Sight Fishers’ Guide

Sight Fishers’ Guide

~Captain Steve Soule'~

Sight fishing can be one of the most exciting ways to fish. It can also be one of the most challenging and complex. There are a lot of things that must come together to make a good sight fishing experience. Every day is different, in the things that you will see, reaction of the fish and the conditions that you will have to deal with. I have collected a lot of memories over the years and have always tried to put myself in situations where I can sight cast. By now, it’s safe to say that I have thousands of hours practicing my sight casting skills and learning from the fish. My experience has come from all over the Gulf of Mexico coastal waters, from Texas to Florida, and there a many consistencies that I have learned. I have put together a short (ish) list of some of the things that will come in handy to anyone who finds shallow water and sight casting of interest.

The location– First and foremost, if you want to be successful at sight fishing, you need to start in an area that holds fish. Now, not only does it need to hold fish, but they must be visible somehow. There are the obvious signs, tails, and other surface disruptions such as wakes or fish eating at the surface. Then there are some subtle details that can lead you to fish, surface activity from prey or bait species. Jumping shrimp, finger mullet, glass minnows and shad, though not always a guarantee. There are also clear water scenarios where you can actually see the fish in the water. It may take some time to uncover the best areas for the bay that you fish, but start by thinking shallow. If you are fishing in water greater than a foot deep, you probably won’t see much. . I can’t tell you everywhere to look because that would take all the fun out of this for you.

Understand the fish’s movements– This is where time on the water pays big dividends. If you have spent enough hours on the water you will have a better understanding of what the fish do at different tide stages and heights. Here are a couple of thoughts that will get you started. As a general rule, on an incoming tide, fish will move deeper onto the flats or farther into the marsh. On falling tides, fish will stage at the outside edges of flats and marshes, waiting for the prey to escape the falling water. Often on an open flat, the fish will move out slightly deeper to a change line like the transition from grass to sand, or a slight drop off edge along a flat. Trout and redfish, like to ambush their prey. Having a slight change in water depth, or structure change is the perfect place for them to stage and wait for feeding opportunities. As an angler, you should always be looking to find what concentrates fish in the area that you are fishing. Every spot is different, some will be better on certain tides. Don’t forget that tide height plays a big role in the location of the fish as well. If you know the structure on the flat, you will have a better understanding of where the fish will be able to find a desirable water level and structure at varying tide levels. I have spoken about this in previous articles, but always keep in mind that fish move and we have to learn to move with them.

The approach– This is an art, and requires skill to perfect. Noise becomes a huge issue, along with the anglers ability to move stealthily. It doesn’t really matter how you get to the fish, just that you do it quietly. Wading is often effective, but I have seen it too many times that if someone can’t wade quietly, they never see the fish. You have got to take your time when stalking fish. There is an added bonus of safety in doing this as well. Quiet is the key. I have to remind people on my boat that noise travels significantly farther through water. Voices aren’t normally the issue, it’s the sound of a foot step, or the errant placement of a solid object on the deck of a boat.

When you have a nearly silent poling skiff like I’m fishing from, every sound becomes more pronounced. Another stealth issue is that when we are in stalking mode, movements from the deck of the boat have to be kept to a minimum. The next time you are in calm water, move from one side of your boat to the other and watch the wave that results. In ultra shallow water, this “pressure wave” is like a fire alarm going off in a library. Fish feel this!! Even if they don’t spook immediately, they have been warned that something large is lurking nearby. Fish sense vibration and it is more the vibration that alerts them to movement, so like when you wade, every movement must be slow and deliberate, and every effort made to prevent additional sound or vibration.

Your equipment– Whether you wade, drift, pole or kayak, there is one single piece of equipment that can’t be overlooked if you want to be successful at sight casting. You absolutely must have a good pair of polarizing sunglasses. This is an area where a lot of people make a mistake. This is not just sunglasses, but polarized. You have to realize that the quality of the glasses that you choose will make a huge difference in your experience. But you have to have polarized glasses to see the fish, and signs of fish. Here’s where most people make the mistake, certain color lenses are better at allowing visibility in certain situations. For sight casting, you need either an amber or yellow tint. Gray lenses, though great at easing eye strain and blocking more light, are not going to give you the contrast that is needed to pick out a fish in the water. The amber and yellow tints tend to enhance color and allow you to see the red over green or other color separation that will help you spot fish in the water.

Obviously, the fish that you are targeting will have some bearing on the tackle that you use, but for now let’s talk about trout and redfish that are commonly found along the Texas Coast. I have a distinct affinity to sight casting with a fly rod, but I realize that this isn’t for everyone, so I will focus more on standard tackle. With the fly rod, an 8 weight is the standard, 6 and 7 weight rods will work on many days, and on some days higher winds and longer casts may make a 9 weight the better tool. For the most part, if you only had one fly rod for sight casting Texas waters, it would be an 8. With a fly rod, you can get very specific with the size and replication of the prey animals, so I won’t go into the details, as that is another article in itself.

As for the conventional gear, my preference most days is a 6’6” to 6’9” casting rod. The rod needs to be fairly light in the tip section to cast well with some of the lighter lures that will be used in sight casting. Once you get into this kind of fishing, and develop some skill at stalking fish, you will realize that you make a lot of close quarters cast. The power requirements of the rods are more in the fish fighting area, and the fact that the fight is often close to the boat, where controlling the fish is critical. Even though I don’t fish them much, spinning rigs can be exceptional when sight casting. I grew up using them, but have somehow outgrown them. Look for a Light to medium light (3 power) spinning rig in the 7 to 7’6” range. This will give you all the tip action you need to throw and finesse light weight lures, just make sure that the rod has adequate backbone to fight the fish. 

Line and rigging aren’t much different that what you would normally use to throw lures on the bay. My personal preferences are mono in the 8-12 pound range or braid in the 8 pound diameter and 30 pound test. In the last year or so, I have switched all of my reels over to braid. It is especially advantageous with the spinning gear, where it won’t twist up like monofilament. Though I don’t think that our fish really demand the use of fluorocarbon leader for visibility reasons, it never hurts. The two main reasons that I use this leader system are: 1 it is very abrasion resistant and 2 braid and mono of smaller diameter tend to hang up in split rings. Make sure that you are buying the fluorocarbon spools designed for use as leader not fishing line, there is a difference. I find that 20 to 30 pound test is sufficient for the most abrasive trout and redfish and their haunts. Tie the line to leader with a Uni-Knot. It is a quick knot that is easy to learn, and very secure. It can also be trimmed very close to prevent the “grass gathering” that some other knots allow.

Your abilities– This proves to be more of a challenge to anglers than most of us would give it credit. If you haven’t spent time casting at a target, now is the time. I have fished with a lot of very experienced anglers over the years, but most who haven’t spent time with this type of fishing, struggle at first. Most anglers, who go out and fish the bays, don’t really have to hit pinpoint accuracy with our casts. We tend to throw at a general area and spend more time focused on the distance aspect of the cast. I guess that having grown up sight casting, I learned early that throwing at a target often yields a better result. I rarely cast without having a target in mind. Practice this! When you are on the water fishing, pick targets, and learn to hit them consistently. When you get your sight casting shots, you will have to be spot on to get the most bites. Here are a few targets that will improve your open water fishing as well. Cast at every jumping mullet, shrimp or glass minnow that you see. Practice getting very close to the target, and understanding which direction they are moving so that you can present the lure in front of the fish.

Proximity of the fish– I know, big words….what do they mean… The distance that you are from the fish is critical. I always have that urge to cast just as soon as I spot a fish. Granted, there is nothing like hooking a fish at a long distance and taking pride in the skill involved, but more often than not, those casts are the ones that failed. It’s beneficial to spot the fish at a greater distance, but better to wait until you understand what the fish is doing. If you spot the fish, but can’t tell what direction she is facing, your chances are only 50%. If you are patient and ease closer to the fish, determine the direction she is facing, your chances improve dramatically. Add to that, you can now make a gently cast, so that your offering lands without near as much commotion. If you are fishing in inches of water, this is critical, just like the sounds on the boat or wading, this can and will spook your fish.

Angle of attack– This one gets people all the time, at all experience levels. Don’t let yourself get in a hurry. Just like the distance above, the direction that you present the lure from can make all the difference in the world. Here’s what you have to understand: No species of fish, including apex predators like sharks, will eat an animal that swims directly towards their face. It’s not natural for any prey animal to swim directly at their predator. When you sight cast, this is blindingly obvious, you will see the scene played out over and over again. If you could sit and watch fish as they feed naturally, you would see, they always attack from the side or from behind. There is a funny correlation, think about the examples below. All of your short strikes, when blind fishing, are from behind. We often get a bite but can’t catch up to the fish fast enough to get the hook up. You never get a hit that immediately goes 180 degrees opposite of the direction of retrieve.

