Unbelievable Lower Laguna!

Everett Johnson
In case you haven't noticed, the Lower Laguna Madre is on fire. Anglers with local knowledge and others enlisting the services of competent guides are enjoying angling success for speckled trout many are calling epic. "Beats anything I've ever seen," they say. A growing legion of accomplished and respected veteran fishermen whose experience includes all prominent seatrout venues of the Gulf coast and Florida's Atlantic shores would no doubt comprise a valid jury.

Personally, I cannot stay away. No sooner am I back at Seadrift and already I'm marking my calendar to return. On at least a dozen days recently we have landed phenomenal numbers of seatrout weighing four to six pounds. On top of that, all but a few trips have yielded at least one fish exceeding seven pounds. One especially lucky day we caught several eight pounders and a nine and a half, on video no less!

When relating tales of such bounty and success to fishermen who have maybe only one such experience in say a twenty or thirty year career, disbelief is obvious until you break out the digital photos.

How is this possible? Actually, several major factors are in play. Beginning with Hurricane Dolly in 2008, the Lower Laguna has received several freshwater flushes exceeding record and the East Cut was dredged in 2009. The vitality of the ecosystem is evident with shrimp and blue crabs everywhere you look, not normal in a hyper-saline lagoon. Baitfish too are thriving in uncommon abundance. And of course, in September 2007, a very conservative bag limit of five seatrout was enacted in the region.

Most anyone worth their salt has an opinion as to the true origin of this phenomenon and likewise are cognizant that all great fisheries hold greatly more sub-legal than legal specimens; that's just natural. Yet how can the Lower Laguna also hold such an incredible number of four to six pounders and where did the eights and nines come from so recently?

Unless I'm all wet, (and I haven't fished without waders since October) the greatest share of credit is due the five fish limit. Gill net population survey data has yet to show a significant spike in overall seatrout abundance in the Lower Laguna, neither are the nets coming in full of four to six pound fish. However, if seeing is believing we are seeing an incredible number of uncommon trout.

And while it is true that the Lower Laguna has a longstanding reputation for producing trophy trout, honest locals will admit they had some pretty tough years back between 2000 and 2007. Which is why TPWD intervened with the new bag limit. But still unanswered is how the mid-size classes bulged so full in so few years, even if registering only on rod and reel? My guess (for whatever it is worth); lots of trout have been escaping the curse of the Igloo, and the population survey nets will confirm it soon.

You really need to get down to the Lower Laguna. When you go, please wear your conservation hat.
Practice catch and release. The daily bag is five trout and something many do not understand; the possession limit is also five! Here's hoping you find outstanding fishing.