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Texas Bays
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Fishing and Hunting Southeast Texas
by William Watkins


Have Boat Will Travel Guide Service

Captain Bill Watkins
Call 409-786-2018 or (Cell) 409-673-9211





    Find the bait. Find the trout. How many times have you heard this said or read it in a fishing magazine? Most of the time the reference to baitfish is about mullet. Everyone knows that big trout like to eat big baits. Right? Mullet fill the bill. After all everyone also know that trout eat mullet. So many of our lures represent mullet. Several of the popular Mirror Lure hard baits imitate mullet. (Catch 2000, Catch Five, Top Dog, etc.) There are many more, Ghosts, Producers, Spooks, and on and on. Yes, trout do eat mullet. Big trout do eat mullet. But mullet are not all that trout eat and they are definitely not all that big trout eat. Trout eat darn near everything that swims in the Gulf of Mexico or in the bays.

    For years, I fell in to the trap of riding around the bay looking for mullet hoping to find the trout. Just think about your own experiences. How many times have you pulled up on a shoreline that had rafts of mullet swimming up and down and not caught one trout? Just this past week, I fished a large company party over on Trinity Bay. There were nine guides fishing this large group and we scattered all over East Galveston and Trinity Bay looking for trout. Everyone remarked about how much bait that they observed at nearly every location. By bait they meant mullet. However, the trout were difficult to catch because of the bad weather. The few that were taken were mostly feeding on something else besides mullet so looking for mullet didn’t help the problem.

    Back on Sabine Lake this past Monday and Tuesday, I found the trout feeding on a variety of baitfish and shrimp. Of course, since I fish so much and clean so many fish, I get to observe the stomach contents of the fish and this is proof positive of what the fish are eating at the time. A speckled trout has the ability to turn its stomach inside out while trying to disgorge a hook from its jaw and many times by the time you land the fish, it has emptied its stomach contents. However, some of the fish are landed quickly and either throw up all over the boat or are unable to get rid of their stomach contents. After you have been able to observe what the fish have been eating then it is easy to “match the hatch” and feed the fish a lure that closely mimics what they are actually looking for. The first trout that was brought over the side Monday morning shook its head violently in the boat and spit up two 1½-inch baby croakers and a six-inch sand eel. We all rigged up with Stanley Wedge Tail Minnows or Norton Sand Eels and whipped up on them really good. As the sun rose higher and the water cleared, we even scaled down smaller and caught trout on small 11/2 inch H and H Split-tails. The largest trout of the morning, a fat 25incher, fell to one of these little split tails. So much for big bait big trout!

    As the spring bull high tides bring in the small baitfish that has recently hatched in the Gulf, the trout will feed heavily on them. There are many shrimp already in the Sabine system and the trout are still working on them as well.                                 
    While looking for bait, don’t just look for mullet. Look for other bait. Some of these little fish, croaker especially, don’t readily show themselves on the surface. But it is the right time of year for this type of baitfish to be here. Look for shrimp jumping or small ribbonfish chasing the smaller baitfish up to the surface. The mirror-like skin of ribbonfish is highly reflective and easy to see but they are only on the surface for a fraction of a second before disappearing back into the depths.

    Be observant, watch nature while you are on the water, and let the fish tell you what they are doing. I guarantee you will catch more trout.  

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