We have all dealt with this, but until you watch a fish’s reaction to a lure swimming at them, you may not make the connection, and yes I have tried with sharks in clear water. To the extreme, I have watched sharks greater than 5 feet turn away from a lure that was only inches, swimming towards them at too small of an angle. Next cast placed correctly, instant hook up!

Think of it this way, your casts should be at angles as near to 90 degrees, or perpendicular to the fish as possible. Your presentation should cross the path of the fish, close enough to be noticed, but not so close that the fish spooks. Vague, I know, but it varies from day to day and fish to fish. This is something that you learn from time watching fish in the water. There are 3 typical scenarios that you will see in shallow water sight fishing. 1) Tailing fish 2) Cruising fish 3) Laid up fish. Each is different and requires a different cast and “lead” to increase the odds of hook up.

Tailing fish, especially on the Upper Texas Coast, require a fairly close cast, often within a foot. On a calm day, I would say cast two feet beyond the fish, in a line where your lure will come within a foot or less as it passes the fish. This way you are less likely to disturb the fish when the lure lands, yet still will be able to get her attention. Some days tailing fish are so engrossed in what they are doing that this won’t work, then you have to present the lure closer. Start with more than you think is necessary then decrease. At least you won’t spook the fish before you get a decent shot. Pods of tailing fish are different. The biggest rule here is, don’t cast to the middle of the pod, pick the fish from the outside, and do NOT cast across the school.

Cruising fish, are often more challenging. Though they are usually up and feeding, they are now a moving target, where the tailing fish was nearly stationary. Again keep the angle as near to 90 degrees as possible, and watch the fish so that you can get a feel for speed and direction. Lead should be in the range of 2 & 2. In other words, the cast should be two feet beyond the fish, and two feet in front of the fish. Some days, this distance will have to be increased, such as ultra clear and ultra shallow water. The same would apply on a very calm day. Other days, you may have to land the lure very close to get the fish’s attention due to water conditions or fish that are actively chasing prey and changing direction frequently.

Laid up fish. These are probably the most challenging fish to catch. Typically, this is how I spot big trout. They are often up on the flats for the solitude and protection afforded there. They are out of reach of most predators, and away from the majority of the boat traffic. (If you own a tunnel hull boat and read this thinking, I can find them on plane. Please don’t! You only reduce the odds of seeing them for all of us). Laid up fish aren’t moving and typically aren’t feeding. They are however opportunistic predators and can be convinced to eat. It takes exceptional stealth to get near them and a great presentation most days to get their attention. I say that they are the most difficult because they are so hard to see before you are on top of them. When you do spot the laid up fish, presentation is critical. Make sure that your angles are right. An overcast (cast beyond the fish) that will allow subtle lure presentation and a crossing path, yet not be too close or too far. I guess that the perfect cast would cross the fish at about 12 to 16 inches ahead. If you get too close, you risk spooking the fish, too far and they just won’t move or even notice your lure.

If you are starting to get exited, welcome to my world. I have been living with these visions of fish lurching forward to eat my lures and flies for nearly 3 decades now. There are truly few things in inshore fishing that are more exciting than stalking a big fish in shallow water and executing a perfect cast. Especially when your perfect cast gets eaten and you get to watch the whole scene played out in real time. Adding the visual aspect to the fishing knocks the excitement level through the roof. It takes a lot of preparation, skill and a good bit of luck to make it happen, but when you do, you won’t ever forget it. Watching that fish “hunted” fish perk up, pectoral fins straight out, the kick of the tail, and then the gill flare as she eats. Now all you have to do is make sure that you don’t react too soon. Learning the proper hook-set is the final ingredient to the experience. I preach this method in all situations, sight casting and fishing with top waters are where it is most evident, but it applies anywhere that you can see or feel a fish bite. It goes back to how “does the fish eat?”, from behind or beside its prey!

When you see a fish take a lure, DON’T REACT!!!! Continue your retrieve. You can’t set the hook effectively until the fish has closed her mouth, and your odds will improve dramatically after the fish has changed direction. Think about all those bites that you couldn’t ever catch up to. The fish is coming towards you and it is just too easy to pull the lure right back out of the hole that it went into. When you see or feel the bite, continue the retrieve or reel down until the line comes tight to the fish. Usually, this will be enough to get the fish to change direction, and in most cases, if the line is already tight, you won’t have to set the hook much. If you feel the need, use a low to the water sweeping motion, not an upward swing. If you do pull the lure away from the fish, it won’t go as far as with an upward motion.

Now that you understand how and where to look, the subtleties of the approach and presentation, there’s only one thing left. Pick a day and get on the water for some new and challenging fishing fun!

Good luck and tight lines!

Autumn Weekends are for Snapper Fishing

Article written by David Sikes

October 24, 2010

Corpus Christi Caller – Times

— Miss Ann’s 16 cylinders rumbled patiently in her new berth, dispatching subtle ripples through still waters at Island Moorings Marina this past weekend.

It was a cool dawn with barely a breeze, promising the kind of gulf conditions that cause even the queasiest anglers to leave their seasick remedies behind.

The slips at Island Moorings were unfamiliar surroundings for the handsome Miss Ann, a well-traveled, vintage, 33-foot Bertram sportfisher owned by Bill L. Olson, Houston publisher of Texas Outdoors Journal magazine. On board for this trip was Olson’s son Billy, who ably assumed deckhand duties, and his angler friends David Roe and Daniel Bowman.

This would be the maiden voyage out of Port Aransas for the Miss Ann and the first time in years any of us had fished for red snapper in October. The ever shrinking federal snapper season has been a summer thing since the species was declared overfished about a decade ago. But dramatic management measures have yielded positive results. Anglers still must abide by a two-fish daily limit. But for the first time in years the fees recently raised the annual harvest quota on red snapper.

And you may recall last month when federal fisheries managers decided to reopen snapper season in federal waters to compensate for a lack of fishing during the BP oil spill.

The Fisheries Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that recreational anglers had caught only 1.1 million pounds of this year’s red snapper allotment, which was set at 3.4 million pounds.

So the agency is providing anglers a shot at catching the remaining 2.3 million pounds during a 24-day extended season that started Oct. 1 and will run through Nov. 21. To maximize recreational opportunities, snapper fishing in federal waters during this period is allowed only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Judging by the smiles and piles of fish at offshore outfitter docks in Port Aransas, the return to fall snapper fishing has been bountiful. And as a bonus, anglers willing to endure the longer party boat trips are returning with a good mix of snapper and blackfin tuna.

What could be better?

That’s easy to answer. How about fishing in single digit winds with seas less than a foot. Throw in a few good friends and a comfortable boat and you have the makings of a remarkable fishing day.

I should mention that the classic Miss Ann has a patron saint. Ask either of the Olson boys and they’ll tell you that each voyage aboard the Miss Ann is blessed by her namesake, the late wife of Bill and mother of Billy.

Ann Olson succumbed to brain cancer in 2006.

She was a vibrant professional woman who enjoyed fishing and hunting and family. With Bill, Ann cofounded the Houston Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, securing her place among Texas conservationists.

But Ann’s legacy embarked on an unexpected path when Bill got the urge to resurrect a 1987 Bertram about a year after his wife’s death. He bought the boat in Georgia from a man who had been called unexpected overseas on business for an extended stay. The boat needed some work. But it was a quick sale, probably the result of Bill’s newfound carpe diem (seize the day) attitude that had emerged from his recent loss. Soon, the boat had a new name and new life.

It would have been too much trouble to trailer her home, so Bill decided a family adventure was in order.

Here is where Miss Ann’s mission became clear. Bill could have hired someone for the job. But instead, three generations of Olsons — Bill, Billy and Bill’s dad, Sam L. Olson — bonded during a nine-day, nearly 2,000-mile voyage along the East Coast, around Florida and across the open gulf to Texas. The Miss Ann brought them together and then ferried them safety home.

Following a face-lift and major engine work, a renewed Miss Ann came home to Port Aransas where her patron saint continues to bring together the father and son she never left.

This past Saturday, the elder Olson beamed from the flybridge at the humor and harmony on the deck below. He motored out about 40 miles to a rocky area called Hospital. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the irony of bringing Miss Ann to Hospital occurred to her captain. I didn’t bring it up.

Billy rigged lines and set out five baits at various distances for the inaugural troll.

