Mansfield Report: December 2006

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: December 2006
The bite was very delicate, but these girls learned how important it is to detect the slightest signal.

Fall was exactly what it was supposed to be down here in the Laguna Madre, especially out on the shallow flats. Redfish smashed topwaters, waved their tails in the morning air, cruised just beneath the surface in ultra-clear knee-deep water, and intercepted well-placed casts like the hungry predators they are. Top it off with sights and sounds of a sky filled with incoming ducks and geese and it's a setting like no other. The trout weren't too bad either and we all enjoyed watching them get heavier as the water cooled down. It is winter now and some techniques and tactics will change. But, before we talk about that, let's look at a typical fall trip I had recently to give us insight into fun fishing paired with realistic expectations.

We were pleased to take a group of Texas Lady Anglers recently, and although their skills ranged from just getting started to expert, their enthusiasm, preparedness and expectations were all that a guide could ask for. Imagine driving up to a big bay house filled with four boats worth of Lady Anglers eager to see what the Laguna had to offer. Capt. Danny Neu, Capt. Mike McBride, Capt. Arlen Smith and I were eager to show them. Danny had already gotten the jump on us that afternoon with five of the girls who showed up early. Typical of fall, you just have to go regardless of conditions and good things can happen.

With north winds over twenty-five mph and water looking like a bottle of Yoo-Hoo chocolate milk, Susan Laneri set the hook on a twenty-nine inch trout. She is an experienced bass angler but this was her first saltwater fish on a lure. Talk about a confidence builder; and for the guides too! This shows us once again we can't be scared of a little weather. The fish do not leave; we just have to muster the courage to throw our lures where they should be, even if it looks horrible. Such is fishing during the switching winds of autumn and early winter.

The next day, when all of the girls got to participate, held better conditions but was still a typical slow full moon bite. Yet, these girls caught fish because they wanted and fully expected to, and that's how we all should catch them. Several of the group surpassed a few major milestones, something else we should all strive for regardless of experience.

In my boat, after checking a few promising spots with marginal results, we found quite a few redfish hanging on a knee deep flat. It looked like topwater time and it was. Everybody within five miles heard from Michelle as she encountered her first ever topwater red. Her jubilation was infectious and it was once again a reminder of why I wanted to be a fishing guide in the first place. Superspook Jr's are a good call when redfish are feeding on shrimp, and the explosions were electrifying to say the least. We all caught fish. True to full moon fishing though, the morning's stirring session slowed to a grind as we switched to pulling soft plastics through deeper potholes and sandy strips. Being very patient and trying to feel the soft bite was the key.

Capt. Mike McBride worked a waist-deep pothole pattern as well, and his crew concentrated on throwing tails low and slow near the grassy edges. Our twenty-nine inch trout girl, Susan, discarded extra gear throughout the day, which included her landing net. Learning how to hand grab a fish was as exciting to her as hooking it. TJ Huelsebusch hooked redfish throughout the day, a first for her on lures. Typical of full moon days, you really had to coax them and even then the bite was a delicate tap. The Lady Anglers were being schooled on the importance of remaining attentive to even the slightest signal.

Capt. Danny's and Capt. Arlen's boats had similar fun results, as they too proved that enthusiasm catches fish more than anything else. This group had it, and we are all proud to see what steps the Texas Lady Anglers have taken to continue getting the most out of what fishing has to offer–and having one heck of a time while doing it too!

With winter now upon us it's time for all of us to take advantage of what the cold season has to offer. Besides the fish, we left fall with some tremendous dove hunting in the afternoons. Now the duck and goose populations look serious, so in-between chasing our big winter fish, it looks like some good gun play may be in order as well.

We look forward to more predictable big trout patterns after the water dips into the fifties a time or two, and based on what we saw last year, this may be one of the best years ever. Areas where we will catch them will depend on conditions, but they will mostly all be near guts and contours leading quickly to deeper water. Like Susan above, we can't be scared of a little weather if we really want our personal best trout.

Our redfish look to be in good shape also, and despite common theories, all of the bigger reds do not leave the bays when it gets cold. Some of our best and biggest catches last winter came from not only warming flats but also frigid guts and depressions during inclement weather. We have surpassed yet another year without a freeze or disrupting hurricane, so this winter looks to be everything it is supposed to be as well. The Laguna has it all, so with some dedication and enthusiasm, such as the Texas Lady Anglers brought down, it might also be your year to pass some major milestones.