Greetings from Port Mansfield! November’s opening of the general deer season will give us greatly reduced boat traffic, and boy am I ready. Even better for me is that I no longer hunt deer and will be devoting all my time to fishing. We concluded the busiest summer on the Lower Laguna I can recall, and with that we witnessed an incredible harvest of trout and redfish. To put it bluntly I believe our Mother Lagoon gave far more than she received.
We saw our first “cool” front in late September, which really amounted to little more than a wind shift and a few degrees cooler overnight. Coupled with that we had overwhelming rainfall the last two weeks of September which helped reduce water temps to about 78 degrees. While we all hoped this might have been the kickoff to stronger fall fishing, the kick fell short. No doubt lessened by the fact of being on the back side of a full moon.
Based upon the paragraphs above, one might think we are coming off the peak of the bell curve regarding the trophy-class trout fishery for which Port Mansfield is famous. I’m not certain this is the case, but I do have some concerns. As I mentioned in previous reports, we are currently working for mostly keepers; sifting through tons of 10 to 14-inchers to occasionally catch one a bit longer than 15, or a trophy fish when we’re lucky. I believe the days of pulling up to any spot and jumping out to find immediate action on three to five-pound trout might be behind us – at least for now.
An optimistic lens would see this a couple of ways. One, our East Cut needs dredging and this should happen this winter, contributing positively to water exchange between the shallow LLM and the gulf. This would bring in nutrients and increase the gamefish passage to the LLM. Two, fishing is cyclical. What I mean is that some years provide better fishing than others and we might be in a “down” portion of the cycle.
Wading alongside my clients I ponder these thoughts over and over. I watch mullet jumping and flickering while continuing to make empty casts. Being a fulltime guide and on the water quite a bit, we do have days when we flat out catch fish, and nice ones at that. Is this the law of averages? More days on the water means more chances to experience good days? Or could it be finally landing in the right place at the right time? Here lately being in the right place has meant being in the EXACT right place. Recently I witnessed a situation where 100 yards made a world of difference. So much so that one group caught limits and another group landed only a few.
Last report I mentioned having seen a few small schools of reds, but they are easy to scatter and tough to get clients on unless you wade patiently and walk very stealthily into them. Which by the way is an absolute blast and happened again recently with another group.
Higher water levels have me fishing backwater grass flats in relatively shallow water. This can be challenging if there is surface grass, which hinders topwater action and all but defeats plastics on traditional jigheads. My strategy to overcome this has been rigging our KWigglers Willow Tail Shad on the new Willow Maker Jighead, either completely weightless or 1/16-ounce models. You can cast this setup a mile and it runs virtually weedless, even in the thickest floating and submerged grass.
Quickly on gear; for the past five months I have been fishing the Shimano Aldebaran 50 and must say it is the lightest reel I have ever used. Weighing only 4.7 ounces, it is as smooth today as it was the first day out of the box. It has an electro-coated magnesium frame and the angler should be aware to keep it out of the saltwater. Don’t dunk it, and if you do by accident, tear it down for a thorough cleaning or take it to a professional reel service. I paired mine with a Fishing Tackle Unlimited Green Rod, 6’6” split grip with light action and can make hundreds of casts in a day without wearing out my shoulder.
As we move forward into late fall and looking through our optimistic lens, we can expect fishing to pick up as the season develops. All we need is a few good northers and cooler water temps to set it in motion.
Until next time, good fishing and remember to practice catch and release.