Within minutes three of the reels were squealing. We were hoping for wahoo or maybe blackfin tuna. Instead we had hooked three bonita or little tunny. We kept two for bait and released the other.

We trolled for a while between Hospital and the Aransas Banks, continuing to hook bonita when finally one of the reels sang with a higher pitch.

David Roe, an inexperienced angler who has not fished since he was a boy, grabbed the rod as Bill reined in Miss Ann’s 488 horses. The mystery fish certainly was not a bonita, judging by the strain on Roe’s face and the stubborn yank on his line.

Billy Olson coached while calmly playing the role of level wind so the line on Roe’s reel would be evenly distributed. The teamwork paid off handsomely with a 17-pound prize, a blackfin tuna.

We were about 42-miles out.

Where there is one tuna there usually are more. We assumed additional tuna were well below the surface. But those aggressive bonita wouldn’t allow a bait to get past them.

So we left in search of snapper, stopping a couple times along the way to set out lines where we saw birds and surface activity.

At about 22 miles from Port Aransas, the Miss Ann idled up to a platform with an audible warning siren blaring intermittently. Five boats clustered around the legs of the rig. I spotted three small snapper being caught and released as we approached. The Miss Ann had no intention of joining the crowd.

Bill steered the boat well to the left of the platform and began scanning his depth finder. We were at least 150 yards from the rig when Bill maneuvered the boat to a standstill.

“OK, drop ‘em,” he shouted.

Two of us hooked up immediately. Mine was about a 10-pound red snapper, a good sign.

For the next 45 minutes we yanked snapper from this spot. Most were in the 10- to 12-pound range.

This didn’t go unnoticed by the anglers aboard the other boats. One by one each of the boats backed off from the rig and lowered their lines.

After everyone aboard the Miss Ann caught a limit of snapper, Billy filleted one of the bonita and Bill steered the boat up to the legs of the rig.

We wanted to try for a grouper with bigger baits.

But it was impossible to avoid the snapper. So Bill turned the bow westward and the Miss Ann brought her satisfied crew safely home.

Federal red snapper season is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 21.

Charter boat opportunities Port Aransas

For smaller charter boats (33-foot and smaller) fees generally range from $900 for two anglers; $1,000 for four; and $1,100 for six.

On larger private charter boats, fees generally range from $1,500 to $1,600 for an eight-hour trip with up to six anglers.

To book a trip, contact the Texas Charter Fleet at 866-893-5338 or e-mail

Party boats offer more affordable trips with a less intimate atmosphere.

Deep Sea Headquarters (800-705-3474) offers daily eight-hour trips for $85 and 12-hour trips on Wednesday and Saturday for $105. Snapper are off-limits on the Wednesday trips.

Fisherman’s Wharf (800-605-5448) offers a nine-hour snapper trip each day of the season for $85. And on Saturday they’ll offer an 11-hour snapper trip for $100 and a 12-hour overnight trip for $100.

Dolphin Docks (800-393-3474) has daily 8.5-hour snapper trips for $86 and 12-hour night trips on Fridays for $105. Dolphin Docks also will offer a 12-hour day trip from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday for $105. Ask about Dolphin Docks’ longer trips (depart Friday and return Sunday) during the season.

David Sikes’ Outdoors columns run on Thursday and Sunday. Contact David at (361) 886-3616 or

Good fishing in store for weekend anglers


By Joe Kent

Published October 16, 2010

The recent cool front has passed through, and it appears some excellent fishing will follow this weekend. The calm conditions forecast for today and Sunday should generate a lot of activity on the water.

Pelagic fish are being caught around the jetties, and tarpon are reported to be in West Bay. Reds are hitting in good numbers, and just about all other species are being taken. Fall is upon us, and the fishing is picking up.

Now, let’s take a look at where all of the action has been taking place.

More than 40 keeper fish were caught at the South Jetty (Gulf side) aboard Aqua Safari Charter’s Island Girl on Thursday for a party of seven.

Most of the fish were caught in the morning on Spanish sardines fished top and bottom.

The catch included one ling, 54 inches, one 20-pound kingfish, nine blacktip sharks to 30 pounds (boat limit), 26 large Spanish mackerel, one jack crevalle (released), three bull reds tagged, one cow nose ray released and many additional sharks, released.

My good friend James Selig, who has not been fishing in about 40 years, was talked into it last Saturday night by his Houston buddy Michael Bossart and his young daughters Collette and Isabella. The group spent their time at the Seawolf Park Pier where Collette managed to catch three fish at one time, plus snag a stingray, as did James and Michael.

The stingrays eluded eventual capture, Isabella proved she could sleep anywhere and through anything, and all had a great time. Perhaps this will trigger Selig’s renewed interest in fishing.

There was an unconfirmed report of a tarpon being hooked at the Tiki Island bridge by an angler fishing from a kayak. The big fish dragged the kayak to Jones Lake, where the angler eventually got the fish alongside. The silver king appeared to be 48 to 52 inches long and was released.

Opa Miller fished grassy areas and drains in Campbell’s Bayou and had a field day catching reds. Between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. the Texas City angler landed 13, with six exceeding 28 inches. Large live shrimp was the bait, and all of the fish were released except two.

Lloyd and Cookie Pepper, two of the legends in Galveston area fishing, are involved actively with Sea Center Texas’ youth program. Today, they are offering a free fishing day for kids younger than 15 at the Lake Jackson facility from 10 a.m. to noon. The kids need to bring their own rods and reels and bait. The fishing will include the use of hooks without barbs.

For information, call Lloyd Pepper at 409-737-1136.

To get your catch in the Reel Report, phone Capt. Joe Kent at 409-683-5273, or send an e-mail to There’s no charge for this service.


Tourney Results

Here is a list of teams that placed in last weekend’s West End Anglers West Bay Redfish Showdown Tournament.

1. Team Notorious

2. Team Third Stone

3. Tail Chasers

4. Team Reely

5. Team BAFM

6. Albert’s Hammer

7. Team Fish-N-Hunt

8. Tall Tails

9. Team Ibtsoom

10. Half Taco

11. Popovich/Soule’

12. Too Legit to Quit

13. See N Spots

Fall 2010 Newsletter


Fellow West End Anglers,

Our 2nd Annual Redfish Tournament will be held October 9, 2010 in Sea Isle. We are less than a week away from the big event and registration is open to all! To learn more about the Tournament or Register, Click Here.

The store is being updated with new items. If you have not visited it lately, take a second and stop by. We have moved the site over to a secure server which allows us to process credit cards on the site. Online Store

We would like to welcome several new sponsors to the website. We have High Tech Marine which is a great mobile marine repair company that will come to your dock. They are based out of Kemah so call Keith over at High Tech and get yourself on their schedule. Winter is coming soon and many anglers just leave their boats sitting.

Breakwater Marine Electronics is another new sponsors to FishWestEnd. Should you need any electronics, depth sounders, GPS or VHF radios call Derek over at Breakwater and he'll be glad to help you out. Whether you need something for your boat or instructions on how to properly operate all your new electronics, Breakwater Marine can help you out!

Finally we would like to say hello to Lutes Marine. Found up in Chocolate Bayou Lutes Marine is a full service marina waiting to serve you! Gas, Ice, Bait, Food and boat ramp they will make your day on the water that much more enjoyable!



Calculated Approach – Captain Steve Soule'

Understanding the Tides – Captain Greg Francis

Fishing West Bay? Whether your new to fishing West Bay or a seasoned angler this article by Captain Greg Francis is always a great read!

Guides, interested in getting your articles out to our readers? Drop us an e-mail

"Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am…a reluctant enthusiast…a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forest, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive them."

2nd Annual West Bay Redfish Showdown is scheduled for October 9, 2010. Register Now

Seafood Courtbullion – BradS' recipe

Redfish on the Half Shell – Imhammer's Recipe

Stuffed Flounder Casserole – 2112's Recipe

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Reef fishing is in its prime



Calculated Approach

Calculated Approach

Captain Steve Soule’

It isn’t frequent that the average bay angler takes time to plan their trip out in depth, or consider all of the details of the day ahead. If you look at the most successful anglers around the coastal waters you will find that they leave very little to chance. These guys and gals who fish tournaments and take customers out to earn a living can’t afford to take a haphazard approach to fishing. They may seem relaxed and fish may appear to flock to them, but very little happens that wasn’t expected. This isn’t a result of researching reports in the news papers and on the internet, or listening to radio shows. These plans are typically founded in years of on the water research and an intimate knowledge of the waters that they will fish and the species that they target.

