Most anglers know August for hurricane season winging into its annual groove, and for the dog days that follow a tropical system that goes inland anywhere east of the South Texas Coast.
Any fisherman on Lower Laguna Madre will add that August is the advent of some of the most intense redfish action you could ever see.
"Reds get pretty thick starting in August," said Captain Richard Bailey (956-369-5090). "There isnt much else to chase after, because the reds are so thick."
Mature redfish (mostly over 26 inches, and quite a few over the 28-inch slot) are schooling up (or "herding," as many locals say, perhaps in a tip of the cap to some of the bull reds they encounter) in August and foraging heavily in anticipation of their fall migration into the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. Smaller fish, 18- to 24-inchers, are also schooling up and partaking of the annual mullet run that occurs in the fall. It isnt uncommon to find schools of redfish chasing hapless schools of finger mullet against either the spoil banks shorelines (immediately West of the Intracoastal Waterway), or the Padre Island shoreline.
These arent small pods of redfish, either. On more than one occasion, while fishing with Captain Jimmy Martinez (956-551-3581), I have seen schools of large redfish numbering hundreds of fish. A strawberry field of that size is something to behold, though some fishermen who still remember Laguna Madre before Hurricane Beulah, remember schools three times that size.
Schools that size, however, are more than enough for the modern fishermen with aspirations of latching onto the sort of line-peeling action these fish can provide.
"The east side of Laguna Madre is just full of redfish," said Captain Martinez. "If there is a little wind and some moving water, you can drift into them over and over again. The action can be non-stop."
Gaswell Flats (GPS 26.228533, -97.253417) is an excellent starting point when looking for September reds. This broad flat on the south side is deep enough for drifting, but still shallow and clear enough for sight-fishing. Look for tailing reds, or when the tide is in, for disturbed water and skipping bait. The water is sometimes clear enough that you might actually be able to spot the fish themselves (you will often see fishermen standing on their center console, or in a fish tower looking for these brutes).
Lure selection for these fish is pretty straightforward. The Pettys stick to the venerable gold spoon for their reds. A 1/4-ounce gold weedless spoon is an effective classic lure for redfish.
Topwaters such as the Top Dog, SkitterWalk, or Producers Ghost are also good choices. The three most popular patterns for these are bone, Halloween (black back/gold sides/orange belly), and chrome/blue. Swimbaits such as the Storm WildEye Shad and Berkley Power Swimbait have also started to develop a following among LLM fishermen. The wobbling, throbbing action of these baits throws off an incredible amount of vibration, and Ive had redfish come from a good ways off to kill these baits.
If you prefer bait, live shrimp under a popping cork is always tough to beat, but cut ballyhoo is a solid close second. Take the front half of a 6- to 8-inch hoo, break off the beak, and run a 3/0 Kahle hook up through the chin. Cast the bait out in front of a school of reds, and work the lure back as you would a topwater. Redfish will not ignore it.
Fishermen who prefer staying close to Port Isabel or South Padre Island would do well fishing the Pasture, which is just north of the Queen Isabella Causeway (GPS 26.088867, -97.171767, Mexequita Flats (26.057383-97.1971) and South Bay (GPS 26.0281, -97.20185). All produce excellent numbers of redfish in the fall. Its important though, that you need to pay attention to the tides, otherwise youll be waiting a while for high tide.
Anglers looking for something bigger than the typical slot redfish should consider surfing. Some of the real giants of the species start roaming the surf up and down the Texas Coast. Local fishermen interested in tangling with a real bull over 40 inches should look to Boca Chica Beach, across Brazos Santiago Pass. It is a bit of a drive to get there (take US 77 to Brownsville, take the Boca Chica exit, and continue until it turns into SH 4, and ends at the beach), but it is well worth the drive.
Most anglers prefer using large spinning outfits (I prefer a Shimano 8 Terrez paired with a Stradic 8000 FJ loaded with 50-pound Power Pro). Use a fish-finder rig with a 1- to 2-ounce pyramid or flat sinker and a 5/0 Kahle or circle hook. Cut bait works well, but live mullet or pinfish works best. Some fishermen will drive down to the mouth of the Rio Grande to cast net baits, but you can also find some finger mullet in the first gut along the beach. Cast your rig into the second gut right up against the third bar.
It may take some work to find and land a true Boca Chica bull, but many will consider it well worth the effort.
THE BANK BITE
Location: North Brazos Jetties
Species: Speckled Trout
Techniques: Fish live shrimp under a popping cork near the rocks. Soft plastics work too.