Mansfield Report: September 2022

Mansfield Report: September 2022

Father and son team of Dr. David and Garret Miller enjoyed excellent redfish action.

Greetings from Port Mansfield! We have endured a sizzling summer with low water levels and extreme water temperatures. Rarely have the water temperatures dipped below 86°, while reaching 91° several times. Surprisingly, our game and bait species are adapting well to these conditions.

If you fish the Lower Laguna often or follow social media, you already know we’ve been blessed with an abundance of flounder this summer. I wonder how we have not caught them all based on what I’m seeing daily on cleaning tables. I personally caught eighteen while wading fewer than 20 yards one morning. I have seen it like this once before, around 2012 or so. The difference then was the flounder were quite a bit bigger on average, with occasional “kickers” up to six and seven pounds.

In addition to flounder, trout and redfish are holding their own despite exceptional boat traffic. Speaking of trout, I am encouraged to see the comeback. I am even seeing some good ones in high-traffic areas. Case in point, we caught a 26.75 and a 29.5-incher on a recent morning while targeting reds and “keeper” trout. Super excited to see this!

September is when we begin to see subtle weather changes occurring. Thunderheads just offshore create the hint of cooler air flow from the north. You can sense and even smell the transition from summer to fall. This triggers changes in fish patterns and activity levels.

Just recently, on a Monday and day off after a busy weekend, I awoke at 4:27am and walked to the kitchen for a drink. I noticed a flicker of light through my kitchen window. I walked outside and felt a cool, damp breeze. Offshore in the gulf, maybe five miles, I noticed a thunderhead high in the atmosphere. I was extremely tired but knew what I had to do. You see, I have been here before, just last year about this same time is when I caught my second-largest snook ever – thirteen pounds and thirty-four inches. That fish just so happened to land on the cover of this fine magazine.

I grabbed a cup of coffee, two FTU Green Rods, a Simms waterproof shoulder pack with a few lures, and headed out solo. Not another person was at the dock. I ran in total darkness via GPS and settled into the spot well before sunup. A cool breeze (relatively speaking) and flickering lightning in the distance greeted me as I worked the area tossing Mansfield Knockers. I could hear, but not quite see, slurps and slaps in the distance. As the sun breached the horizon I could see skipjacks rolling like tarpon (actually for a second, I thought I was in a school of small tarpon because I’ve caught them here before). They soon disappeared and I started getting massive blow-ups and eventually connecting with big reds. I caught reds until I didn’t want to catch reds any longer. Once the sun was up I noticed the water was extremely clear (not the best for snook). I knew they were there, but I couldn’t 100% confirm I’d had a snook blowup, although certainly probable.

I elected to move to another area where I’d recently had some snook action. As I approached the “sweet spot” I received a call from a friend. I stood in one spot talking on the phone for 15 minutes. As we talked I noticed a thick-shouldered fish with dingy-green back and yellow tints on its forked tail slowly pass within two feet of my right knee. Clearly a trophy snook that just cruised on by with no concern over my presence. I never mentioned a word, continued my conversation, and eventually started fishing. No snook came to hand. That said, I had a smaller one follow my KWigglers Bone Diamond Wig-A-Lo all the way to the rod tip and just fade off into a grass bed. I was back at the dock by 10:30am with only a memory and confirmation they were there. I wasn’t frustrated, quite pleased in fact, simply because I know the attitude of a snook and this day wasn’t my day. It belonged to them.

As fall approaches, expect the topwater bite to increase dramatically and the flats to come alive. Once the temperature dips a few degrees things start happening. Balls of baitfish will form with reds and trout busting through them. If you find the bait in the fall you certainly will find plenty of action. Boat traffic should decline a bit once dove season kicks off, especially in the evenings. I will be capitalizing on those afternoon opportunities when conditions allow.

Remember Fresh Is Better Than Frozen.