It seems that today, more than I can ever remember seeing in the past, anglers are yearning to catch what the pros catch. The biggest problem is that they don’t recognize the effort that went into each successful day. None of the top pro anglers got to their level of success without a huge investment of time, money, frustration and desire. So, how does an angler new to the sport of fishing and craving a greater level of success in their personal fishing get to that level? The answer is neither simple nor likely to be what most readers would want to hear. It is however, the best and most fulfilling way to truly learn to catch, more, and bigger fish consistently.

To find success in fishing and create consistent and repeatable results, you need a plan. Unfortunately, not just any plan will work. The plan must be founded on known truths, most of which can only be found with first hand experience. For those unsure about how to create an effective plan for a great day of fishing, here are some guidelines.

Start with what knowledge you do have, add in some that can be gained from current local informational sources, and understand the factors that can and will affect your day. If you have knowledge of an area, this will probably be one of your best starting points. With that foundation of understanding of the area, you only need to look for the "signs" that your chosen location is holding fish today. Hopefully, the familiarity of the area allows you to know the tide flow and level, wind direction, and other pertinent water conditions that work well. There are days when you can "force" a pattern to work, but for most days, and most anglers, this isn’t a recipe for a fun day of fishing. Again, knowledge of more areas, especially of those that differ not only in location, but terrain as well, will help you achieve success in catching.

I always urge people to explore. This has saved me as a guide and tournament angler more times than I could ever remember. Exploring doesn’t just refer to driving off to a new location twenty miles away. Exploring the general area you fish, and water and shorelines adjacent to them, can often lead to a greater understanding of how the fish move within the area. These are the things that you need to know: where the fish are positioned on different tides and at different water levels? What are they feeding on and when do they want to eat? Do they feed in a distinct and defined area within the larger area? If they leave the immediate area, where do they go?

A great example of this is one of my favorite reef systems in the Galveston Bay Complex. This particular reef structure is fairly long, and very diverse, encompassing shallow and deep water, mud transitions, guts, and even a few small flats. Due to the reef’s orientation, both tide and wind can have a profound effect on the water flows around the reef. For years, my understanding of this reef was very simple. I knew it had a shallow ridge that exposed itself on low tide and the general area was mostly shell bottom. But, after many years of drifting and wade fishing the area, I can now identify at least 7 distinct guts in and around the reef, shallow flats in several areas and several very distinct feeding areas for the big trout and redfish that inhabit the general area. I can tell you on most days, in most conditions, which part of the reef the fish will most likely be on and when they will most likely eat. Again, nothing beats the time spent exploring and understanding the areas that you fish.

I have said for years that a drift-only angler will never have the kind of intimate knowledge that a competent wade angler will develop. This isn’t to say that you can’t learn well from a boat, it just takes longer to develop the same kind of understanding of the area. When you are drifting, you absolutely have to monitor the depth finder and note the various depth changes in an area. You will have to drift and repeat, numerous times, as you are only seeing a "small slice of the pie" that is directly under the boat; whereas, a wade fisher can zig-zag across the area and piece the puzzle together much faster.

So what are the key elements of the plan, and how do we develop a successful one? The answer has several important pieces. Know your weather conditions! Know your tides! Know both flow direction and level! Know the primary forage species that your targeted fish is currently dining on! Know the timing of when the fish are feeding best! With all of those things said, the single most important piece of your plan should always be: Know when it’s time to adjust your plan!!

Knowing your weather! This is fairly simple. Turn on the TV or get on the internet and you can find the pertinent details for the day. But you need to be able to relate what you see or read to what will happen at the spots that you intend to fish. Wind direction can be critical to water clarity and levels. It can also take away the ability to cast comfortably to the area that you want to target.

Knowing your tides! This is also just a click away on the internet. Find a reliable source for tide level and direction of movement. These two components can be two of the biggest determining factors in your success in saltwater fishing, especially if you are in an area that sees big swinging tides or the opposite where the tide movement can be nearly non-existent. If you fish back-bay areas, you would want the bigger tide movement days to move the prey species. Conversely, if you fish near a gulf pass, strong tides often make fishing very difficult as the bait and fish are literally flying by in the tide.

Knowing the forage species! For trout and redfish, there are a handful of forage species that are consistent throughout most of the year. Mullet are a year round target. Shrimp are prevalent during spring, summer, and fall. Shad show up during the spring and remain through the summer. The list goes on, but it can be important to know what is there and when they will be the primary target. Knowing the target prey can help in selecting lures and baits to improve success.

Know the timing that the fish are using to feed! This timing is usually related to one of only a handful of factors. Tide movement – usually fish will be on a pattern of feeding in one area during the incoming tide and another area during the outgoing tide. These may not be far apart, but will almost always relate to the way the tide will flow through the area and around the structural changes found there. Light, or lack thereof – fish will feed on certain species during certain light level conditions, mostly due to their ability to ambush that particular animal most effectively. Frontal passage can bring huge feeds, but its my opinion that it has the utmost to do with the change in barometric pressure. Knowing this, you can pick some things from your weather report that may help your day. Most of the time this is just something that you are effected by rather than planning on. I do however try to plan trips around impending pressure changes to see improved success in big trout fishing.

Know Moon phase and timing of position! This is something that you can definitely use to your advantage, and again, it’s readily accessible on the internet. All fish and animals tend to feed following a moon schedule more than any other factor and knowing the timing of rise, set, directly over and directly under, can have a huge impact on your plans and fishing success or failure.

What’s the impact of this knowledge? Well, you won’t know until you try, but here’s a few interesting stories from recent months that help to substantiate what I’m suggesting. Last week was a great example. I had been trying to make plans with my tournament partner, Daniel Popovich, but my work schedule wouldn’t allow. He ended up fishing one of our favorite shell patches on Monday evening, in what wouldn’t seem like ideal conditions .The wind was blowing at nearly 20 mph, it was very cloudy, somewhat foggy, and occasionally drizzling. Not that we haven’t seen these conditions produce huge stringers of trout in the past, and this day was no exception. He landed 9 trout that afternoon, between 22 and 27 inches. Of them, two were over 7 pounds and 3 others were over 5!! This was a classic case of knowing the spot, weather, and tidal conditions. The fish are also fairly predictable about feeding on the moon. I think that it was setting during the period when the best bite was going.

During every single one of the 5 tournaments that we have fished since December of 2009, our trout will consistently feed on the moon position. Obviously, we can’t plan to have a specific moon phase or position, but we go into each and every day knowing when to expect the best bite and making sure that we are in the area where we have the greatest confidence at that time. Another interesting note, they will feed even more aggressively when the moon hits a certain position, coinciding with a shift in barometric pressure.

During our second tournament in December, we spent seven hours without a single bite, but at around 1 pm, the fish in a very small area turned on and bit in a way that I have never seen before. This was one of the most prolific big trout bites that I have ever fished! In about an hour and fifteen minutes, I had 15 bites. I was only able to land 5 of the fish that bit, but the stringer weighed 14.85 pounds, and I didn’t come close to landing the biggest fish that bit. I only had one fish that was under four, while the biggest was 6.75 on the certified scales. I missed or couldn’t stop 5 trout that easily would have dwarfed the biggest trout of the day. It was both fascinating and infuriating, but enough to land us a 3rd place finish. The bite was right on the major feed period for the day based on moon event and in conjunction with a sharp drop in a rising barometer the first day after the passage of a very strong clod front. I’m not suggesting that most people go out and try to fish a frontal passage, and definitely not suggesting that anyone endanger themselves, but if you are there and can fish it safely, that can be one of the most amazing bites you will ever experience in trout fishing.

As you develop that understanding of the areas that you fish, you will likely learn the smaller areas within that area that the fish actually feed in. Then you can better understand how the tide will effect where they will be positioned, given a certain level of water and direction of flow. Add to that the knowledge of which tide they are using to feed the most and when the moon will motivate them to a peak of feeding. From these conditions and your knowledge of the fish, and experience in the area, you start to understand better how to approach the area, as well as the fish. Then, you are more likely to be in the right spot at the right time. You can begin to take some of the guess work out of your fishing and fish an area with confidence. These things won’t guarantee you fish every trip, and there really aren’t any absolute truths to fishing, but you will be several steps closer to catching fish every trip. Think of it this way, you won’t catch fish at every spot, every day, but if you can eliminate a spot in a much more efficient manner, you can move to another that may be working. Eventually, you will find one that works on even the most difficult of days.

