The “Dawn Patrol” sounds like something out of a fantasy series but, down on the Texas coast, it is what Surf fishman are cheekily called.
Getting up before dawn is nothing new to most fishermen but it is especially useful when Surf fishing. One reason is the incoming tide. This is best because fish will be cruising the surf, often in the first gut closest to the beach. As the sun gets higher in the sky you will need to chase the fish further out. So, if you get there early enough, you can start before ever getting your feet wet. Another reason to hit the beach in the EARLY hours is that, if you’ve chosen to go on a weekend, you will be sure to get there before the vacationers can set up.
You can find numerous shapes and sizes of fish throughout the year in the surf. Though June through November, often well into December, are the most active times. July and August are your best bet if you are looking for specks. The height of summer is also a good time to catch other offshore visiting species such as spanish mackerel. If you are casting live bait, especially if you are aiming for the deeper cuts, there is a good chance that you will reel in a tarpon or two. September through December is a very exciting time if you are looking for redfish. This time is known as the “Bull Red Run”. This is when the big reds that live offshore journey closer in to spawn and lay eggs. Of course with all the fish activity in all these months the other thing you might hook would be sharks. Bull shark, blacktips and others fall in line for the buffet.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a place that is close enough to the surf where you can drop everything and go at a moments notice there are a couple of things you should keep an eye on while you try to plan a trip. As with any fishing trip, keeping an eye on the weather forecasts will always help. The ideal weather would be to go right at the end of a couple of days of predicted clear skies with a steady southeasterly wind. Hit it right as the wind drops to less than 10 knots and the waves start to calm. The other thing to keep an eye on would be surf cams. These will give you a great idea of what the water actually looks like, instead of just guessing based only on weather reports. Keep in mind that the waves are bigger than they appear in the cams. Having to constantly hop waves can be dangerous and tiring.
Live shrimp and croaker are some of the most popular baits to use. If you are dreaming of some of the bigger specimens try out large ribbon fish or shad. If you find that the toothier species are nibbling on what you are throwing it does pay to keep a large silver spoon pre-rigged with a wire leader on hand. But, in my opinion, the most exciting way to fish the surf is with a topwater. Tapping into the aggressive nature of gamefish, getting them surging up from underneath, hitting the lure, and into the air. A blow up is spectacular to witness and will get your blood pumping.
Safety is paramount. That may seem like a no brainer but there a number of things that can occur with surf fishing that don’t occur with a lot of other types of fishing, particularly if you are wading. First off, make sure you secure all your gear and clothing really well. When you are in the surf the water is constantly pulling and pushing you. Anything that is loose will loosen further and fall off. This can cause things to get tangled around your legs or even pull you under. The one thing you don’t want tightly secured would be your stringer. You want the ability to quickly lose your stringer in case a shark gets a little too interested in it. Your pants can, surprisingly, make a big difference in your safety as well. I recommend long, and light weight with nylon or some other type of blend. These will protect you from stray hooks in the water and you’ll thank your lucky stars you had them if you stumble across some jellyfish. Another thing some may not think of is to keep a PFD (personal floatation device) or life jacket on you. The last thing you need is to be taken under by a surprise wave or trip over something hidden on the bottom, hit an undertow, and not have one of these with you. Lastly, I’ve talked about this in past blogs and I’ll do it again, if you are in the water ALWAYS shuffle your feet and wear ray guards. You never want to find out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a stingray barb.
Have fun out there and remember, make every trip a guided trip with MyFinFinder.