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There are still quite a few fine slot redfish mixed in among schools of speckled trout that have moved into rivers and bays above the Mobile Bay Causeway. (Jeff Dute.email@example.com)
Fishing on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is good, but it's a weird good, according to a couple of inshore guides who regularly fish it in fall and winter.
Yes, speckled trout and redfish have moved as far north as Gravine Island on the Tensaw River and Twelve Mile Island on the Mobile River and they're hungry.
They're pretty much everywhere, but fishermen have not been able to rely on diving seagulls to find them and once found, the fish are not interested in eating anything but a live shrimp, said Joey Gates and Bobby Abruscato.
Now that may sound like it makes sense since migrating white shrimp are what fuel the best action, but the guides agreed that in normal fall seasons, the fish are so intent on gorging themselves ahead of the slim times of winter that they'll eat almost anything plastic that even remotely resembles a shrimp.
"Every cast they're eating live shrimp, but when you throw a plastic in there, they don't want it," Gates said.
Gates said he has not caught a single speckled trout under diving seagulls this year in contrast to past November days when flocks of working birds pointed fishermen to easy limits across the Delta.
I've heard only scattered reports of fishermen finding birds and just wearing out the fish. There could be flocks of working gulls just everywhere out there right now, but if so, it will have started several weeks late.
Abruscato noted that early in the fall season he had some very good trips using a mixture of live and fake baits, but the bite had turned mostly to live shrimp recently.
Both guides are still fishing shallow water.
What's causing the weird fishing is up for debate.
I've talked to several people who believe that freshwater pouring through the system and out Mobile Bay resulted in fewer than normal white shrimp entering Delta nurseries.
Others say the white shrimp that did move up have already left. Still others believe the water has not cooled enough to force shrimp to leave, meaning there are still a bunch of them in the Delta and the best fishing lay ahead.
Just this week I heard that a guy with a camp on Chuckfee Bay is seeing large numbers of shrimp under his pier lights at night.
I think it's a combination of all three scenarios: we didn't get as many shrimp, a good number of mature shrimp have left and those small shrimp that remain are still finding growing conditions, including water temperatures comfortable enough to stick it out a few more weeks.
Even the most recent cold front that saw morning air temperatures fall below freezing for a couple of days only knocked water temperature into the mid-60s.
A warming trend over the next few days will likely send it back up. From past experience, the water has to be 62 degrees and falling for the shrimp to finally allow themselves to be swept Gulfward on the outgoing tide.
Despite the weirdness, Gates and his crew caught 30 trout on Thursday, never fishing water deeper than 4 feet between the flats at north pass, near the island in the lower Apalachee River and at Tensaw Point, where the Blakeley and Tensaw rivers diverge.
They were using live shrimp suspended about 3 feet under a popping cork.
Abruscato has been focusing on spots to the west such as the shallow flats along the Spanish and Raft rivers, flats at the east mouth of the ship channel at Gravine Island and Grand Bay.
I heard reliable reports that the flat in the Mobile River east of Twelve Mile Island is holding nice specks and redfish. The deeper water where the river makes a bend south of the flat should also be holding trout and the occasional redfish now.
I haven't heard anything about Bayou Sara, but this is the time of year where the stretch from the gas canal to the mouth at the Mobile River gets good, too.
Don't get so focused on the shallow bite to the exclusion of trying a Carolina rig or split-shot rig in the nearest deep water.
As a last resort, the do-nothing drift with a live shrimp behind an egg weight or a plastic jig/grub combination allows fishermen to cover a lot of water to find an active school of fish.
The bottom line is that this fall season is requiring fishermen to do a little bit more work, but that effort continues to pay off with nice catches of trout and redfish.
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