Take A Pass

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By David Joseph Sikes

The Texas coastline has many “passes” where bays mingle and exchange water with the Gulf of Mexico. Among those passes, or breaks in our barrier islands, fewer than 10 offer easy access to anglers without boat.

They all offer great opportunity if the angler understands how these passes function in a fish’s life. Passes are fish attractors. They focus the angler’s search.

Sharks, Spanish mackerel and crevalle jack feed in channels that funnel baitfish from bays into the Gulf on a falling tide. Shallow-water species, such as spotted seatrout, red drum, sheepshead and flounder, also frequent the passes.

Jetties that line several Texas inlets provide basic elements of the food chain such as algae, snails and worms. These rock structures also provide shelter for small fish and ambush points for predators, while the channels offer a deep-water refuge from the occasionally inhospitable conditions in nearby bays. Fish seek warmth of channels during winter and in summer retreat to their cooler oxygen-rich waters.

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Spring and summer may offer the best angling along Texas jetties because of the abundance of predator and prey species.

Along the Upper Coast, specks and redfish, flounder, sheepshead and the occasional king mackerel or cobia are accessible to jetty anglers. Shrimp—dead or live—and small finfish such as pigfish and croakers are popular jetty baits, but artificial lures are common and effective tools of the trade. Whatever your choice, expect the jetty rocks to claim their share of tackle. Bring plenty.

From Port Aransas and Corpus Christi southward, jetty anglers can expect the variety of summer species to increase with the addition of gray snapper, snook and tarpon. Port O’Connor’s Pass Cavallo also is a popular tarpon spot. But most anglers who target snook and tarpon focus their efforts at the Port Mansfield and Port Isabel passes.

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Seasonal concentrations of sportfish are much-anticipated along the passes.

Bull red drum (the big ones) run through all Texas passes each fall. Black drum follow.

Flounder migrate to the Gulf each fall, with the greatest concentration coming in November. In winter, sheepshead spawn along jetty rocks, with the heaviest sheepshead congregating

from December through February.

Most fish along jetties are caught near the rocks. No need to cast far. Some anglers use a float, either fixed or with a slide rig, to keep away from snags. As a rule, fishing is best on the leeward (sheltered) side of a jetty opposite the channel. Another general rule is that fish in passes bite best when a current is moving through. Know the tide schedule.

Biologically, fish passes are a boon to myriad marine species that rely on the Gulf as part of their life cycles. Shrimp and blue crabs migrate through passes into the Gulf to release eggs. Once hatched, currents carry tiny larvae back through passes into estuaries, which serve as nurseries. Juvenile fish, along with crabs and shrimp, find refuge, grow and mature in the sea grasses and shallow channels that cover the bay bottoms.David Joseph Sikes, an awardwinning writer, photographer and conservationist, has been the outdoors columnist for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He serves as chairman of the board for the Texas Outdoor Writers Association.

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