The final piece in developing plans for angling success, is understanding what has happened while you are on the water and keeping accurate records. I am as guilty as anyone of not recording some of the best information that I have learned. I’m a hit and miss log book angler. Fortunately, I have a better memory of fishing than I do of virtually anything else. Now, my family will not agree with me that this is a good thing, but as far as my fishing career goes, it’s been very helpful. If you recognize the importance of your logbook, here’s a few important things to keep track of: weather conditions, such as, wind direction and speed, cloud or light level, air and water temperature, water color and clarity, available structure in the area, activity of the bait, barometric pressure, tide level and flow direction, and of course the bait that you used. Don’t forget to log the bad days along with the good. It is every bit as important to know what didn’t work. I would far prefer to eliminate non-productive areas quickly rather than stay in an area trying to force something that isn’t going to happen. It isn’t always easy to understand exactly which factor is the cause of success or failure as they are often in conjunction with other factors. The more you watch and record what you have seen and experienced, you will find that your ability to locate and catch fish will increase, along with your ability to eliminate water.

So you can see, developing a plan, based on the current conditions, your knowledge, from recorded data, or that of others that can be borrowed. Knowing your target and the food that they are eating, and then understanding the timing can most definitely lead to greater success. This understanding will most likely will translate to much more fun in your personal or professional fishing time.

Good luck and great fishing!

Lean times end for West End diners

Published July 27, 2010

West End story: After a long fast, dining options are improving on the island’s West End. Well-known restaurateur Randall Pettit is putting his expertise behind West End Restaurant and Sand Bar, 21706 Burnet Drive, in the space formerly occupied by Avery’s Bayside Cafe. (Avery’s owners opened Mackey’s Bar & Grill, 20801 Interstate 45, in Bayway II shopping center in Webster).

West End Restaurant and Sand Bar will offer up seafood dishes with some twists, promises Pettit, who is known for former island eateries, including Randall’s West End in Pirates’ Beach and for his early involvement in the once popular but now closed Waterman Seafood Grill, 14302 Stewart Road. Pettit also is an owner of elegant nightspot 21, 2102 Postoffice St. in the island’s downtown. Pettit’s latest project is at the 50-slip West End Marina, formerly known as Sea Isle Marina. John Turner bought the marina out of foreclosure earlier this year with plans to revive and renovate.

Pettit is aiming to officially open West End Restaurant and Sand Bar some time next week but didn’t have an exact date. The restaurant space has undergone a huge transformation, Pettit said. 

“It’s a beautiful restaurant,” he said. 

Stay tuned.

Gavel gossip: In these trying times, island developers continue to turn to auctions to reduce inventory and buoy property values at their projects. The latest to gravitate to the gavel is Randall Davis, developer of Diamond Beach, the 117-unit mid-rise resort and spa on 8.5 acres at the seawall’s western edge. The pale pink project came online last summer. Davis hopes to sell 40-beach-front units at an Aug. 22 auction. Starting bids are $140,000. 

Last month, more than 600 people attended an auction of 27 units at East Beach development Palisade Palms. Buyers snapped up all the units, auctioneers reported.

Then, West End development Beachside Village, earlier this month held an auction for 29 home sites and commercial properties. No official word on whether that auction was a success. 

For information about the Diamond Beach auction, call 800-522-6664 or visit 

Mystery closure: Some mainlanders are mourning the closure of Village Pizza & Seafood, 6402 I-45, in La Marque. Corporate officials of the regional chain could not be reached for comment. Village Pizza & Seafood in Santa Fe and Texas City still are open. Stay tuned.

Welcome Matt: Readers are raving about one of League City’s newest eateries — Matt’s Restaurant & Lounge, 3202 Marina Bay Drive. 

Sunday brunch features such fare as eggs Benedict and Belgium Waffles. Also popular is the seafood buffet served from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday nights. Lunch specials are all about comfort food, and depending on the day of the week, include Matt’s Famous Meatloaf, red beans and rice and turkey and dressing, reports bar manager Michael Loneman. 

Matt Smith, who was general manager of Lakewood Yacht Club for 25 years, is behind the new restaurant. 

For information, call 281-334-7445. 

Want to rave about a restaurant? Visit Buzz Blog at

Biz Buzz appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Make Sounds not Noise

Make Sounds not Noise

By Captain Steve Soule’


From very early in my fishing history I knew that sound played a big role in the success or lack of it on any given fishing day. With nearly all of my early fishing experience taking place on shallow saltwater flats it was easy to observe the reaction of a fish to sounds around them. It became obvious that if we made the wrong kind of sound we wouldn’t even get a chance to cast at a fish. Trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than to pole a boat quietly across a calm flat after a fish only to watch her spook before you can even cast, it’s even worse when it’s your fault. Sounds as subtle as the gentle bump of a push-pole against the rub rail of a flats skiff or the hurried placement of a coke can on a fiberglass console can be the trigger. Regardless of the source, sounds of this nature will almost always elicit the same response.

On the flip side of the coin there are sounds that motivate complacent fish to demonstrate outward aggressive behavior. I’ve long been a proponent of rattles in lures, so much so that I went through a period of putting a glass bead rattle inside of my soft plastic tails. I’ve since decided that the practice may be somewhat excessive and probably unnecessarily even though I feel that it can be effective. It’s possible that I take this rattle thing to far, even now there isn’t a single lure in that I’ve bought in the last few years that doesn’t have a rattle either built into it or one that I put in myself. Well, excluding the soft plastics that I just mentioned. The bottom line is that sound does effect our fishing and I thought that I would share a little of what I know and believe about the subject.

I’ll start with the bad sounds or the ones that I’ve found along the way that have had and adverse effect on my fishing. The biggest sound that comes to mind is the loudest one we as anglers make and it’s the sound of propulsion. The obvious thought here is the noise generated by an outboard motor and I’m sure there’s not much explanation needed. Keep in mind though that the more we invade the fish’s habitat with this noise the more they adjust. If we all run across the shallow areas where the fish live then the fish will eventually find a new place to reside. It may not seem like such a big disturbance but the sound of a troll motor can and will spook fish and in most cases should be kept to an absolute minimum. Here’s another form of propulsion that many of us employ but often overlook, wade-fishing. This is a technique that most of us use to add to our stealthy approach but if we don’t take the time to do it quietly we often loose the benefit that it offers. There are situations where every step is critical. When walking on shell it’s easy to make more noise than fish will tolerate and wading in ankle deep mud can be equally noisy, both require some skill and the patience to move slowly and deliberately.

Here are a few more interesting noises that can scare fish away. There is a sound associated with the sonar beam used in most depth finders that is not only felt but also heard by fish. I learned this a few years ago while trying to chase down this pesky little clicking noise at the back of my boat. Since making this discovery I’ve always turned of my depth finder when I’m on fish or in very shallow water. I’ve also found that the same ill placed footstep can be a benefit useful tool when unwanted visitors enter your wading area, I’ve been able to successfully spook sharks by stomping a foot on hard sand or the deck of a boat. It’s safe to say that some sounds come across as being natural and others seem unnatural. It’s also important to note that sounds often have a much more pronounced impact in shallow water, and in skinnier water fish are almost always going to be more alert to noise.

When it comes to sounds we make it’s not nearly as easy to identify the good ones Outside of those we make with lures. I’ve seen very few situations where it will work inshore but there are a few times when a boat that runs over a group of fish it will instigate feeding activity. This is something that can happen in the inter-coastal and in other channels at times but don’t expect it to happen every time. Most of the goods sounds that I can think of come from lures and there are almost as many different sounds as there are colors. I find that I use mostly lures that contain a single ball rattle to generate noise but there can be a big variation from one lure to the next. Not only is there variation from lure to lure but also from one retrieve to the next. The distinguishable difference between lures plays a big role in selection during any given set of conditions so here’s a few of my favorites and the times I like to use them.

In water that is either deep (over 4 feet), rough or dirty it’s a toss-up between the She Dog and the Super Spook. Both of these lures have the ability to make a tremendous amount of noise and for this reason I prefer them for enticing fish in adverse conditions. If they want a moderate paced steady or stop and go retrieve then I’ll likely go with the She Dog. If they want either an exaggerated slow or very hard retrieve then I’ll opt for the Spook. Both plugs are also great if they want it sitting still since they will continue to make from the rocking motion of the waves. If the fish don’t want to come up to the surface it often becomes necessary to give a little sub-surface rattle. In a slow or not so aggressive bite it’s hard to beat either a rattle Corky or a Corky Devil with a rattle inserted in it’s belly, both have outstanding action and the addition of the rattles help them draw in fish from greater distances. If the fish are somewhat more aggressive and ready for a faster retrieve then it’s time to pullout the trusty old 51mr Mirr-O-Lure and let those little rattles go to work. If the conditions are choppy then the Corky Devil and the 51mr will be the better choices because the original Corky can be tough to keep up with in the wind.

