South Padre: November 2011

South Padre: November 2011
A juvenile tarpon was quite a surprise for Pat while wading for redfish.

Other than a few scattered tough days, the fishing in the Lower Laguna has been very good, and this gives me great optimism for the winter fishing season. One very encouraging sign is the number and solid size of the trout we are currently catching. During September and October, trout between 24 and 28 inches were not hard to obtain on most trips, and I expect we will see even more during November. Rainfall and freshwater inflow always seem to improve our late fall fishing, and even though we have received only a small amount we are hoping for more.

One of the most exciting aspects of fall and early winter fishing is the way each passing front influences the feeding patterns. Some days the trout and redfish seem so excited to feed that you almost have to wonder if somehow they sense winter is coming and they are fattening up for leaner times ahead. Finding and tracking bait concentrations as water levels and temperatures fluctuate with each passing front will be one of the keys to fishing success. You can bet that if there are rafts of mullet active along a gut, dropoff, grassline, or other feature, the trout and reds will be there too.

Unless stirred by the wind, as the water becomes cooler it also tends to become clearer due to less algae growth. Mud boils, or mud puffs, are easier to spot in the clearer water, and these are another important sign for fishermen. We see these when we are running in the boat, drift fishing, and sometimes when we are wading. Mud boils are created by redfish and trout as they are disturbed out of their holding areas. When the fishing is slow and these type of signs are evident, it tells me the fish are there but laid up and not feeding. I like to change my retrieve, slowing down to match the fish's attitude, or maybe switching from a topwater to a soft plastic I can work slowly in and out of the potholes or over the grassbeds. If these changes in tactics do not work, I at least file the information away that the fish are here and maybe worth checking out again later in the day. Remember that the fish are coldblooded and when the water is cold they can become very lethargic. Sometimes we have to wait for a little afternoon sun for them to become interested in our lures.

Spoil banks that tapered sharply to deeper water will start to become very fishy in late November as they offer shallow feeding grounds and warm, deep refuge within a relatively small area. One of the keys to learning which area along a spoil bank is holding fish is by watching the pelicans as the bait will not always be active at the surface. Diving birds are a sure sign, but the ones paddling slowly and dipping their bills occasionally are feeding too. Back to that coldblooded thing I mentioned earlier; if the pelicans are feeding and you're not getting bites, you might need to slow your presentation.

I usually spend a lot of time near the Arroyo Colorado until about Thanksgiving when the wintry weather begins to arrive. This is when the big trout action really heats up further north around Port Mansfield and also back down here closer to Port Isabel. Lures of choice will be the reliable Kelley Wiggler ball tail shad, Corky Devils, 4 Gambler Flappn Shads, and of course a few topwaters when the conditions permit. Tide levels should remain fairly stable through most of November unless blown out briefly by strong northers. Expect a big drop in water level right about the beginning of December.

In closing, I would like to tell you about an awesome cold weather layering garment from Simms I discovered last year called the Guide Fleece Bib. It is a full-body fleece suit that is worn under your waders and is amazingly warm and comfortable on cold days. A long time ago I upgraded from wading in tennis shoes to wading boots and I thought that was the bomb. I had the same feeling when I started wearing the Guide Fleece Bib. I liked it so much; I now own three. Check them out at, or if you're near Fishing Tackle Unlimited in Houston, they have a good supply. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Be grateful and thankful that we can enjoy the great outdoors. Happy Thanksgiving!