South Padre: April 2020

South Padre: April 2020
Dan Ward celebrated his birthday with a whopper of a trout.

This is a fishing magazine but even so I am going to use a hunting analogy to make a few points. I used to be a deer hunter. I was a lousy shot, couldn’t hit the side of a barn, and never practiced to improve my shooting. On top of that I suffered terribly from buck fever, even when shooting at a doe. I probably had my eyes closed when I got lucky on the few I knocked down.

Now, if that might describe your own fishing, don’t feel alone. Even fishing guides go through slumps, possibly because we become complacent, being out there so many days. My hunting success was poor because I didn’t try very hard. Let this be a lesson and you can become a better fisherman.

There are targets in fishing, the same as hunting, and these are areas that consistently hold fish. To be successful we have to first figure out what's holding them there. Favorable water temperature, food availability, favorable depths, maybe lack of boat traffic? Whichever the case might be, recognizing these factors allows us to zero in on them.

The main reason I prefer wading over drifting is the ability to read variations in bottom consistency and structure with my feet. One of my favorite big trout spots that has produced dozens of trophy fish over the years is a great example. Had I not waded it I would have never discovered this long, muddy pothole.   

Deer hunters look for tracks, rubs, scrapes, and use game cameras to identify productive areas. Why should fishermen be any less diligent?

Last month I discussed how fast we should wade the areas we fish. I now want to point out the importance of being observant of everything going on around you. Where is the bait within the water column? Are the birds feeding, and where? How is the tide affecting the movement of fish in and out of a particular flat? What effect is the wind having on water conditions and bait activity? These are things you should consider when trying to get your line stretched.

April is one of our windiest months and frequenting leeward shorelines becomes essential. The edges of muddy streaks will provide excellent fishing opportunities. Small shrimp will become plentiful and we’ll see increased bird activity. The water will warm considerably, the tides will rise, and hopefully we will be able to ditch our waders later in the month. 

Trout action has been steady and improving by the day. Lots of three to four pounders with occasional fives and sixes; a few that weighed eight-plus. Our best trout baits continue to be KWigglers Ball Tails and Willow Tails, not much topwater action yet. When targeting trophy fish I recommend focusing on shallow grass littered with potholes that are holding lots of bait. Keep track of the tide and solunar predictions and prepare for a grind. Fish patiently; wade slowly and cast repeatedly to every pothole and piece of structure in sight. Having luck on your side helps but sometimes we just have to make our own.  

Redfish have been plentiful and rising April tides will push some schools into remote back bay regions. There will also be reds congregated along ICW spoil islands and ridges between spoil humps. The sand-grass transition line on the east side of the Laguna Madre traditionally holds good numbers of redfish in springtime.

There was a time, maybe ten or twelve years ago, when finding reds rooting bottom and tailing in springtime was quite common. Flocks of gulls hovering above them was the giveaway. Nowadays, probably due to increased boat traffic in shallow water, we see this less frequently, but it still happens. So, for me, wind blowing 20- to 30-mph can be a window of opportunity, especially in late afternoon when the shallows become very murky. Reds can find shrimp in dirty water the same as we find the snooze button with our eyes closed. When the flats turn muddy enough to discourage other fishermen you can have it all to yourself.

Springtime gales are nothing to take lightly. Every year around this time we hear of boating mishaps occurring because fishermen miscalculate the dangers of crossing deeper parts of our bays in rough seas. Check the weather before you go and remember that it’s better to anchor up and wait for the winds to calm before attempting a questionable crossing.

Just because the wind is blowing doesn't mean big trout won't eat. How many meals do you miss on windy days? Get out there and hunt them up. You might be only one shot away from landing a trophy fish!