Editor's Note: Capt. Tricia Whitley's association with this publication began in 2003, the same year she hung her shingle as a fishing guide for hire. More than a regular contributor, Tricia has become a great friend to Pam and me and we have shared many enjoyable days wading the Lower Laguna. It is rare when we are afforded the opportunity to handpick our successors in whatever endeavors we pursue, and quite gratifying when we are able to accomplish it. When Tricia and I discussed her intention to restructure and adjust the focus of her guiding services (and the future of this column monthly writing chores do grow tiresome), she recommended that I consider inviting Capt. Wayne Davis to join the team as our Port Mansfield correspondent. Her professional association and friendship with Wayne suggests admiration and respect for his character and reputation in the fishing community and I share the opinion. Please welcome Capt. Wayne to the TSFMag team. -EJ
From Capt. Wayne Davis: It is my honor and privilege to be presented the opportunity to fill, or attempt to fill, the shoes of a well-respected Lower Laguna angler and fishing guide in this column. I have enjoyed Capt. Tricia's friendship more than 10 years, running charters together and confidentially sharing fishing information. An artificial lure purist, Tricia has built a successful fishing business in a highly-competitive and traditionally male-dominated market wonderful testament to her courage and tenacious spirit. Tricia's guiding and angling skill in all seasons and water conditions is widely revered ask any who have fished alongside or competed against her. Her impressive record of Port Mansfield tournament wins has been the envy of many Lower Laguna guides and she remains a very serious threat in any event she enters. Tricia's passion in guiding has evolved to focusing on trophy trout charters during cooler seasons with longtime clients and others seeking the thrill of "lifetime" fish. Summertime will be more laidback, still running what she calls her "fun charters" but on a less aggressive schedule. I am humbled that she recommends me to carry the torch and will strive to meet her standards of sportsmanship and stewardship while keeping readers informed of angling conditions and opportunity in the Port Mansfield region.
And now for some Port Mansfield fishing news
With water levels averaging higher than normal we have been fishing flats adjacent to the ICW. The flats I refer to are specific, not more than 100 yards wide but they vary in length, some as long as 1000 yards. The fish have been in grass more than sand bottom and a slow-worked paddletail or Ball Tail Shad over the grass will provoke strikes.
On windier days, when the water tends to become somewhat murky, the 4-inch paddletail has clearly been the more effective lure. Short bursts of movement with the rod during the retrieve creates "vibration" from the paddletail that seems to entice trout, reds and flounder to strike when they would pay less attention to other lures. Many good fish have found their way to our stringers utilizing this method and should continue to work as long as the water level does not fall out which is actually due any day now.
Barring tropical storm activity, August will bring us lower water levels and calm wind that could extend well into mid-morning, but by noon we should be seeing the common 10-15 mph SE breezes coming up. This time of year you can get an early morning bite with small topwaters but you will have to move out to deeper water once the sun rises and begins warming the shallows.
Moving to waist-deep water, I prefer throwing Ball Tail Shads on 1/8 ounce, 2/0 short shank jigheads. With August's water temperatures running very warm I find that slowly bouncing it on or near the bottom works best. If I am fishing deep grass I will try to let it drop deep and tickle the tips of the grass blades. Feeding activity this time of year typically occurs over deep grass beds more often than cleaner bottoms.
Another area of interest this time of year is the East Cut when the tide is moving, especially outgoing. Consider fishing near the drains where currents are concentrated. This outgoing tide movement pulls small baitfish from ultra-shallow areas and larger gamefish will be waiting just on the outside break. You may consider a heavier jighead such as 1/4 ounce to help keep your lure in the strike zone.
I am looking forward to fall already and you can expect pods if not small schools of reds to be forming. I will admit redfish have been challenging to locate lately but I am optimistic we will see a comeback. Until then stay safe and be courteous to your fellow anglers.