As we move back into the shallows I will typically scale down in size to either a Ghost or a Spook Jr. but there are times when the big commotion of the big Spook can still be a winner. Generally if the wave action is small I’ll go with the smaller plugs and if they are rougher I may go up to the big spook. The Ghost sits somewhere in the middle range on noise and the rattle is slightly higher pitched than the Spooks but not as high as the She Dog, it can be deadly effective when an aggressive retrieve is needed. Over the last few years I haven’t used this plug nearly as much as I once did but the little Chug Bug from Storm is a killer when fish want a small meal. It can be worked in a slow Chugging motion or sped up to chug and walk at the same time. The higher pitch of multiple small rattles work well when shrimp are present and it can be worked very softly around glass minnows to draw strikes from surface sipping trout. Take it to heart that sounds can make or break you in fishing and make the most of those available to you. When you are on the water pay close attention to the sounds you make as well as the sounds of the bait that is present look for a lure that can come close to duplicating it. Careful observation, a stealthy approach and the right sound selection can lead you to startling discoveries and help you find fish that you might not otherwise find. Enjoy the sounds but try to keep the noise to minimum.

Year’s 1st tarpon landing reported


Published May 31, 2010

This being Memorial Day, we would be remiss in not taking a moment to remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in this great country. If not for them, and their sacrifice, we would not have the choice of enjoying the recreational pleasures around which we plan our free time.

The big news on the fishing front is the report of the first tarpon landings of the year. It appears Capt. Chris Jamail, Hookset Charters, might be the one who had the first tarpon. Jamail had the day off Thursday and decided to go tarpon hunting. He found a huge school of the silver kings off Galveston and had three hook-ups and landed one.

When Jamail relayed the information to Capt. Jamie Pinter, Angling Adventures, Pinter changed plans and hit the beach front Friday. Not a bad decision on his part as he landed a 160-pound tarpon.

As the word spread, other guides broke loose and started the tarpon chase. Capt. Michael LaRue, LaRue’s Guide Service, made it to tarpon territory on Saturday and found the fish had moved farther out. He estimated there was a 2-mile swath of tarpon lounging about in unusually warm water.

Larue noted there were many different sizes, ranging from about 50 to more than 180 pounds. Although this is unusually early to see such a concentration of the big fish near Galveston, LaRue feels we may be on the cusped of a banner year for tarpon.

July through September are normally the big months for the silver kings around Galveston, with August to mid-September being prime time.

Tarpon are basically a catch and release fish, with regulations allowing anglers one tarpon 85 inches or longer to allow for a new state record. The current record is 210 pounds and was set here in Galveston in October 2006.

The West End Anglers Fishing Club had 32 participants in its recent Black Jack Fishing Tournament. First-place winners in each category were: redfish, Thomas Barlow; trout, Glenn Stevens; and flounder, James Reynard.

The club’s next tournament is scheduled for July 10. For information visit

The Santa Fe Police Officers Association and K-9 Unit will have its first Saltwater Fishing Tournament on June 12. Weigh-in will be at Blues Bar and Grill in Santa Fe. For information, call Richard Watson at 832-896-0234.

Sunday, the Reel Report had an early press time due to my late afternoon and early evening fishing trip. No reports had been received by then and any that arrived later will be in Tuesday’s edition.

To get your catch in the Reel Report, phone Capt. Joe Kent at 409-683-5273, or send an e-mail to There’s no charge for this service.


Transitions, Timing and Tactics

By Captain Steve Soule’


Being consistent or successful in fishing presents a challenge to all of us. Whether novice or seasoned veteran. We all share this as a common goal, no matter what our opinion of success. For some success lies purely in numbers, for others it may be fish size or even variety of species caught. Success, for me, is achieved one fish at a time, and each one ranks differently on my personal success scale. The key is fishing with this in mind. It’s just one fish at a time". I say this because it’s rare that I have the opportunity to catch two fish on one lure and even less likely that I could plan for it to happen. You’ve got to keep your concentration through each and every cast and make each one count. The real issue with success is not just what it means to us but how we achieve it.

Casting and retrieving lures is a tedious task but the more you put into each one, the more likely you are to reap the rewards. If I was to take any given lure and do nothing more than cast it as far as I could and crank it back at a steady pace I would eventually catch a fish. I think! If I took that same lure and added twitches, pauses, or other variations in speed, the hook-up ratio would increase dramatically. Think about I, when was the last time you saw anything in the bay swim at a constant speed for any length of time? If the real thing doesn’t swim straight and steady, then our imitations shouldn’t either. It is the thought and input from the angler that makes the Jure work

Fish feeding can be tracked (to some degree) and related to many things. "Transitions" stand out as one of the most important especially for catching trout. I’m covering a lot with the word "transition" so here’s a little clarification; A transition can be a change of structure, a change of seasons, a change of tides, the passage of a front, or even something as small as a color change in the water. Some changes trigger feeding while others may provide the location for it to occur. Finding the transitions, and understanding how they affect the behavior of the fish, serves to increase our odds of success.

We are about to experience a change of seasons, winter to spring, and with it will come changes in our fishing patterns. Our winter pattern has been based around several key transitions. When wading, I’ve based my efforts around the transition from mud or sand to shell, there is often a depth change associated as well. The second is a change in temperature which is often associated with those already mentioned, keep in mind that mud silts more easily and both mud and silt hold warmth. A classic example of this change bringing success came on a trip about three weeks ago, while fishing a series of finger reefs that extend from a northwest oriented shoreline with Houston anglers Doug and Dave we found a small group of fish feeding in water that seemed lifeless. The first fish came as something of a surprise as I was close to giving up on the spot; no bait showing and very cold water were taking their toll. I saw something about three hundred yards up the shoreline and told the guys that I was going to investigate. I took of at a brisk pace with my titanium rod across my shoulders, after about twenty yards I came to an abrupt stop and made a short cast with the Corky. The cast resulted in a twenty-two inch redfish, the first fish of the day. The guys quickly waded over to me and asked what I saw that made me stop and cast and I told them that I saw nothing! I felt something under my feet though that was what made me cast. I had found the transition zone between shell and mud and with water temps right at 50 degrees I felt sure that was were the fish would hold. We walked over the next finger and found the same structure change and this time found trout. We proceeded to catch and miss trout here for the next hour or so before they shut down but I don’t think that the guys will ever forget that type of transition in the winter.

The passage of a front this time of the year is a change that I love to fish, timing is everything here, catch this change within several hours of its occurrence and you may find the bite of a lifetime. This is usually a "hero or zero" situation so don’t get discouraged and definitely don’t put yourself in danger during a monster storm. This time of the year we begin to see some fronts come through that are less violent but still bring the change of barometric pressure, these are the safest ones to fish. I fished a front like this last weekend released what would have made a very impressive stringer shot. In just under four hours I caught and released 13 trout, the smallest was 19 inches the largest was 26. The impressive part was that every fish in between these, was over 21 inches and averaged 22-23, and add to that the fact that I missed somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty more bites that morning. This was an aggressive feed triggered by the passage of a front and the increase of the tide movement. The bite occurred over the same structural transition of shell to mud but one day can make a world of difference, the day before only yielded half the number of fish (with none over 24) and no where near the number of bites.

Here’s the change, with the coming of spring we’ll rock back and forth over the transition of warm and cold. On the cold days look for the continuation of the winter patterns we’ve already covered, on warming days look for fish to move shallow and gravitate towards shorelines. The bite will change from being focused on a late afternoon feed to one that increases in the mornings. Fish will spend more time aggressively chasing baitfish and will be suspended higher in the water column. For those who have given up on the top-water bite, check your hooks and get ready! My top producing lures will still be the slow sinkers on most days but the top-water bite will be on a steady increase and on many days will out-fish the slow sinkers. Spring marks the return of much more aggressive retrieves, a welcome change for most. For the last three months I’ve talked about fishing Corky’s at an extremely slow pace, now I can begin to work them in a much faster manner. The retrieve will resemble that of top-water dog walking, more than the snail pace that I’ve been using. One key remains; you’ve got to give them some pause time because that’s when they are at their best.

