"Fall" into the Laguna
Oh the wonderful relief of early fall! Although late summer was good to us, we are more than ready to trade some of those neck-deep wades for some skinny water stalking of the big fish kind. The first cool brush of northern air will make us all feel like kids again; energized and ready to experience the wonders of the great outdoors as designed. Let's review a bit about summer's end before we launch into what we might expect during this next exciting season of fishing the Port Mansfield way.
As of this writing we haven't received the increase in tide levels we had hoped for. Low tides combined with the hottest water temperatures of the year made fishing for larger trout tough. This was a highly dedicated effort for me this past month because that is what most of my clients wanted to do. It seemed that most had the fever for big trout and my highly coveted reds were not pursued as often as I would have liked.We did, however, manage some success by working spoil banks and deeper breaks when the winds allowed. Topwaters occasionally did well for the seasoned fisherman, but bright-colored tails on 1/4 oz. jig heads were far more consistent.
On many days the most productive retrieve for trout was low and slow and the bite often felt mushy, much like pulling through patches of stringy grass. I had to school my clients everyday. If it feels like grass, then by God set the hook anyway, you'll be glad you did. The patient angler with sensitive equipment almost always achieved success. All of our larger fish were released to spawn and hopefully grow into that fish of a lifetime we all dream about.
Other than the standard hot water fishing for trout, our shallow water redfish picked up the slack and provided some exceptional fun and challenge. During low wind mornings we often enjoyed flats completely filled with cruising wakes and boiling water. We would run until we saw groups of larger wakes we wanted to target, sometimes shutting the boat down where it barely floated. Stealthy wades were important, and as a reminder, if you can hear yourself walking you are moving too fast! I cannot say enough about this!! In calm water, loud footsteps and wakes that you are pushing with your legs spook fish and often keep them just out of casting distance.
We used topwaters more often than not during these extremely calm conditions for various reasons. Very often, the redfish that would respond were on the grass line edges next to the pure white sand. A topwater rigged with single hooks made it much easier to cast farther and work the grassy circled potholes that we have so many of here on the Laguna. Sometimes it took more than one cast to get them to commit to the plug, but if you watched which direction they turned after a missed swipe, a second presentation to that same fish would bring a hookup. We have caught more redfish on topwaters this late summer period than soft plastics or spoons and I have a few guesses about why. However, on those days where topwaters were ignored, the standard paddletail soft plastic bait was (and will always be) a good choice.
October is a month filled with thought-provoking surprises. The Weather Channel becomes much more important because even small changes in conditions can move fish. Good techniques are one thing, but the most valuable knowledge one can have will always be knowing traditional patterns and where to look. With more potential for shifting winds, October will challenge us to do just that. Despite all the hype and publicity fall fishing receives, it's not always easy.
With the predicted increase in water levels, gamefish will have many more options of where to feed. Remember, however, that in the Laguna Madre it's all about the wind. There are two standard wind-driven patterns that I will be looking for. One is where winds blow water into back areas and create off-colored zones full of bait. The second is when wind drains an area and drives it toward guts, drop-offs and other structures. We are looking for stack-up situations where your arms can get sore from landing fish. It can happen and it does happen if you time it right. The added bonus is that most of the time it will happen in water below our shins, another wonderful attraction to the Laguna Madre experience.
During fall there is a wide variety of bait in the bays. Once we find fish, reading the water becomes important to determine which types of lures will be best. Don't be afraid to figure out the bite! One common mistake we see with clients is that it's far too easy to use what worked somewhere else before. Your high confidence lure that "always works" in Galveston or Matagorda may not be the one for here. "Follow your guide" is always good advice. If you don't have a guide, try to determine what the fish are eating for the moment and how deep. Choosing the right lure and figuring out the retrieve is what makes fishing with artificials the exciting sport it is.
In closing, our redfish populations look outstanding. We are already seeing groups of them become larger and more aggressive as they make their move toward the passes. Sight-casting to pods of tails and marauding schools will be high on the list. Trout? What can we say about the class of fish which continue to thrive here in the prettiest water in Texas? The opportunity here is as good any post card destination, and from what we've seen while cruising the clear flats lately, someone is just a cast away from achieving light tackle fame and glory. Will it be you?