The water has heated way up the wind is blowing and yes, the fish are still biting! I have heard many weekend fishermen complaining about how slow fishing is. I feel the main reason some of these fishermen are not catching many fish is that they have not adapted to the weather with the fish. With hotter water temperatures, windy conditions, and another spawn, fish have taken on a definite summer pattern which makes life a little difficult for most fishermen.
For starters, fish may not be in the areas you are accustomed to. In our area, Baffin Bay, fish have been working their way around the deeper rocks and guts looking for cooler water once the day heats up. We have been finding fish fairly shallow in the mornings but they have been heading for deeper water by 10:30 or so. Knowing this has added to our success, but also having the right bait has added to the weight of the fish box. Now that we are dealing with these hotter water temperatures croaker and piggy perch have been the name of the game to catch large trout as well as large numbers of trout. We are still catching good fish on artificials early in the morning but for an easy day of filling the box it is hard to beat live croaker or piggys.
I know what you are thinking,"it's too hard to get croaker or perch", well...you are right, it is hard. I get up VERY early to seek out my supply for the day. Croakers have been the hardest to obtain, but piggy perch have been just as good for bait, and much easier to obtain. Most of these bait fish are being purchased in Aransas Pass and Port Aransas and then being hauled to our ramps to head to Baffin. It may seem like a lot of work, but it sure produces the fish!
There are a few secrets to keeping these critters alive for your fishing excursion. Transport them in the smoothest and largest container you have available. A large ice chest works fine. In preparing the ice chest or whatever bait tank you are using, add a couple of cap fulls of Pogey Saver as well as a 8-10 pound bag of ice. Yes, you read right. I add a 10 pound bag of ice to my live well full of croaker. It keeps them cool and frisky. I have tried putting the ice in zip-lock bags, frozen bottles, etc., etc., but the best has been just to open up a bag of ice and dump it in. I would not however recommend using ice from you freezer at home. the chlorine and other chemicals will not help any. The second trick is to use only the water that you got your croaker from. Let me repeat that. Use only the water from the well you got your croaker from. This is most critical. If you purchase croaker in Aransas and add Laguna or Baffin water to your well, it will kill your bait nine times out of ten. Between the difference in salinity, and the difference between your cool water and the 87 degree stuff you will be adding, the shock is normally too much. If you want to get really technical about your water, haul an extra container of the original water to add to your live well. Another thing you can do is change some of the water immediately after you put the croaker in you live well. They tend to relieve themselves when the are first put in the tank because of stress. So if you can let them do that and then change out some of the water before you leave the bait stand, the croaker will have less contaminated lower ph water to last the day in. Piggy perch are not as sensitive, but all these tricks help them as well.
Now that you have gone to all this trouble to get the best bait money can buy, let me tell you how to fish them. In most cases we free line them with a wide gap hook. If the croaker or perch are small, then a 3/0 hook will be large enough, but larger would be better. Occasionally we will use a small slip weight above the leader, but I always start out free lining first. Fish the outside edges of rock lines or sand bars. When the trout pick up the bait, let the spool run free for a good 8-10 seconds. This allows the trout to swallow the large bait deep enough to get a good hook set. If you try and set the hook too soon, the trout will drop the bait in a flash. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline not to set the hook too soon, but with practice it can be done successfully almost every time.
Another thing to watch for when fishing close to sand bars or spoil islands is that sometimes the trout will run towards the boat when they pick up the bait rather than running away or sideways. When this happens it is hard to set the hook , but you should be expecting it, If you notice your line going slack all of a sudden then that is what is happening. Start reeling up the slack, and try to get a chance for a hook set when the fish is ten to 15 yards from the boat. If you are anchored to close to a bar or spoil this will be impossible.