In the springtime I’ll fish baits that have greater ability to aggravate fish and elicit strikes from this more than from feeding instinct. Rapid retrieves with 51mr series Mirr-O-Lures are deadly when fish are suspended and you need to cover the water column more thoroughly. Try varying retrieve speeds with aggressive twitches followed by short pauses, the twitches get the rattle going and keep the lure darting the pause is when it will get eaten. There probably won’t be a warm day that passes without me throwing a topwater plug this spring. Think noisy and big and you’ll generate more blow-ups. The two top-waters that I won’t be without are the She-Dog in white and chartreuse and the Super Spook in the same color scheme. Black will be a strong producer and so will a white body red head. If you find fish in extremely shallow water sometimes scaling down can change blow-ups to hook-ups. On the bright, sunny days try plugs with chrome sides; I’ve often found that an extremely aggressive retrieve will work best.

Last but not least look for the reds to invade the shallows again starting in March, this won’t be a consistent pattern yet but it will begin to materialize this month. They’ll start out on the deeper, muddier flats and work their way shallow with the incoming tide. They will also roam open shorelines following schools of shad and other small fish. The reds will smash a top-water with reckless abandon but as they reach the truly skinny water I’ll usually opt for something that hits the water a little softer. I’ll fish Bass Assassins or the B&L Sea Devil (currently marketed as Brown Lure Devil Eye) most but a quarter ounce gold spoon is another top producer. This is the time to drag the fly-rod back out and put it to use, as the fish get shallow their effectiveness becomes more pronounced. I’ll cover fly patterns another time, and more on redfish areas.

It’s time to get back to fishing and enjoy the warmer daytime temperatures. I’m already making my transition to more topwaters and less slow sinkers in the wade boxes. I also have some exciting trips coming to East Matagorda, Baffin and Lake Calcasieu. I’m most excited that the transition here along the Texas Coast is more like a transition from Winter to Summer and in reality, only lasts a very short period of time. Wet wading and big topwater bites are in our immediate future!!

Captain Steve

Weather still frustrating anglers



Published February 18, 2010

Wednesday continued the pattern of nice weather along the upper Gulf Coast, although a bit on the cool side. The beach water temperature was barely above 60 degrees, which is colder than normal for this time of year.

Reflecting on the frustrations of this year’s weather, one of our well-known fishing guides sent a note concerning how long the current El Niño system will last. The system has brought wet weather to us for the past four months.

For answers, he consulted a meteorologist and was told it would be with us for a while longer. According to the information he received, spring will bring warmer temperatures; however, the El Niño weather pattern will last through early to mid-summer.

So, what are the worst things that can happen to a fishing guide? Those are hurricanes, El Niño and economic failure. Well, that sums up the past 18 months doesn’t it? “At least I have my health,” he said.

Not much in the way of fishing is taking place, and the main culprits are the low water levels combined with poor tidal movement. Tides should begin to strengthen Friday. 

Fresh water fishing is a sport many newcomers to the Galveston area enjoyed from their previous locality. Often the Reel Report receives calls and letters from residents new to our area asking if there are any freshwater lakes nearby that offer good fishing. Bass fishing is at the top of the list of most of the inquiries.

Unfortunately, there are not many public lakes and reservoirs in our area. Most of the fresh water fishing in Galveston County is in creeks and bayous that ultimately flow into Galveston Bay. There are a number of small private lakes, and some offer fishing for a fee. 

Saltwater fishing is by far the better choice along the upper Texas Coast.

Speaking of saltwater fishing, the West End Anglers Fishing Club is holding its fourth annual black drum tournament beginning this Saturday. The event runs through April 4 and is a catch, photograph, release tournament.

For details, check out the group’s Web site at

The annual P.O.I.N.T. Black Drum Tournament for the Physically Disadvantaged is set for April 9 and 10. We will have more information about that tournament soon.

To get your catch in the Reel Report, phone Capt. Joe Kent at 409-683-5273, or send an e-mail to There’s no charge for this service.

Stocks of reds, trout in good shape




Published January 19, 2010


Last week, I mentioned that we should have a good indication of how well trout fishing is bouncing back by the results of the West End Anglers Fishing Club’s Big Trout Tournament on Sunday. Coe Parker, founder of that organization, agreed to take note of how the participants fared, not just the ones that placed.

Based on Parker’s report, it looks as if our stocks of reds and trout in West Bay are in good shape.

Reds were caught in good numbers over shell, while the south shoreline of West Bay, especially the coves, was where the big trout were found. A few flounder showed up on stringers as well.

The north shoreline produced a few trout but not nearly the quantity as were hovering around the Galveston Island shoreline. The area around Confederate Reef and North Deer Island was not as productive as anticipated, with only a few trout being taken.

The big bite turned on about the time of the weigh-in for the tournament. Many of the participants did not make the deadline for weighing their fish, as the action was hot and heavy during the strong outgoing tide from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Let’s take a look at the results of their inaugural Big Trout Tournament. For those who missed the announcements last week, the event took place out of Avery’s at the Marina at Sea Isle on the west end of Galveston Island.

There were 53 entries that formed 24 teams. Each team had a three-trout limit to weigh in. Nine of the teams made the cut off.

The winning teams and weight of their three-fish stringer were Dos Pescadores (15.1), Reel Time (13.6), Explorer 21 (12.3), SKA II (11.7) and Trout Slayer (11.2).

Young Cameron Plaag, son of well-known fishing guide James Plaag, took the side pot with a trout measuring 207/8 inches.

In other fishing news, Steve Martinez and a friend fished the North Jetty on Saturday and landed a 26-inch red. The anglers were fishing in shallow water, as the water temperature was warmer.

John Marshall reported excellent whiting action in the surf Sunday. 

Fishing the rock groins near the Flagship, the angler from La Porte caught six whiting up to more than 2 pounds using dead shrimp with the shell peeled off. 

Marshall said the fish were caught near the rocks.

To get your catch in the Reel Report, phone Capt. Joe Kent at 409-683-5273, or send an e-mail to There’s no charge for this service.


Sun, Wind and Moon

By Captain Steve Soule’


I know, I know the title sounds like we’re about to dive into philosophical dissertation of what makes a perfect day on the water. In all honesty though understanding these three elements and their effects may just be some of your best ammunition when it comes to scoring big with trout. Learning how these three elements effect your personal fishing can vary greatly with location to location and answering the questions of what the outcome will be from variances in their timing are revelations that come only with time and patient observation. This month has been just like many that preceded it over the last few years, when the 15th rolled around I realized that I was late for my deadline and still struggling to figure out what to write. Well as I forced a little thinking time into my schedule I thought about just how much I tend to babble at seminars and on the water about these factors and their relation to trout fishing and how they vary from day to day. I’ve been aware for a long time that under constraints of short time and in passing conversation, most people probably don’t pick up on the subtle nuances that I’m so notorious for rambling about. This may be no different but here are some brief descriptions that I hope can help to define and narrow some behavioral patterns that I see in relation to these factors.

Since I stated sun first in the title I work it first. Sunlight comes in varying degrees not only from day to day but from minute to minute. First of all, the amount of sunlight versus cloud cover seems to play a major role in the feeding behavior. Some day’s lots of direct sunlight can work well; this is often a situation for chrome colored top-waters to excel. On some other days heavy cloud cover can be the ticket, this often works during the dog days of late summer. Full cloud cover often dictates the use of darker colors such as black or the “808” color scheme of black back orange belly and gold sides. My favorite sunlight condition is bright sun mixed with scattered clouds; I guess its kind of the best of both worlds. There is another degree of light that is also effective though it may not be solely due to the light but also the reduced noise, yes I’m talking about night fishing and no I’m not going to say anything more than “it’s not for the faith of heart”. Oh, I better not forget the first and last light periods of the day. Most anglers know the sunrise as one of the best bites of the day but many never see the sunset because someone told them that they had to get up early and fish early to catch big trout. Don’t limit yourself to just early in the day, sunsets frequently bring out monster bites from monster trout.

Wind is next, I’ve babbled about wind endlessly, typically though it’s a profane uttering, while getting battered by high winds during someone’s twisted idea of a good day for a tournament. Though I really enjoy fishing on light wind days, slick calm can spell disaster at times. Big winds may not be the most anglers idea of good conditions but fear not, fish still east when it’s windy. Big wind is the RIGHT time to throw big noisy top-waters, you may find yourself compelled to work the plug harder in the wind but some days it’s better to just let the plug do the work. HUH,?? Yes let it work, that big rattle is there for a reason and it still makes noise when you let it float. Light winds will often dictate the use of smaller top-water lures where you can still use aggressive retrieves without spooking the fish so bad. If I had to choose the wind conditions that I like best I would again take the middle, with moderate winds of 8-15 mph. I’ve smoked big fish in big winds but it’s always a frustrating situation. Light winds let you see everything but the fish often get to spooky.

