Spring is a time of change in Rockport, Texas; days get longer, nights get shorter, one day cold, next day hot, wind 30 mph from the north, wind 30 mph from the south. No wind, high tides, low tides, high pressure, low pressure…The possibilities and combinations are endless. Each day brings a new set of circumstances creating a dynamic weather pattern with very little consistency in the spring. This is much different than the dog days of summer where each day can almost be a carbon copy of the day before for weeks at a time. I sit here and write this surrounded by a diverse assortment of tackle that I am preparing for the next day. I’m like child that dumped its toy basket and is trying to play with everything at once. Eventually I narrow down my favorites and clean up the rest but not without some serious thought. When every day of fishing is different from the day before I must also think different to keep up with every change. Easier said than done.
Despite the complicated nature of spring fishing patterns there is a method to my madness with regards to my approach each day. You shouldn’t let yesterday blind you from seeing what is directly in front of your eyes at the present. I think that can be said for many aspects of life but it is especially true for fishing. A slight change in any weather or hydrology can make fish stop feeding in one area and begin feeding in another like a light switch turning off and on. This seems to be the case for much of the spring so even if you caught fish in one particular location at a certain time with a certain technique you shouldn’t count on it working for long. Maybe next year with similar conditions? Take note. Wind direction shifted from north to south, tide came up six inches overnight: Want to make me a bet?
Appropriate strategy is always a gamble when it comes to fishing but refining your game can put you ahead of the fish in terms of odds. This is my job and Id’ like to think that I have mastered it but even the best poker players loose. There are days that still leave me baffled as to why I’m not catching or why I caught fish the way that I did. Fishing is very similar to poker because you have basic strategy. Assuming that you understand basic strategy and play by the rules your odds of success are at their best. Mother Nature is the dealer like in a game of blackjack and she throws down something extreme like low tides and high winds; dealer shows an ace if you will. What should you do? Purchase insurance; fill your gas tank, take multiple types of baits and be ready to work hard because the house could win. With any luck there isn’t a jack sitting beneath the unturned card but at least you’re prepared.
I play by basic strategy every day that I fish but it also pays to bend the rules sometimes. Sometimes different or new is the answer to fishing success. I have had days where after stubbornly playing by the rules for most of the day, the only bite that I have had is from a mosquito. Stick to basic strategy or break free and make a risky bet? Probably not a good idea in a casino but on the water your only loss is time wasted especially when you’re considering eating your bait for dinner because you don’t have a fish in the box. Fishing a location differently or using unconventional techniques when nothing else is working can lead to successful fishing from time to time. Forget about what you know and learn something new. Even if it doesn’t work you can learn from the mistake and every once in a while different or new does work, ultimately making you a better fisherman.
With all of this said it’s time to for me to lay out some basic strategy. It’s impossible for me to describe each scenario as they are endless but there are a few factors that you should keep in mind during the spring. The first is wind. North, south, east, west, heavy or light. In the spring along the Texas Gulf Coast there tends to be lots of heavy wind. It’s not uncommon for me to fish in sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph. I tend to focus on redfish and drum with heavy wind because they feed best in response to turbulent off colored waters. On the other hand, in light winds I focus primarily on speckled trout because they feed best in response to calmer conditions. Determining what you fish for in the spring is the first step. Allow the conditions to describe the possibilities to you.
Once you have determined what species you should target it’s time to focus on where. By combining the wind with tide level your search for fishing locations begins to narrow. Where can you go and where can the fish go based on tide and wind? Let’s assume my least favorite scenario, Mother Nature dealt the ace, high wind and low tide. Scratch off trout because of high wind, focus on reds and drum. They have a tendency to always stay shallow regardless of tide level. Reds and drum are forced into cuts, guts, and depressions sometimes even becoming trapped. The trick is getting to these locations in a boat and sometimes wade fishing into them is the answer. Let’s assume the opposite, high tides and light wind. I tend to scratch off reds and drum and focus on the fair weather trout on flooded shorelines and mid-bay reefs. Allow the wind and tide to help you determine location with respect to species.
As mentioned before spring is a time of change and this includes fish diet. Determining what bait or lure to use is another important factor to consider. During the spring to summer transition as water temperature warms, redfish will tend to shift their diet away from shrimp to bait fish such as mullet, perch and sometimes croaker. The same goes for trout as they shift from shrimp to mullet, croaker and perch. The bait or lure you choose should mimic what they are feeding on. Easier said than done when every day is different. I personally use live shrimp for trout until the average size of croaker becomes 3-4 inches long consistently. For reds I gradually transition from shrimp to cut and live mullet as the water warms. Cut shad, cut perch and sea lice (mantis shrimp) are also popular spring time baits for reds and some days I take multiple types. Just as quickly as conditions change so does diet, so don’t forget to purchase your insurance.
Change is always occurring. Still surrounded by my spilt box of fishing toys I look at the Dr. Seuss like half trees that somehow survived hurricane Harvey and sprouted branches with leaves growing in mysterious directions. An ominous and ghostly whistling sound sings to me from beneath the tiny gap under my door telling me that the wind has begun to shift from north to east and soon to south. A humming bird landed on the tip of my fishing pole the other day in the middle of San Antonio bay. It’s not often that you see a humming bird stop flying, and to land on the tip of my fishing pole surrounded by dead calm glassy water… An omen maybe? If nothing else it was a beautiful sight and we caught fish shortly after. We were fortunate enough to play our cards right that day; basic strategy with some modification did the trick. I will clean up my mess for now but I’m sure that tomorrow will lead to another as everything changes again.
Thus far, 2018 has been a great year for fishing. Over the next few month’s speckled trout, redfish, drum and flounder will occupy the spotlight but many other species rest backstage. Sharks, kingfish, cobia, Jacks and snapper are all possibilities as summer approaches. I’m truly blessed to share my passion with others and look forward to the coming months. Whether you are interested in learning, or just relaxing and having a good time while catching some fish give me a shout!
-Capt. Johan Coombs
“You can’t stop the future, you can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret… is to press play.”