Mansfield Report: January 2019

Mansfield Report: January 2019
Bobby Walker nailed this brute of a redfish while targeting trophy trout.

Greetings from Port Mansfield! Lots to discuss this month and first I would like to update everyone on the big dredging project scheduled to begin late-December. The project is multifaceted, totaling 12.9 miles, beginning at the Port Mansfield harbor and continuing eastward to the ICW. There is a half-moon granite catch basin on the north side of the East Cut at the ICW, soon to be enlarged with riprap, that will become a depository for dredge material for that portion of the project, to create bird habitat and enhance birdwatching opportunity. The depth of this “pilot channel” will be 10- to 12-feet. 

The second phase will extend from the ICW to the Gulf of Mexico and slightly beyond. This phase will not start until fall 2019, mainly for wildlife habitat reasons, continuing into the spring of 2020.  The dredging material will be used to restore the eroding beach. The depth of this channel is expected to be 14 to 17 feet; the first time since 1962 that the entire East Cut will be restored to its original project depth.    

So, what will this project do for our fishery? I personally expect it will help dramatically. Currently we have little tidal movement in Port. The East Cut is shallow and when tidal movement occurs it lacks volume to substantially impact water levels. Compare this with South Padre Island. Brazos Santiago pass is deep and wide and tide influence is prevalent in the adjacent region of the Lower Laguna – clearly evident around docks, and shorelines. Not so much here in Port. Our bay relies on wind-driven current more than tidal flow. The substantial tidal flow through East Cut will bring in more nutrients, bait, and gamefish alike.  Let’s stay tuned to this… 

We have had some exceptional fronts since early-November and we dipped nearly to 30° on 14 November. As I fish more and connect the dots (or at least try) I am recognizing the distinct difference in fish following each cold snap. About two to three days after a good cold snap the fish we catch are super fat and heavy, then we have a warming trend and they start to lean out just a bit. Then, another cold front – same thing a few days later, we catch the heaviest of fish. Another thing worth noting is the fish are not losing all the weight they gained during the time they ate on the previous front. So, as days go on in the winter months, fish become just a little bit heavier following each event. This does however beg the million-dollar question – when is the best time to catch the heaviest trout? I’ll be sure to let you know when it happens, but I would say sometime between late-February and mid-April – when they’re full of eggs but not yet begun to spawn.

Our fish are still coming out of isolated potholes surrounded by heavy grass. There are a few good ones up shallow on the sand, but they are super spooky, and our water levels are not quite high enough to reasonably justify going after them. And they’re widely scattered, which further complicates the mission. But (big but) if you have patience and move stealthily you might get a shot.

Here lately I have been concentrating most of my effort where I know big trout live. We haven’t landed many yet, but enough to keep me bouncing around a two square mile area. We are fishing variations in water depth, structure, bottom consistency, water color, etc. This strategy and fishing this tight grid, we can usually walk away with a better understanding of their patterns and what might have triggered them to eat – wind velocity and direction shifts, cloud cover, and solunar feed periods.  

Our go-to baits continue to be KWigglers Willow Tail Shad, Ball Tail Shad, and the Long Tall Sally, which incidentally has proven itself super effective in shallow water. Best colors are Lagunaflauge, Turtle Grass, Chartreuse Metal Flake and, of course, Mansfield Margarita. If the water is 65° or warmer I’ll give the ol’ One Knocker a few casts, but remember to work it very slowly, giving long drawn out swags to a basic dog-walk presentation. 

Writing this in mid-December I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I will be working the Fishing Tackle Unlimited booth at the Houston Boat Show, January 10 thru 13. If you don’t find me there check the Shallow Sport Boat display. Please stop by and say hello!