Mansfield Report: August 2022
Greetings from Port Mansfield! Boy, the Dog Days of Summer came early this year. Just as we got past the windiest spring I can recall we jumped right into June with water temperatures climbing to 91°. The hottest I can recall at such an early date, which has me wondering what we’ll see in August. This has been a strange year weatherwise; uncommonly powerful winds through April and May, super-hot temperatures in June and July, plus we saw a few days of northerly winds because of a mild disturbance in the Gulf. Unsure if this unusual weather pattern caused this but we are already seeing large schools of redfish forming near the East Cut. This pattern typically develops between mid-August and September.
Water levels remain exceptionally low with only small windows of opportunity to catch good trout shallow in early morning. As soon as the sun rises and you feel that uptick in the temperature, most (not all) fish move out to the deeper, more comfortable water temperature zones. On the bright side, since the water is so low, those fish holding deep are within striking distance for anglers who wade. I am no longer a “deep” wader, but I will do the waist deep thing if pushed, and lately I am being shoved. Mostly trout, with a few reds mixed in on those deeper ledges and grass lines have been requiring 1/4-oz jigheads (something I rarely use), but those fish are holding on the bottom and the additional lure weight is effective for this scenario. The KWigglers Ball Tail Shad is the preferred soft plastic simply because its profile lends so well to this method of fishing.
I have encountered a few small pods of redfish and the occasional twenty-five-inch (and longer) trout along spoil islands, but with the water being extremely low this can be challenging to wade because of an abundance of grass and soft bottom. That said, if you are willing to muster through it you can be rewarded by watching the “copper” mud balls of 15-20 redfish form where you can pick them off from the outside one by one…if you are good. I recently executed this exact scenario with Mike Frazier (see photo) where we enjoyed catching “podding” reds along a spoil.
During August I will continue to be stubborn and work shallow as much as I can. I do this because I know the rewards can be great as experience tells me a few true trophy-class fish of all kinds are stubborn like me and will stay shallow. This is where mine and my clients trophies have come from. As we work the shallow stuff, I will have a 1/16 or 3/32-ounce 2/0 jighead paired with a Bone Diamond Wig-A-Lo in most cases, or a Bone Diamond Willow Tail Shad. On my other rod I will have a Mansfield Knocker with single hooks to get it through floating grass. The plastic will be rigged on my FTU G2 Spinner paired with a Shimano Vanford 2500 reel. The topwater will be on my FTU G2 Classic model bait caster paired with a Shimano Aldebaran, Metanium, or equivalent. They say confidence is key and this is what I am confident in.
Our trout population is looking better than I ever imagined. Anglers are having fair to good catches, but I do not think just because there may appear to be an abundance of trout that now is the time to forget about the devastating fish kill. I believe we should move cautiously through this recovery period and pay close attention to what is unfolding. The cautious and open-eyed approach has been proven to work best in many aspects of life, from stock market strategies to business models and the like. Some may disagree, but this is my play as I believe it is the right approach based on current observations, years of experience, and data coming from respected biologists.
June through July has been busy between fishing trips, fishing shows and tournaments, and I am happy to report we are holding our own in most tournaments and have continued to be successful in live releases, even trout. We have a couple of months left of hot temperatures but, soon enough, the peak of the temperature curve will be reached and we will be sliding into cooler temperatures and lots of catching will be going on.