South Padre: October 2020

South Padre: October 2020
Stacy Schaaf placed himself in the right spot.

October is the first full month of the fall season and it quickly brings several things to mind. First; we are one month away from wearing waders. Second; the weather will be noticeably cooler. Third; some of the most spectacular sunsets of the year will occur this month. And, if you care to add a fourth; October is known to provide excellent fishing.

The days will be growing continuously shorter, which contributes to cooling water temperatures that trigger more frequent and more aggressive feeding. Surprisingly, in the past couple of weeks we have already received a couple of weak cold fronts. Way ahead of schedule to my thinking. I hope this not a sign of a hard winter ahead as we can ill afford a fish-killing freeze on our already heavily-pressured fishery.  

Redfish catches continue to be sporadic, especially on the shallow flats. Currently, our better numbers have been coming from waist to belly-deep water, with sand and shell potholes being the most productive structure. I expect the reds will return to the shallower flats as the water temperatures continue to decline.

Small crabs, shrimp, and finger-size mullet are typically plentiful in fall, and you can bet the redfish will be staging where they are most abundant. I would not pass up the sand-grass transition on the east side of the Lower Laguna. Reds will feed shallow in these areas during morning hours and then retreat deeper as the sun rises higher. 

The reds will readily accept plastics such as the KWigglers plum and chartreuse Ball Tails and Willow Tails in natural colors. I prefer to run these on 1/8 ounce jigheads. Weedless gold spoons are another solid choice when targeting reds shallow, especially where there’s lots of grass.

The trout bite has been steady with lots of slicking occurring in primary feeding zones. Tracing the slicks to their origin is important; remember that even a slight breeze can cause them to drift away quickly from the feeding zone. Quite often we can detect slicks by the smell more than the visual appearance – especially when they pop upwind of the spot you are wading.

There are still plenty of small trout out there, but a limit of decent fryers can be found with some patience. On many occasions recently we have keyed on mullet activity to lead us to the bite. Success on bigger trout has been more consistent during solunar minors and majors. Water movement definitely increases the feeding activity; incoming and outgoing tides can be equally helpful. The same as the redfish, look for trout to feed shallower as the water cools throughout the month.

I expect better topwater action for trout this month. I always keep my eyes trained on my surface baits during the retrieve for swirls and wakes. Everybody is aware that numerous blow-ups without hook-ups are a sure signal to switch to a subsurface lure but those subtle swirls and wakes are trying to tell you the same things.

Structure types and depths to focus on this month will be potholes (shallow and deep), deeper grassbeds and, as I mentioned above about the redfish, the sand-grass transition line on the east side. KWigglers Ball Tails and Willow Tails will be good plastic choices, and of course smaller topwaters in the shallows. Slicking will continue throughout the month and I heartily recommend focusing on concentrations of nervous and frantic mullet.  

I wish I could say the snook bite has been phenomenal but it has been a slow year in general for bigger fish. We are catching smaller snook in surprisingly deeper water than usual, which I cannot help but attribute to increased pressure from boat traffic. In years past our bigger fish came from the flats and adjacent waters of wadable depths but we have found them more often in the ship channel this year. A few good cold fronts in the fall chases them off the flats to deeper waters I have traditionally not targeted nearly as much. The good thing around here is that we can catch snook year-round if we choose to target them, which is always a bonus.

Hunting seasons will already be underway by the time you read this, which always provides some much-needed rest for our fishery. Diehard anglers who fish year-round are fewer in number than the warm weather crowds, and with greatly reduced traffic and fishing pressure they enjoy some of the best fishing our bays can deliver. If fishing is not in your outdoor plans this fall you might want to consider changing them. I wish you safe and excellent fall fishing.

Snook can be caught year-round in south Texas, and here is a prime example of a summer trophy snook.