As far as I’m concerned, except for when a hurricane is blowing in, there’s never a bad time to be at the coast.

Most people think of a trip to the coast in terms of summertime vacations, but to me, the so-called “off-season” is one of the best times to head to the land’s end. The prices are more reasonable, it’s less crowded, and the weather isn’t overbearingly hot and humid.

I’m not a big fan of big crowds, especially ones that are full of drunks trying to cram all the fun they can into a 3-day binge. Sure, I’m entertained by the occasional hell-raising sand denizen typically found staggering along the beach in July, I just don’t want to be surrounded by them while I’m kicking back enjoying the surf and sea breezes.

During the fall, not only are there fewer people on the beach, but most of the ones you run into are laid back folks walking with their dogs or families, picking up shells, catching fish, and wading into the surf to feel the power of the ocean.

And if you time your trip right, like regular Tribune-Herald outdoors contributor Clay Yadon and his family did for Thanksgiving, you can find plenty of fishing action to be thankful for, too.

“We hit the reds just right,” he said while packing his gear for the return trip to his home at Lake Whitney. “They were exiting the bay systems as the water temperature cooled, so we were catching them off the jetties on cut piggy perch and live mullet.”

Yadon’s big bull red of the trip measured over 40 inches, and would’ve gone more if something hadn’t taken a couple of bites out of its tail.

“You can pretty much catch as many trout as you want right now,” Yadon said. Free-lined mullet and shrimp fished off the piers is bringing in the trout, and a lot of mangrove and red snapper are being caught on live shrimp at Port Aransas’ Station Street Pier. Yadon said he also caught good numbers of sheepshead and flounder using finger mullet for bait.

“The worst part of the trip,” Yadon said, “is having to leave. But at least I get to go home and fish Whitney tomorrow.”

For the record, after his return, Yadon has been catching quick and quality limits, following the birds that are migrating back to Lake Whitney for the winter. This means the strategy for striper fishing is switching from live bait to chasing the flocks of gulls and terns that dive-bomb the big balls of shad chased to the surface by schools of stripers that are trying to fatten up for winter. Best bets for this approach are swim baits and slabs, and the action will tire out your arms.

Here’s a valuable piece of advice to maximize your fishing success as fall approaches winter: With temperatures dropping, sounds carry more efficiently through the cooler, denser water, so stealth is key when approaching a flurry of feeding activity. Dropping a pair of pliers can cause fish to scatter, and even approaching an active surface-feeding situation with a trolling motor can suddenly shut off the bite. Position your boat upwind, cut the motor, and drift into the melee.

Lake Belton holding annual Christmas Boat Parade of Lights on December 4

A week from today, on December 4, is Lake Belton’s annual Christmas Boat Parade of Lights. Organizer Rick Smith, of Marine Outlet in Temple, says all boaters are welcome and there’s no entry fee to participate. Plus, each boat captain will receive a $100 gift certificate, and for each boat in the parade, $40 will be donated to Central Texas Children’s Center in Temple.

There will be a captain’s safety meeting at 5 p.m. at Frank’s Marina, followed by the parade an hour later. Be sure to attend the after party at Dead Fish Grill, where you’ll find refreshments and get to see the awards ceremony.

For registration information, call Smith at 254-773-9931.

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