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Texas Gulf Coast Report

1/4/2010

Editor's note: Doug Pike spent 23 years as the outdoors columnist at the Houston Chronicle, nine years and counting on radio (he's the host of the Doug Pike Show on 790 the Sports Animal), two years and counting as back-page humor columnist for Saltwater Sportsman, 10 years and counting on the masthead for Field & Stream, two years and counting on the masthead and as columnist for Texas Fish & Game, 10 years editor of Tide magazine for CCA. He has won more than 100 state and national awards for writing, photography, broadcast and editing.

It filled nearly the entire Gulf of Mexico, but the low pressure system that held Texas anglers' attention this past weekend delivered little more than a damp breeze.

Fishermen were glad to have been spared any serious wind but could have used more rain. Bay systems generally remain more salty than normal, even in the already hypersaline sprawl of the Laguna Madre.

Speckled trout action remained steady from one end of the state to the other. Anglers along the upper coast generally are getting their fish under working gulls and around schools of mullet or menhaden.

Soft plastics fished on light jigheads are working as they always have, and the single hook of a jig makes for easy removal during fast action. (Worth noting: You'll get back into the action faster if you mash hook barbs flat this time of year. Keep a taut line, and you won't lose any more fish than you might with barbed hooks.)

There also still are some exceptional trout being caught on live bait and MirrOlure Mirrodine suspending plugs in the surf from Galveston to Matagorda.

Jetty fishermen soaking fresh-dead shrimp along the channel sides of the north and south are boxing mixed strings of black drum, redfish and sheepshead. Mild temperatures along the upper coast will encourage even more redfish activity through coming weeks.

Oversized reds gathering in the surf for their annual spawn are more aggressive when the Gulf turns a bit rough, but calm conditions enable nearshore anglers to see and cast into huge schools of huge fish. Throw heavy jigs or spoons on serious casting rigs, and don't expect to pull any lure through a school of bull reds without a solid hookup.

There's still a good deep-water bite for king mackerel and amberjack from Port Aransas south to Port Isabel, and a new state-record swordfish (326 pounds) was taken about a week ago off Freeport.

The most experienced swordfish anglers in Texas say there are even bigger swordfish available off Texas now and that the state's billfishing is far better than the rest of the world's blue-water anglers may realize.

Blue marlin fishing along the upper and middle coast has become a reliable pursuit thanks in combination to better tide and current information, faster and longer-range boats, and the constant exchange of ideas between avid fishermen.

The northwestern Gulf has many semi-submersible production platforms at 90-150 miles — locals call them "fish feeders" — and all are productive. Jigs or live bait worked around the structure tend to produce at least one marlin bite, plus a mix of wahoo, dorado and tuna, per day of effort.

On the shallow flats of deep South Texas, redfish are schooled up and feeding their way across flats. Good numbers of fish were taken this past week on topwaters and DOA Shrimp pitched into sand holes.

The snook bite was fair in South Bay near Port Isabel; the jetty there produces steady snook, tarpon and mackerel this time of year on topwaters, swimming plugs and jigs. You'll need a boat or the agility of a mountain goat to take advantage, but the effort nearly always will be rewarded.

At this writing, there were three low pressure systems in the Atlantic, but none was expected to do much for the next couple of days. Kindly keep all fingers crossed a little longer.