O ne spring really starts kicking into gear in April, business begins to pick up on the Lower Laguna Madre.
Every flats boat that can will be zipping off towards the long flats of Gaswells, or Cullen Bay, or Dunkin’s, or Three Island, or Green Island. Their expressed purpose is to look for schools of hungry speckled trout and redfish that have been playing hide and seek all winter long.
Anglers around Port Mansfield will make the run to the Saucer and Bennie’s for the same reason. The savvy fisherman, or at least the ones reading this, will know that such a long trip isn’t necessary to find good action. All it takes is a short jaunt to a really productive, but under fished, spot.
The color change that forms where the grass flats near he South Padre Island Convention Center meets up with the sand and spoils of the ICW is an excellent springtime fishing spot.
Speckled trout and redfish both use the change in water clarity—which switches from gin-clear to “trout green” so abruptly that a sharply defined boundary is formed—as cover to ambush prey. The color change also provides fish with a safety zone they can easily retreat to when they are cruising the grass flats.
A great feature about the color change is that it is a short hop from Jim’s Pier, or any other marina where you put in. It isn’t difficult to find, because there aren’t any obscure landmarks you have to remember. If the bite is on, as it often is in April, you don’t have to burn more gas looking for a more productive area.
The ease of returning to port also makes the color change a great area to bring children fishing. If they get tired, a short run back, and they’re back in their air-conditioned hotel room or condo, watching NETFLIX (you might even be able to sneak back for another hour or two of fishing).
The key word when fishing the color change is “slow.” A long slow drift is the most effective strategy to adopt because it allows you to efficiently cover the zone between the clear and sandy water.
Begin your drift just inside of the boundary, and allow the wind to dictate your direction. A straight southerly wind will push you on a parallel with the boundary line, and a southeasterly will create a more perpendicular drift. If the wind is a little stiffer than usual, a drift sock will slow you down to a more efficient speed.
Predators will be feeding mostly on young-of-the year baitfish and shrimp in April, so it’s important that the bait and lures you use reflect that trend. Live shrimp is always going to work.
This is a classic shrimp-and-popping cork scenario. I prefer to fish with a Cajun Thunder or a Bomber Paradise Popper. The latter of the two has a concave top, which makes a loud “pop” when pulled through the water. When worked, they not only provide the “bloop” of a good popping cork, but the rattles add to the racket and continue to provide sound while the rig is at rest.
Fish key in on the rattle corks more effectively. The Paradise Popper is built on a flexible titanium wire, which means it won’t bend or tangle after extended use, which is a plus.
A 24-inch, 20 pound fluorocarbon leader, #3 split shot and a 2/0 Kahle hook rounds out the popping cork rig. The Kahle hook is much better than the typical treble hook because it is less prone to tearing a fish up. Mostly, the hook lodges in the top of a fish’s mouth or in the corner of the jaw, making release much easier.
If you don’t want to drop a double sawbuck on a quart of live shrimp, shrimp imitators are just as effective. The main go-to artificial that most coastal fishermen are turning to is the Gulp! 3” Shrimp.
You can fish the tail on a 1/8-ounce jighead, or on the same live shrimp rig. Shrimp tails are also effective bouncing along the bottom. Fish them slowly with about a two second pause between twitches.
I’ve been experiencing a great deal of success using Gulp’s Ripple Shad underneath my rattle floats. Glow/chartreuse and glow are very effective in the sandy green water of the color change. White/Pepper flake and Rootbeer/chartreuse are effective on sunny days. If fish are moving out onto the grass flats, switch to chartreuse.
To finish off the illusion, liberally slather on a shrimp-flavored scent such as Carolina Lunker Sauce. The scent also leaves a slick behind the bait that trout and redfish will follow.
Shad tails are also very effective around the color change. The throbbing “boot tail” of a Norton Bull minnow, DownSouth Lures shad, or Gulp! Ripple Mullet is an effective fish attractor. If trout are keying on a more subtle action, use a Kelly Wigglers Balltail Shad.
Again, colors such as glow/chartreuse, pearl chartreuse, or the ageless strawberry and whit are the standards you’ll want to load your tackle box with.
Later in the morning when the sun gets higher in the sky, keep an eye out for dark patches of weeds scattered throughout the sandy bottom inside the Color Change. These clumps of grass offer still another ambush point that speckled trout use when feeding. Cast over or parallel to these patches and work your bait through or by them. Again, the key word is slow, so make sure your drift doesn’t take you by them too quickly. Don’t discount a clump as being too small. I once caught a 27-inch trout that ambushed my bait from a weed clump the size of a garbage can lid.
A short run, easy location, and good fishing…what more could you want from a fishing spot?
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]