W hen prevailing winds begin blowing out of the southeast and help smooth out near-gulf waters, every angler’s attention should turn to the school of rock, as in the rocky jetties that bookend the passes up and down the South Texas Coast.
Fishing the jetties in early summer isn’t a journey for just dinky whiting and skinny sand trout. Some of the most underrated summer fishing in South Texas takes place along either side of the Brazos Santiago jetties that bookend the pass by the same name which feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre.
These jetties systems, which were lengthened and reinforced in late 2012, are accessible from land—the north jetties from South Padre Island, and the south jetties from Brownsville via SH 4, and then turning left onto Brazos Island (known locally as Boca Chica Beach). They offer excellent fishing for everything from the four parts of the “Texas Slam” (trout, redfish, flounder, and snook), mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, and even kingfish for the properly equipped.
Certainly, the most sought-after quarry are speckled trout and redfish. Both can be caught from the jetties on the same trip. However, different techniques are called for. Speckled trout will be usually holding closer to the rocks and patrolling up and down the gut that runs parallel to the jetties. This is especially true on the north jetties, where prevailing currents create gentler eddies and currents that, on an outgoing tide, push water and bait against the surf-side of the rocks. Redfish will be prowling the surf away from the jetties and in the guts that intersect them. Late summer and fall are better times for surf-run redfish, but there are some decent numbers sniffing around in the suds.
An incoming tide and soft southeast breezes that send clean water in from the Gulf, lay swells down make early mornings magical off the rocks. A fisherman can do well throwing live bait under a popping cork near the rocks for trout and mangrove snappers, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance.
The problem is, everything loves to eat shrimp, including the countless bait thieves that live in and around the rocks. On a really bad day, these little nibblers can leave you with an empty bait bucket and talking to yourself. Fortunately, live bait isn’t necessary.
A box filled with chugging topwaters such as theMirrolure Poppa Dawg or PRADCO’s Heddon Pop’R, a couple of pink/polka-dot Rat-L-Traps, a ½ silver spoon or two, and a collection of your favorite plastic tails in red/white, or chartreuse patterns and some 1/8 ounce jigheads is perfect to keep you mobile. I the wind is straight from the south, you can still fling topwaters parallel to the rocks. In fact, the trout seem a little more aggressive in the more active water.
Start an early morning expedition on the jetties by casting back towards the corner where the rocks meet the beach and work the lure back along the bottom. Trout should be there, but there may also be a few big flounders waiting in ambush. From those casts, expand out into the guts and cast parallel to the beach to see if there are redfish.
It doesn’t hurt to keep a few wire leaders in your tackle box. This time of year, there are schools of Spanish mackerel and some small bluefish that start to maraud around the surf side of the jetties. They aren’t discriminating, and can clean you out of tackle in a hurry.
On the south jetties, the surf is a bit rougher, and the rocks are not laid as smoothly, but the presence of snook in the suds more than makes up for the tougher work. These fish will also attack the same trout and redfish lures with abandon.They offer some gill-rattling jumps for your thrills.
The question always comes up about the sort of tackle needed for the jetties. Honestly, 10-12 pound tackle is enough, but if you hook into a big red or snook, you are going to be in trouble. Upping slightly to 14-17 pound tackle is a safer bet to handle just about anything that swims the suds around the pink granite. It gives you a little more power in reserve if Mr. Big comes calling.
If you are feeling a little ambitious, walk all the way to the end of the jetties to take a shot at a kingfish or tarpon. Tarpon prowl the currents and eddies on the channel side of the jetties when the tide is running. Mullet imitators such as a large Rapala, Bomber Long A, or Money Mino are the best bets to get a poon’s attention. Fly fishermen can use a large Tarpon Bunny or Chicken Feather-type fly on an 8- or 9-weight fly rod.
Calm days bring blue water right up into the rocks, and kingfish follow bait into casting range. Use a Magnum Rat-L-Trap in Chrome/blue or a fresh ribbonfish on a classic kingfish rig. Large menhaden (pogies) are best if you can get some that are fresh. Upgrade to a surf rod and high-capacity reel. Back in June of this year, I hooked into something that nailed my Pencil Popper and stripped my Penn 9500 SS of 400 yards of braid just like that. As far as I know, whatever it was is halfway to Yucatan.
You never know what my show up and turn your June into a month to remember.
Location: Dolphin Cove
Species: Panfish, sheepshead.
Techniques: Live or fresh dead shrimp. Fish near the rocks with a float rig for sheepies, further out in the deeper water for drum.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]