Blame for shrimp shortage might lie with the fish

During the times of the year where the prevailing winds are southeast with some due south and southwest thrown in, the marshes hold plenty of water. The past couple years the salt content, even back in the marshes, has been higher than normal. Many species of saltwater fish have been caught by anglers who were fishing for up into the rivers. Both the Neches River and the Sabine River have yielded some excellent catches of speckled trout, redfish, flounder, croaker and sand trout. The puppy drum and sheepshead, along with the redfish, are able to tolerate fairly fresh water, but they are present in the salty rivers. There has been an exceptional number of flounder around this time of year; that wasn’t the case for several years. Many folks, including the folks that conduct the net surveys, concluded that the flatfish numbers were waning. Now those same fish have been showing up all along the Texas and Louisiana coasts in increasing numbers. My non-scientific observation is that like all things in nature there will be good years and not so good years, no matter how it is micro-managed.

I’ve noticed that some of the shrimpers are complaining about a short supply of shrimp. There have been several theories out there about what’s causing the shortage, from the drought to the BP oil spill. There’s another theory that seems to always be overlooked. With the hoards of redfish and speckled trout as well as sand trout and croaker that are present in the inland saltwater lakes and bays, large numbers of shrimp have been eaten. Add to those shrimp eating fish the now good numbers of flounder, and maybe that’s why the shrimp are disappearing.

I’ll say here that before the past cool front, the marshes, channels and drains were packed with small shrimp. These areas were also holding big numbers of fish that were fattening up for the wintertime on them. In only a short time, the shrimp that survive will become large shrimp. That’s when they will not only be bait for the fish but they will also become people food.

There are more and more of the saltwater anglers that will, after the front blows through, head for the more open areas. All or at least most of the shrimp and small baitfish will have been flushed from the marshes, and now they are in the open-water areas. A hard blowing north wind and an outgoing tide will push practically all of the water out of the shallow marsh areas. Even though the marshes are estuaries where the prey reproduces, when the water leaves so do the shrimp and small fish. In my opinion, many of the fish such as flounder and redfish that are at home in the marshes will not go far. Once the water returns, so will the fish. So even in colder weather, don’t overlook the coastal marshes for catching them.

Should you plan to do some of your fishing in the marshes or sloughs on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake, keep in mind that you cannot go past the refuge signs until the springtime. The refuge is off limits to anglers beginning Oct. 15. And you should also keep in mind that in Texas waters, the daily limit for flounder in November will be two per day. November has long been the better month for catching the flatfish. Texas anglers are also forced by regulations to retain only flounder 14 inches long or longer. The state’s biologist told us several years back that male flounder rarely grow longer than 14 inches long. That means that only female flounder may be retained in Texas waters.

A couple good fishing plans for taking the fall flounder before the limit is cut to two fish per angler is to locate where there is tidal water moving out of the marshes. Also, it is a good plan to find water flowing around points of land or near any type of structure. That structure may be either man made or natural.

I would actually anchor just off the drains, points or structure and fan cast from the mouth of the slough or on top of the submerged point and slowly fish the bait or lure across that area until there is a flounder strike. Many times there are a good number of the flukes in a single spot.

We are now into some of the most productive inland saltwater fishing of the year. Don’t wait to head out.

Tune in to KSET 1300 at 6 p.m. on Thursdays for Billy Halfin Outdoors and listen to the updates daily at 7:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.