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No-nonsense tips for a no-nonsense bay:
The first of a two part series of tips
for fishing Galveston Bay.

By Pat Murray

Green water gushes over a deep mid-bay reef. The incoming tide surges before a light southeast wind. Shad and glass minnows quiver on the surface as perfunctory slicks appear and drift away. You cast diligently, every twitch of the rod tip sure to entice a strike. Feverishly, you switch baits again and again.

The day, in essence, is like a paint-by-number John Cowan print.

The tide, the water, the bait. Everything is perfect. You look to the heavens (as a tear rolls from behind your polarized glasses) and cry "Why am I not gettin' 'em?" For many the answer is easy.

You're fishing on Galveston Bay.

Fact is, this is an all too comon sentiment on the much maligned reefs and shorelines of the Galveston Bay complex. It needn't be.

Capt. Pat Murray and TF&G Editor Larry Bozka show off a West Galveston Bay redfish.
Capt. Pat Murray, then a full-time fishing guide on the Galveston Bay System, and TF&G Editor Larry Bozka show off a West Galveston Bay redfish that the duo took while shooting video for the TF&G Multi-Media Seminar Series back in the spring of 1997.

The Galveston Bay Complex is composed of Trinity, East, West and Lower and Upper Galveston Bays. To say the least, this is a tremendous amount of bay surface that is typified by deep water, limited structure and very transient fish. It's not that there are not plenty of fish or that there is not an ample number of trophy-class fish. However, the effort required to consistently catch fish in Galveston is significant. Blame it on a lack of discernible structure or on overwhelming fishing pressure or whatever.

The bottom line? Galveston Bay will sharpen the skills of even the finest coastal angler.

Because of Galveston Bay's predisposition for deep-water fishing, it is essential that the proficient angler master his drift fishing skills before all others. With so much of the bay greater than 4 feet deep, it is only logical that a large portion of the fish spend an equally large portion of their lives in deep water.

Learn The Bottom

The first step to improving your drift fishing is to get a manual depthfinder (10-foot PVC pole). This sophisticated piece of modern technology transcends the most sophisticated bottom machine or grayline indicator. There is no need to understand hieroglyphic directions or read a clouded screen. When you jab a pole into the bay bottom, you know definitively what the depth is along with the texture of the bottom.

Through time and persistent jabbing, you will form an indelible image of the bay bottom that will further your understanding of what you are drifting over and why fish are on it. So many times it is the subtle transitions of structure that hold fish. With a PVC pole, you can feel the transitions between sand to shell or shell to mud. It gives you the ability to "walk" the entire bay and visualize the structure that holds the fish.

Carry A Drift Marker

By simply combining a white jug, 15 feet of cord, and a 16-ounce snapper weight, you have a drift marker that is as good a pinpoint as a differential GPS unit provides. When you catch several fish in a small area, throw your marker. You will now have a definitive line-up for a repeat drift.

The more concentrated the school of fish, the better the jug works. During winter and "slow bite" days, a drift marker allows you to concentrate on tightly bunched schools. If the fish are inactive, the jug allows you to spend your efforts deciphering what the fish want rather than blindly drifting over dead spots.

The drift marker also indicates exactly how you are drifting. Often, it is easy to ignore the influence of tide in your drift. With a jug, you can calculate the exact direction of your drift and, subsequently, maximize your time on a given school of fish.

Ask any experienced pro. A drift marker can turn a 5-fish day into a 50-fish day.

Use Your Anchor

As ironic as it may sound, anchoring can greatly improve your drift fishing. Often, you catch a few fish during a short part of a long drift, yet never stop on any given spot.

If you hit a group of fish and repeat drifts successfully on a drift marker, try dropping the anchor short of "the spot." No, it's not a sure thing. But when you hit it right, you can sit on top of the school and maximize your effort on those fish.

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