South Padre: May 2020

South Padre: May 2020
Eight-year-old Adiel with his first-ever fish while wading.

Tides have risen to normal springtime levels and with that came the generally good numbers of fish we are accustomed to seeing this time of the year. While catching was decent through the winter season I would say that fishing in general did not live up to expectations with the generally mild temperatures we experienced. Past experience gave me a hunch that when true spring weather finally arrived our fishing would improve dramatically in a very short time and that would definitely describe what we have experienced the last several weeks.

With the influx of water from the Gulf we are currently seeing great abundance of bait; hordes of mullet, piggy perch, ballyhoo, and juvenile shrimp. Main bay shorelines and back bay areas are teeming with life. Signs of spring are everywhere with yucca and cactus plants blooming. What a great time to be on the water.

Our bays have been virtually empty with everybody heeding Corona virus warnings. It's kind of eerie and brings back memories of how empty our bays were twenty-plus years ago. In my outings the past several weeks I have noticed very little boat traffic and almost no fishing pressure. The fish have reacted predictably, remaining in the same locales for days and even weeks at a time. I have also noticed a distinct improvement in their feeding attitudes.  

Big trout began showing in good numbers around mid-March and we are currently seeing at least one and sometimes several of five pounds and heavier per trip. Most of these solid trout are hanging on potholes in shallow, sometimes crystal-clear water. Since the water is way up, shallow grass flats in early morning and late evening hours have produced quality trout as well.

We have been keying on schools of active mullet as these and pinfish seem to be their primary forage. As we wade, I'm looking for nervous baitfish, potholes, ambush points, and depth changes. Since these fish are less spooky than normal I'm moving at a much slower pace and often receiving multiple hookups along rather small structural features.

As could be expected, topwater action has improved the past two weeks with greater water level on the flats and water temps ranging from 75 to 85°. Look for the surface bite to get even better as the water temps continue to rise.

May is known for quantity as well as quality trout and practically every type of lure can be a producer. If trophy-class trout are your primary goal I would suggest the periods leading into the new and full moon phases for the stronger tidal flows and more aggressive feeding that often accompanies them. 

Judging by our daily success with redfish I would say this fishery is healthy and thriving in the Lower Laguna at this time. We are catching them in deep water, on wide open flats, and shallow back bays. Redfish are using higher tide periods during the day to travel from area to area. From my past experience, just knowing the water level at a given area provides a good clue as to where they can be located. There are other factors involved, such as forage availability, atmospheric conditions, wind direction, and wind speed, but that's what makes the game of predicting where we can find them so much fun.

Small blue crabs and shrimp are always a big part of the redfish diet and it is no surprise that areas with semi-soft bottoms with plentiful grass are holding the best numbers of reds at present. I will add that strong afternoon winds seem to intensify their feeding activity, even though the water color can be murky at these times.  

The Spook Jr and smaller Skitter Walks are working well under these conditions and I do not believe lure color is nearly as important as the sound and surface commotion they create. With small schools being the norm we are able to catch several once they are located. Their feeding attitude has been so aggressive that we’re actually sight-casting them with small topwaters when the conditions are favorable.

In closing I want to encourage everybody to look hard for the bright spots amid the Corona virus chaos. The current absence of pressure on our bays is going to give our fisheries a much-needed rest and hopefully healthier and stronger in the future. With great sincerity my heart and prayers go out to all, especially to those in the fishing industry. I pray that we all survive these trying times and become stronger in the end. Stay safe and healthy.