Mansfield Report: October 2007

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: October 2007
Adam Moss with an early morning red that came from a chest deep hole just off a Port Mansfield flat.
Fishing during the final weeks of summer is never a gimme, even here in paradise. We enjoyed some high-five times but it often took dedicated grinds to gain the results the Laguna is famous for. October's cooler weather brings with it the promise of more consistent catching, especially for larger trout, and we are certainly ready.

Most of our fishing days of the past month began with shallow wades and awe-inspiring sunrises. Leaving the Harbor early was the most critical element. If you slept too late, boat traffic and scorching sun pushed the fish down to quieter and more comfortable water. Seeing the wakes and swirls of redfish and trout as they cruise and feed on the shallow flats is another sunrise bonus. Whether you can catch them is another matter.

Seeing them is never a guarantee that catching will be easy. Sometimes the conditions are too calm and the fish too shallow. No matter how far back we park the boat or how stealthily we approach, some schools just won't hold; and some that do might not eat. Sometimes the grass is too thick and we can't get a lure to them. Making the most of sunrise wades means knowing which school to set up on. Despite the reputation of being easy, shallow-water redfish can be some of the most challenging gamefish in the world, so get there early and learn to pick your school carefully.

Small spoons and swimming plastics have always been my shallow-water go-to lures; but when you can't see your target and have to work blind, a small surface plug can also be a great tool. Lately, some of the feeding activity has been so aggressive that even full-sized plugs worked up skinny. It took a slow twitch and they didn't always eat what they chased, but let me tell you, a "hump" of water running toward your lure can make your heart pound.

Tails and backs out of the water are exciting, but in the last several weeks these have not been our biggest fish. To find the heavy-weights we have been pulling plastics through waist to chest deep depressions, even during early morning hours some days. The decision to start deep or shallow isn't easy, and apart from being good with a rod and reel, the real test always comes down to understanding patterns. Even more challenging is identifying new ones as they emerge.

Our trout have been coming on the smaller side of late, and unless you walk into an unusual situation a one in four keeper ratio has been common. This can be disappointing, but if nothing else we should be happy to see such strong recruitment in this fishery and great care should be given when handling these small fish. The standard summertime techniques are still effective as of this writing and most of the better trout have been found on deeper grass beds with soft plastics. However, topwaters fished along structure breaks have been bringing some nice fish to the surface and we expect this will continue and improve in October.

October promises to be interesting. Greater than average rainfall means a boost for important forage species such as shrimp and crabs and this is always great news for fishermen. As these guys make their move from the area's backwaters and sloughs, the trout and redfish will be there to take advantage of the bounty and we will be there too. Anxious anglers should be aware of this pattern, but crashing into them is not the best answer. I would like to urge good boating etiquette and courtesy for others. The world will be a better place if we give each other plenty of room to drift and wade.

As for fall trout tactics, we are eager to trade summer's shirt-pocket wades for action in shallower water. If predictions are accurate, our overall water levels should continue to rise and reach a peak around the first week of November. This will put more focus on back areas and shorelines we have not used in months. Larger trout will move shallower where we can get a lure to them more consistently. October will mark the end of the trout spawning period and they will add weight quickly. Naturally, we expect big things to happen.

If your goal is trophy trout you have to fish specifically for them. This means becoming an intuitive reader of the water and understanding what nature is telling us for the day. The effects of wind-induced water levels, water clarity, and the presence of the right baitfish are factors that play key roles and help us decide when and where to go to work. Notice my reference to work. Consistent success in the pursuit of bigger fish with lures will always include lots of it.

Anglers come to Port Mansfield with the hope of catching their personal best fish and last year we were fortunate to guide many who did. However, until the fall season develops fully and we can find reliable patterns, we will have to work hard and pay close attention to daily changes, especially bait movements and the depth of water the fish are using. Some of these changes will be subtle and will change day by day. A simple but effective method can be drifting into productive-looking areas to find the bite and then wading when you hit pay dirt.

October will bring a wide range of opportunity and good anglers always go prepared. We will be dusting off our Corkies and other mullet imitators as the water cools down. A good shrimp crop and lots of surface feeding should be a signal to keep sharp hooks on your topwaters. My personal assortment includes a range of sizes and rattle types as fish preference can vary by the hour and you never know if it will be a She Dog or small Spook that turns them on. Just like in other seasons, there will be many great catches made on well-presented plastic tails and I always carry a weedless spoon for hungry reds.
Autumn is awesome! We will be here doing what we do, and if you haven't done it in Port Mansfield yet, there is some paradise waiting for you.