When it comes to the reality of Texas summer, there’s not much difference between it being 100 degrees out and 98 degrees outside — other than the psychological relief of not seeing three digits on the weather map.
In my younger years, I worked outdoors year-round, doing construction, masonry, lawn care, painting, roofing, and for a few years, I worked as a cowboy on a ranch near Austin. Back then, the heat was a discomfort, but I was used to it. I just had to keep hydrated and grind through.
These days, my air-conditioned job has softened me up a little, and I growl my way to the parking lot after work and continue until the built-up heat has blown out and the air-conditioner turns the corner from hot to cool.
The funny thing is, I don’t really notice the heat if I’m out fishing or hunting in the late summer/early fall, and fish are still under the surface feeding if you’re willing to get a bait in the water.
During the dog days, largemouth bass can be found suspended in deeper water, making crankbaits, soft plastics, and spinnerbaits good lure choices. Pro bass angler and Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones once told me that his go-to bass lure in summer is a citrus-sparkle Bomber Fat Free Shad crankbait, saying it dives deep, has lots of action, and just seems to trigger big fish in hot weather.
He said to make a long cast, crank fast to get the bait deep (about 15 turns), and switch to a medium stop-and-go retrieve.
During summer months, bass can also be found in heavy cover like hydrilla, cattails, lily pads, and thick grass. A good technique for dragging them out of the salad is flipping a Texas-rigged worm or stickbait into openings in the vegetation and using a twitch-pause retrieve.
My dad and I used to fish together a lot, and whether we were in a boat or on a bank, he would typically catch the first, most, and biggest fish. When we’d fish stock tanks (farm ponds) in the summer, he’d stealthily prowl the bank, dropping a plastic worm or lizard down into shoreline vegetation. He’d let the bait sit a while in case he had caused a bass to swim away as he approached. Once he had given the fish time to come back to its spot, he began bouncing the bait off the bottom, sometimes twitching it to the left or right.
Shallow-water vegetation provides easier ambush than an open-water chase. During the summer, oxygen becomes an issue for locating fish, and when you have shoreline vegetation pumping oxygen into the water, you’re going to find bait fish, and you’re going to find the predators who intend to feed on them.
Coastal fishing in full swing
Former Central Texas broadcaster and current coastal denizen Tyler Thorsen reports that life at the beach has been kind to anglers lately. He recently took a 12-hour trip with Deep Sea Headquarters in Port Aransas, heading out with Captain Marvin Horner, Jr. on the Gulf Eagle.
“We caught blackfin tuna, king mackerel, mahi-mahi, almaco jack, bonita, and a large spinner shark, along with several other species of fish,” Thorsen said. Spinner sharks are called that because of their feeding style – they corkscrew their way upward through schools of forage fish, devouring what they can before crashing the surface into the air.
Fishing has also been good closer to the beach, Thorsen said. “Inshore trout are in 3 to 5 feet of water, and redfish are getting ready to stage in advance of their offshore move next month,” he said. “The surf has bluefish, whiting, reds, and trout when conditions are green. Ladyfish and Spanish mackerel are following the shoals of dusky anchovies that are increasing as we move into fall.”
Remember that current fishing licenses expire in one week, so make sure you’ve got a current license whether you’re fishing fresh or salt water.
Family Fun Day fast-approaching
The 2nd annual Fish On Texas! Family Fun Day is slated for next Sunday at Brazos Park East from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The event will feature fishing, vendor booths, seminars, free raffles, games, bounce houses, contests with cash prizes, wildlife demonstrations, barbecue and more. Headquarters will be by the horseshoe pits, where visitors will sign in and get their raffle tickets.
Cal-Tex Wildlife will be on hand to help educate visitors about snakes, reptiles, and other wildlife in our area, and will have some hands-on opportunities. They’ll be bringing along some non-venomous snakes to teach identification, characteristics, benefits, and other aspects of the snakes.
The event is for members of Fish On!, but it’s easy to join. Just visit their Facebook page, like it, and you’re a member. And make sure to bring your fishing gear.
Rain chances could dampen dove hunting
It happens every year – a week or so before dove season opens, we get rain. Most Central Texans aren’t complaining a bit, but hunters who set up at stock tanks might see fewer birds if there’s water available in potholes, ditches, and other low spots.
But it’s worth the trade-off to enjoy a 75-degree afternoon in Texas in late August.
Dove season opens Sept. 1, and new licenses are required. They’re on sale now, so get yours before the season opens.