We are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey as October approaches. I am so very saddened to see what happened just up the coast from Port Mansfield, and to see and hear about the devastation this storm has brought to the great State of Texas.A lot of people have been affected by this storm and there are no words that can describe what some of you are experiencing.
I have experienced storms. Hurricane Dolly in 2009, when she so ungraciously ripped the roof from my house and left us without power for a week. I know it was eight years ago but, to show some connectivity to what many of you are experiencing, I have been there. I know many of our fellow anglers have jumped into action and aided in many rescues and donated hundreds if not thousands of hours. Many of us collected supplies and assisted in recovery efforts on many levels.
Port Mansfield was spared Harvey’s wrath but if you live along the Gulf Coast it is likely you will experience something similar in your lifetime. Following Dolly, friend and fellow guide Steven DeVries told me, “In about 18 months you will see some of the best fishing you have ever seen.” Well, if you recall during 2010-2011, fishing in Port Mansfield was on fire. Unsure whether a direct correlation but this might be a good time to be optimistic.
Tides continue to be low, albeit it did rise as Harvey was northeast of Port, but it soon went back down to semi-low and low levels. Not necessarily a bad thing, low tides help us pattern fish and keeps them somewhat concentrated to low-lying areas of bay bottom.
Our water is in good shape but when the wind picks up we are still dealing with floating grass. It’s strange how the best concentration of fish sometimes coincides with areas hard to fish.Well, we must be smarter than the fish or at least try. I have had to change tactics and found myself fishing weedless rigs when required. I much prefer the standard jig head but when floating grass becomes impossible I am quick to switch. I have experimented with many styles and sizes of rigs and soon found myself designing my own. I am just finishing up with the weedless experiments and will offer a report soon.
Let’s talk quickly about weedless setups in saltwater. First the positive - the bite ratio is awesome, you will definitely get a ton more bites than with a grass-clogged standard jig hook. On the negative side – I believe the hook-up ratio is lower.
So, here are some thoughts on fishing very grassy situations. I would rather have a chance at a fish than none at all. Pretty simple.Standard jigs in heavily-grassed situations are good for only a few turns of the reel handle. But, with a properly rigged weedless set up you have a shot at landing a fish. I prefer having a shot. Now, since I have started down this road I needed to find the right hook for more hook-ups. Stay tuned and I will let you know my thoughts once I have finalized the project.
Fish have been relatively easy to pattern. That said, they have been holding in thigh- to waist-deep over scattered grass and sand pockets. The pattern holds basically the same north or south of Port Mansfield.There have been some good fish out deep also, up to your shirt pockets. Certainly wadable, but that depth isn’t the most comfortable for most anglers.
Another tip, as always, you must find bait. You may have to work a few spots, but staying with the bait in combination with grass and sand pockets should provide plenty of action. We have had to sift through some small ones, but that is just part of it.Enjoy it – there is a lot to be learned from catching fish, no matter the size.
Our baits of choice continue to be KWigglers such as Willow Tail Shad, Ball Tail Shad and 4-inch paddletails.Remember, if you are shallow, start with Willow Tails and 4-inch paddletails. Out deeper, try the Ball Tail Shad. The 1/8-ounce jigs seem to be the preferred size down here, and Bone Diamond, Mansfield Margarita and Padre Punch are producing great fish.Good luck out there, and always remember to practice conservation and courtesy on the water.