The thing winter on the Texas coast is best for is driving around during those really low tides and checking out fishing spots that are mostly or partially exposed by low water. This can be done by boat from deeper channels, or by shore bound vehicles from roads, bridges, or the beach. What you are looking for are deeper holes, upwards bottom relief in the form of ridges or rocks and other obstructions, and shallow channels cut in the bottom that offer just a tiny bit more protection for a fish that feels nervous in shallow water. If shell patches or reefs show, so much the better - but a piece of soft mud bottom is good to know the whereabouts of as well. We are trying to find spots where bait species will seek shelter and predator species will come for the bait. Of course, it helps to have some knowledge of what each spot will look like on a normal tide, but you can just wait and get that information in the spring while working it for fish!
A recent trip to Galveston helped to remind me that the Texas coast is always changing for a variety of reasons and no fisherman should expect to find the same conditions in a spot he visits only during the warmer months as when he last left it in early fall. The road between Surfside and San Luis Pass was nearly washed out by storm tides in recent years but is being rebuilt and strengthened. The Pass itself is constantly changing and looks nothing like it did when I used to run offshore through there. Along the Galveston seawall, even though the new Pleasure Pier will be getting most of the attention, I was frankly more excited to see the fishing piers back in business. They dont extend as far over the water as before Ike, but they are open and helping fishermen get to deeper water than they could wade to.
What disturbed me was the development on West Beach, near the Galveston side of the Pass. I once spent all my off hours surf fishing this area for bull reds, sharks, jacks, stingrays, and sometimes tarpon. It was a wonderful and fishy environment, and I have a lot of memories of days - and nights - spent on that beach. Now it is all built up with large, expensive condos, beach access is limited, and most of the appeal would be gone, anyway. If I am honest, Im not really a fan of progress when it means taking away the wild places. I started fishing that beach not long after the Pass bridge went in, when pretty much no one but fishermen and shrimpers were around.
Keeping with this mood, I was reminded in August of the days when I was on the Yamaha guide program for a short while. I had an old 24 foot deep vee hull cuddy cabin boat that was heavy - over 5,000 pounds - and designed for stern drive power with a Chevy V-8. As soon as I could afford it, I took the motor out, pulled the outdrive, and reconfigured it for an outboard on an Armstrong bracket. Not only did I double the cockpit space, but the balance was much better, and top speed went from maybe 25 mph to about 37, with less fuel burn if I could be conservative on the throttle. When I wore out that first 220+ hp engine, I replaced it with a new 250 - also a Yamaha - and pushed the top speed to over 50 mph. On the guide program, most manufactures encourage their sponsored guides to change motors every year. This way they are always displaying the newest of the new. Since the guide gets a significant discount, he can sell the previous years engine for an attractive price and still come out with extra folding money in his pocket. Because I fished offshore, and because of the quality of the motors, I did not want to change every year, and was petitioning Phil Dyska of Yamaha to make me a special deal whereby I got to keep mine longer. At this point, Mike Walker of The Walker Agency in Arizona, who handled Yamahas PR back then, suggested I switch to the writers program, which did not require a turn-a-round, and actually offered a deeper discount. This worked out well for me, and I honestly believe I sold quite a few motors for Yamaha.
At the time of his death on August 16, Mike was president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and in days past he talked me into joining both the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and Boating Writers International. He was one of my best friends in the business, although I hadnt seen him in a few years, and he will be missed as a true gentleman.
THE BANK BITE
Location: As with last month, find a patch of warmer water, which is usually a deeper hole, but could be a shallow flat after a series of warm, sunny days - which do occur in Texas in February.
Species: Big black drum will be moving in from the Gulf, along the jetties and sometimes in the surf.
Best Baits: Crab quarters on circle hooks are the best, but large shrimp and cut mullet will also work.
Best Times: Usually when it is cold, wet, and windy. It IS February, after all!
Capt. Mike Holmes runs tarpon,
shark, and bluewater trips on a
classic 31 Bertram. To book a trip, call 979-415-0535. Email him at