South Padre: December 2011

South Padre: December 2011
Patience and determination paid off for James Sanchez.

The title of one of my favorite western movies, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, is the perfect lead into what is currently happening in the lower part of the Laguna Madre. Luckily, there is a lot more good than bad or ugly.

Start with the bad - you are probably aware that quite a few areas along the Texas coast have experienced an outbreak of red tide. Our Gulf beach has been littered with dead fish since sometime in September and San Martin Lake, an area that traditionally holds lots of trout, redfish, flounder and snook has also been hit pretty hard. The good news is that I have not observed any dead snook in the Brownsville Ship Channel nor in South Bay, but there has been a moderate snook kill on the local beaches from Boca Chica Beach up towards the Mansfield East Cut. Despite patches of red tide lingering about five miles north of the Queen Isabella Causeway, I have not seen any significant kills lately, only scattered mullet. Let's hope the coming cold weather or perhaps a good amount of rain can make this nuisance go away for good.

On to the ugly - the long term effect of the 2010 floods can still be seen. Our seagrass took a real beating in the aftermath of the floods when the Laguna Madre stayed fresh for months. The grass is recovering slowly but in the meantime our normal crystal clear water clarity is found only on very calm days. Any amount of wind will cause it become murky in only a few hours. When the south wind gets to cranking the bay will be very muddy from Three Islands all the way up to the Saucer. Another ugly is the recently high number of stingrays. These pain-inflicting sea devils are everywhere right now, most I've ever seen. Makes you frightened to get in the water without your ForEverlast shields or Ray-Guard boots.

Now for the good news - trout fishing continues to be very good, not only for numbers of fish but also for quality. On a recent trip with James Sanchez, I told him the spot we were fishing produced a 28-½ inch trout a few days before. That's all he needed to hear. His patience and determination were rewarded with a beautiful 30-½ incher that ate a topwater. Catches like this are becoming increasingly common which tells me our trout fishery is thriving. I expect to see more fish of this class on my charters during December and continuing through the rest of winter.

In the month of December during alternating periods of cold snaps and warming trends, look for trout to migrate into muddy bottoms and expect sluggish feeding behavior on the really cold days. If you're like me, many times you will have to remind yourself to slow down your presentation in order to get a strike. This time of the year I like to fish the guts in between spoil banks on a moving tide. This type of area has traditionally produced excellent quality as well as quantity for my clients. Keep in mind, the direction of the tide will determine where these fish will be stationed and of course the presence of bait in the area is also a excellent indicator when you are looking for a starting point.

Also, in December we will begin to see our tides drop dramatically, which is similar to what occurs in July. I prefer the water to fall out during this time period because it becomes easy to predict where the fish will stage. North winds will certainly aid the cause by pushing lots of water off the flats which causes the fish to stage in nearby holes and guts. Redfish too can very often be found in these deeper areas especially when the bottom is semi-muddy with mixed shell. For some reason, I have always found the redfish to be suckers purple lures in the wintertime. Bouncing a Kelley Wiggler grape/cool tip paddle tail on bottom or swimming a purple Corky Devil low in the water column will definitely catch the attention of bruiser redfish and big old winter-fat yellow-mouthed sows.

In closing, December will bring some of the best fishing and favorable weather we can have year round. These two reasons are why December is ultimately my favorite month to be out on the water. Plus, the finding is easy and the catching is endless fun, but remember to fish slow, dress warm and think big. May your Christmas holiday season be filled with lots of family time and plenty of tight lines.