into the sky and the shallow water begins to warm, I will then begin a somewhat slow transition out to deeper water, all the while following the baitfish as they do the same. As I pursue the pods into deeper water, I'll change another tactic over those of previous months. Instead of primarily working only the lower portion of the water column, I will now begin working the upper portion, then the middle portion, and then the lower portion. Once I've reached thigh-to-waist deep water I'll stop in my tracks. I'll then begin fanning the area sufficiently while tossing one of my favored top water plugs from left-to-right and then back again. If the surface walker draws no attention, before moving out of that spot I'll tie-on a sub-surface walker or suspending bait and will repeat the process. If I don't entice a strike in the middle portion of the water column, then I'll attach a plastic bottom-dweller before wading any further out into deeper water. I'll generally locate the bite in one of these three areas of the water column at this time in the year. Unfortunately, I'll sometimes have to work a while before finding it – but that's why they call it fishing, I guess!
The month of May presents water temperatures that are warm enough to support wade-fishing without the use of chest waders. So, I want to remind everyone to be careful in their approach of the upcoming summertime heat. This is a time of the year that can be hazardous to your health, literally. Don't forget to protect your arms and legs with long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and to protect your areas of exposed skin with an ample of amount of sunscreen during the day. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, and remember to eat when you get hungry. You'll be glad you did!