Mansfield Report: July 2024

Mansfield Report: July 2024
Sheri Kettlety with a great flounder on her first day wade fishing.

Greetings from Port Mansfield! I will start off by pointing out that summer is early. Just a few days ago I documented 90° water temperature in a back lake. Additionally, our winds have been relentless this year with a consistent average of 20 mph and greater from the south/southeast. We’ve had a few days of light wind and what a welcome relief when it happens. High wind limits our ability to fish many of the areas I prefer this time of year, so I must work areas that can be fished during windy situations, such as back lakes and, as much as I hate to admit, deeper breaks and guts on the leeward side of the bay. Higher-than-average water levels this early summer had me wading belly-deep and, if you know me or seen any of my videos, I seldom work greater than thigh-deep water. Not to sound too discouraging, we are catching fish, and some nice ones at that, but developing a reliable pattern has been challenging.

Our tides have begun to recede slightly, which is good because they have been exceptionally high through May and early June. As we plug along through summer the winds should back down somewhat, which will allow me to work windward points and coves. These areas will produce good fish as will shallow sandbars with deep water access. Bait will pile up along the edges of these sandbars and there is no doubt good trout will be under the bait or on the edges. When you see this, you can expect some of the best topwater action you might imagine. Just prior to this writing we had a day of light wind, very little floating grass, and a ton of mullet in large rafts. We were tossing Mansfield Knockers right on the edges of the mullet and good trout were hammering the baits. It is unclear whether they love or hate the Mansfield Knocker. I suppose it does not really matter but it would be nice to know.

Respectable numbers of flounder have been showing lately. Most are in the 2- to 3-pound range but there have also been some really impressive five pounders among them. Flounder are exceptionally fun to target and catch because they are so unique and offer quite the angling challenge…and require some patience as well.

I would like to touch briefly on angler confidence and the action of lures. I have long been a strong proponent of fishing soft plastics that offer resistance and vibration that I can feel in my rod. To fully understand this you will need a highly sensitive rod such as an FTU G2 Green Rod and your reel filled with braided line. Now, having said that, there are plastics that are hard to “feel”, and these would be rattails and smaller paddletails. However, anglers need to have confidence the lure is doing what it was designed to do, since most of the time we cannot see them beneath the surface. I have been using smaller baits lately, such as the junior-size Wig-A-Lo and Ball Tail Shad. The Wig-A-Lo junior does offer some feel (vibration) on the retrieve as it “paddles” along, but not so much with the Ball Tail. This does not mean the Ball Tail isn’t performing as designed because it consistently catches fish. So, I have spent some time watching it, along with other styles of plastics in ultra-clear water. Once I can witness the way it swims I can then apply this to my presentation. Another thing worth noting is the sink rate of plastic baits paired with various jighead weights. Once you understand these characteristics you can become more creative with your presentations, all the while trusting your lure is doing what it is designed to do, even when you cannot see it. See accompanying QR code video for more details.

Our fishery is strong, despite a slight downtick in being consistently able to produce large trout. Interestingly, I have not heard much negative chatter concerning the recent reduction in trout bag limits or the new length slot. I am excited to see what our trout fishery will look like in a few years. I cannot help but think that sometime within the next five years or so, with these new regulations and a little help from Mother Nature, some lucky angler will land a new state record speck.

Remember, we are in full-blown summer season, so keep that in mind when out boating and fishing. Giving other anglers as much space as possible goes a long way.

Until next time, remember, fresh is better than frozen.

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