Greetings from Port Mansfield! First, I would like to report that the East Cut dredging project has been completed and the channel depths now average twenty feet from the Gulf of Mexico to a couple hundred yards inside the Port Mansfield harbor. The long-awaited completion provides safe access for deep-draft offshore fishing vessels and greatly increased tidal flows from the gulf. The ebb and flow at the intersection of East Cut and the ICW has been remarkable and will greatly enhance our inshore fisheries in the Lower Laguna.
On the fishing scene, we are continuing to do quite well on redfish, but the freeze impact on speckled trout is clearly evident. Landings are much reduced compared to last year; just a few here and there. Even prime grass-edge habitat is giving only a few bites. This causes me to ponder a unique aspect of living through a significant fish kill – there is always opportunity in the wake of a harsh event. You see, we (Gen X’ers and Millennials) will be able to say we worked through the aftermath of the 2021 freeze and proclaim with credibility, “I was there.” We will also be better fishermen for the experience and we will have witnessed good conservation practices enabling the spotted seatrout fishery to flourish again. I’m by no means trying to justify the freeze but I am definitely looking forward to the future. We can all better anglers and better stewards of the resource because of it. Heck, this might even be the paradigm shift that has been so long overdue.
Our tides remain high and opportunities are abundant in back lakes. As noted in my previous article we are loving this pattern and as of now it’s still very reliable. Just recently I was cruising slowly on plane in my 24-foot Shallow Sport Classic powered by Mercury Pro XS 300 and spotted a good number of redfish. We hopped out and waded about 20 yards and stood in that spot catching redfish after redfish. This went on for about two hours and the fun could have continued but we decided to “fine tune” our trout fishing skills and move on. Just as expected, when I hopped on plane there were still an abundance of reds in the area. I only know a handful of folks who don’t love catching redfish and those folks are mostly from Louisiana and Mississippi. But that is to be expected, I suppose.
As mentioned, we are finding a few trout and when doing so I’ve been working areas that are known to produce big trout this time of year. Fish have a way of finding their way back to the same areas that attracted their predecessors and that point should be noted by all anglers. It just so happened, the day before this article was written, I landed a solid seven-pounder and my lucky client showed me up by landing one in the “double digit” weight class! More to come on that story – stay tuned!
Moving forward I’ll eventually pull out of the back bays and start working the knee to thigh-deep shoreline stuff. My focus will be small lips and ledges along with grassbeds and potholes. Our winds should start backing down within the next month or so and that will allow us to work western shorelines more effectively. Areas of interest will be slightly off-colored water along points and small coves. My lure choices will be the proven KWigglers Willow Tails when fishing shallow along shorelines and the Ball Tail Shad as we wade toward thigh and waist-deep water farther from shore.
I have valid reports that our shrimpers are filling their nets by 9:00 am most days and they say the bay is full of small crabs and small croaker in addition to tons of shrimp. Boat traffic is strong, and folks are out fishing, so that’s a good thing.
I’m glad to see the temporary reduction in bag limits for trout in play and I know TPWD has been conducting their annual spring gill net surveys. Hopefully, there will be some reliable population data forthcoming to enable TPWD make reasonable rule/law changes for our fishery. We can all help by doing our part as we move into the busiest season of the year. Keep a red or two if you are looking for a good meal and consider letting the trout go, at least until the survey data is compiled. You just might be doing more for the resource than you realize.Until next time, stay safe and be a role model for our fishery.
Capt. Wayne Davis: Tag & Release Lower Laguna Speckled Trout!