Ah, the moon. I’m sure you’re all expecting me to get into this night fishing thing, okay I’ll give a little but let’s talk about the moons’ effect on daytime fishing. There are the basic well-known thoughts that a big moon brings a big night feed and the new or small moon is better for daytime feeding. As a general rule this holds fairly well, but there are a few notable variances to remember. The full moon isn’t always directly over head at night so the moon position is a big factor. I’ve had some great trips where the full moon was setting or rising within a few hours of sunrise or sunset. On the full moon, phase we also see a good mid day bite when the moon goes directly under. When the new moon rolls around we all expect better daytime fishing and we usually get it. I still pay a particular attention to the moon position; rising, setting, directly over or under. If you are a night owl looking for perfect trout situation try one of these two, a full moon period with scattered to heavy cloud cover or a new moon at anytime.

It’s always good to remember that trout are ambush feeders and they need any advantage that they can get. I like varying degrees of light whether I’m fishing during the day or at nighttime because the light allows the fish to spot their prey and once “homed in” they can attach as the light becomes filtered by the clouds. Since I mentioned night fishing I feel strongly that I should also mention the most important thing about doing it, safety. If you plan to fish at night you better plan on taking ALL necessary safety precautions and operating your boat only in areas that you are familiar with at slow and safe speeds.

That’s all for this month, better be, it’s 10:00 on Saturday night and I’ve got a “West End Anglers” tournament to wake up for at 03:30 in the morning. See you on the water, safely and courteously I hope!!

Area anglers look for signs of fish kills




Published January 12, 2010

This is the first time since I started compiling information for the Reel Report that our fishing reports were not of catches but were surveys of the Galveston Bay Complex for evidence of fish kills.

Hopefully, this will not occur again for a long time. We are, however, appreciative of the feedback from anglers who took the time to check out certain areas for evidence of dead fish.

Brenda Myers, of Hitchcock, sent a note saying the diversionary canal that runs from West Bay to beyond Hitchcock was full of dead fish. 

Later, I received a note from Coe Parker, president of the West End Anglers Club, reporting on his survey of the same canal, and he found dead fish, mostly mullet, covering a 1-mile stretch. 

Other parts of the waterway, including near the Harborwalk and FM 2004 bridges, did not show any signs of dead fish.

Parker also surveyed Jones Lake, the Intracoastal Waterway, Meacom’s and Greens cuts, Greens Lake, Karankawa Cut and Lake and Chocolate Bay. No signs of a fish-kill in those areas.

Rick Wegman and Opa Miller surveyed deep holes around Offatts Bayou along with Seawolf Park, Pelican Island and the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge next to the causeway. The only sign of a fish kill was a number of dead spadefish near Texas A&M at Galveston. Capt. 

Lloyd Pepper reported everything in good shape in the canals at Terramar. 

Lake Madeline had a few scatted mullet floating on the surface, and one large trout was noticed swimming near the surface in a stunned condition. Moses Lake appeared to be clear of any loss of game fish.

We will be receiving an update from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on their findings. 

At this point, it appears there was a minimal fish kill; however, it may take a few more days to get a reliable indication as that is when the deeper fish will start to surface.

We often receive interesting stories and poems from readers that cannot be published due to space limitations. With the lack of actual fishing reports today, I want to pass on a poem sent by Hector Medrano, of Galveston, that caught my attention. It is called “The Fisherman’s Prayer.”

“God grant that I may live to fish until my dying day, and when it comes to my last cast, I most humbly pray that when in the Lord’s safe landing net, I am perfectly asleep and in his mercy I be judged big enough to keep.”

To get your catch in the Reel Report, phone Capt. Joe Kent at 409-683-5273, or send an e-mail to There’s no charge for this service.




Cold Water – Hot Fishing

by Captain Steve Soule’

It’s a beautiful thing when we can get water and air temperatures this low this early in the year, even more so when forecaster are calling for more cold and rain. For those who love the solitude of pounding West Bay or any other bay that isn’t likely to be affected by salinity drops and cold water, this is our year! Those of you who primarily fish bays that are prone to salinity drops will have some serious weather watching to do this year. These salinity drops are more dramatic during the winter months because the salts will not dissolve as readily in cold water, so typically we’ll see the formation of a fresh layer above a more normal salinity level. This fact, along with the fact that the higher salinity water will often hold a slight warmth advantage over the surface film plays a strong role in where fish will hold.

Water temperature seems to become one of the coastal anglers’ biggest concerns this time of year and everyone who read this publication read a full dose of some of the better known deep water winter holes last month. There’s no question that if the water gets cold enough these places turn on big time, but I want to tell you that there is more to winter fishing that just deep water. I guess that you could look at it like this, when it’s cold and drizzly some of us would rather stay home where it’s warm and dry while others would gladly endure the elements for the chance to feed a trophy. Trout are much the same; some groups would definitely prefer a deep hole with stable water temperatures and abundant dining. Other groups would stay and prowl their favorite flats and only drop deep in the most extreme cold. For that matter some never go deep, fish kills of past freezes make this point very evident. I guess it boils down to personal preference for both angler and fish to fight the elements or run for cover and warmth.

So, knowing that there are populations of trout both deep and shallow and probably everywhere in between, how do you decide where to go. Again, much of this decision will be based on your personal preference, though past experience should certainly play a role in the decision. I’m a prime example, for the last five winters I’ve fished a particular stretch of shoreline with unrelenting pressure. It has been a personal choice that has paid off with some impressive catches, but more than that it has taught me a lot about how certain populations of trout react to changing conditions. I fish this area anytime that the conditions allow and have learned to buck much of the conventional wisdom and myth that surrounds us about when trout feed. There is no question that changing conditions (cold fronts) will change a trout’s behavior.

There are a few notable generalities that typically apply in relating trout movements to frontal movements. During early, pre frontal conditions that atmosphere goes from stable with moderate barometric pressures into a trend of increasing clouds, warming temperatures, decreasing pressures and an onshore wind flow. During pre frontal periods look for fish to be in shallower water or suspended higher in the water column in deeper water. The last two days before the front passes will usually be good top-water days and faster retrieves will be readily accepted with sinking lures.

Frontal passage is the next stage and is the most difficult to predict. This is often a period of rapid change and therefore often difficult to fish. Just before the front actually passes the wind speeds will typically peak, the pressure bottoms out and cloud cover or rainfall is usually at its maximum. As the front passes everything seems to reverse winds shift to northerly, barometric pressure starts rising rapidly and temperatures drop sharply. This combination often triggers an urgent need to feed, followed by movement deeper and more stable waters. If you’re on the fish when it hits it can often be fast and furious, if you miss it you might think that there wasn’t a fish in the bay. This is definitely top-water prime time, but be prepared to switch to slow sinkers because it may not last long.

The final stage is post frontal, where pressures continue to rise before stabilizing, air and water temperatures drop, often for two or three days and cloud cover blows out leaving clear skies. The first day is the day to look for fish to start stacking up in the deeper holes. Keep in mind that deep is definitely a relative term. What’s deep for me may still be shallow for someone else, and the same goes for groups of fish. Look for slow retrieves near the bottom to be effective as the fish adjust to the shock of high pressure and cold water. By the second and third day the pressure will settle back to a more normal level and stabilize while the temperatures gradually increase. Look for increased feeding activity as the fish rise in the water column and slowly return to the shallows.

That’s the abbreviated version of a coastal cold front passage and some generalities that apply. Once we’ve gotten through a few and noted some of the patterns about how they affect the areas we fish, you’ll find that it becomes much easier to locate fish, and hopefully spend less time doing looking.

There is another factor that plays a major role in the success of the winter angler, the presence of bait. I don’t think that this can be emphasized too much. If the bait isn’t there the fish won’t stay around either. Trout know that they must eat to survive so they spend their lives following the movements of their prey. This time of the year we all talk about seeing bait, even small groups before we stop to fish an area. This is critical in finding fish but sometimes it seems impossible to accomplish. I’ve got some quick advice on the subject: fish in areas that you know hold bait or an occasional jumper that would have been overlooked even a slow planing speed.

Mullet will often hold deeper in the water during the winter months making an area look devoid of life until the area is looked at more closely. This time of the year I’ll catch a lot of good fish on day when I’ll see only two or three mullet jump, yet time spent watching the depth finder will reveal an abundant supply of bait.

Well, that’s enough for now, pick you preference, take your time and be prepared for some of the best winter fishing we’ve seen in several years. Stop by and say hello at the Boat Show, I’ll be hanging around the All Star and Meeks Marine booths, or if you’re interested I’ll be teaching a seminar on coastal fly-fishing with my fly school partner Bill Gammel on the first Saturday of the show. Hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and that your winter is full of fishing.