Mansfield Report: September 2016

Mansfield Report: September 2016
Miniature and rare Lower Laguna trophy for Captain Wayne – dwarf seahorse!

A wise man told me that a good fishing report often comes from a fishing adventure when something special happens. And, if you are lucky, you will have a camera ready to capture the moment.

It has been hot, real hot. Mornings have been almost unbearably humid, praying for a breeze. Rest easy though, we are moving into September with fall just around the corner.

I had a great group of anglers fishing the 42nd Annual Port Mansfield Fishing Tournament. This tourney is popular and exciting for Mansfield regulars and I was privileged to have such a focused team. Many new format upgrades were incorporated this year. The tents at weigh-in provided welcome relief from scorching sun, and more helpful and courteous volunteers running around than you could shake a stick at. Everything from helping tie boats at the dock and carrying fish to the scales – topped off with offers of refreshments. How awesome! Many thanks to the crew who put this all together.

I mentioned last month that tides have been relatively lower and best current flows are strongest in and near East Cut, still moving but continuously weaker the farther from the pass we fish. I frequently make an early-morning pass along the ICW to observe and gauge direction and strength of the current on channel markers before deciding where to fish. This helps get your day started in productive areas.

Back to having that camera handy. My fishing is 99% wading and 100% artificial lures, which presents a challenge in having a camera ready. Zippered shirt pockets stop my iPhone slipping from my pocket into the water but there is still danger of dropping it when hurrying with wet hands to make action photos. I do not like waterproof phone cases and with lots of data and photos not always backed up, my wife threatens divorce every time I drop it in the water and fret losing everything. So far we have been able to save it both times, and still together.

Big surprise in the tournament. Struggling in calf-deep ICW muck hoping for a flounder to complete our team's slam category, I was working a paddletail along bottom and frequently hanging grass. Reeling in to clean my lure I noticed something unusual – a dwarf seahorse had wrapped its tail around my hook!

Talk about an oddity. I wanted so badly to photograph it but – fearing divorce – my phone was a couple hundred yards away on the boat.

Dilemma. Let the little guy go with no photo or walk back and waste fishing time?

Well, the image included here tells you what I did. Placing my FTU Green Rod in my wade belt holster, I cradled my new friend carefully in my cupped hand and added drops of water with the other to keep him alive, all the way back.

I hurriedly made a few images and released the little creature back into the Laguna Madre. Maybe another lucky fisherman will get to meet him someday. Oh – and I ended up getting a nice flounder a few minutes later. Guess you could say I was lucky twice.

We put our best effort into the tournament, fishing from 6:00AM until barely enough time to make weigh-in before 5:00PM both days. Our catches on day one carried us confidently into day two but by afternoon our attitudes were sinking as fishing was slower. We needed something really uplifting to carry us through.

Somehow, from a sea of dinks rose a beautiful trout on a teammate's lure that hit the board at a perfect 25-inches. And don't you know, 25-inches is the max length for trout in the event. What a game changer!

Motivation resonated throughout the team and we fished harder than ever, arriving at weigh-in again only fifteen minutes before the bell. It paid-off. We ended up capturing first and second in the arty-only trout division.

Overall, I'd say fishing has been fair to good and I look for a big improvement getting into September's cooler weather. One Knockers and Zara Puppies have been working in early morning with light breezes. Mid-morning we are on K-Wiggler paddletails with 1/8 ounce 2/0 jigs in waist-deep and then Ball Tail Shads out deeper for the remainder of the day. I recommend switching to 1/4 ounce jigs when bottom-bumping for flounder.

Tournament Tip: One or two decent fish while pre-fishing a spot is all you need to see – move on! I firmly believe you should release all legal fish while pre-fishing because you may up needing to catch them again when it counts.

Be safe on the water and courteous to your fellow anglers.