S ome anglers worship the July sun on the Lower Laguna Madre. What is scorching heat to some means, red-hot snapper action offshore, pelagics far and near, and big redfish on the flats from Mexequita to Mansfield.
Others, however, try to earn their stripes in the summer. To many, however, the best part of summer is the jump in snook activity in South Bay.
The striped fish with the big mouth and pronounced underbite is at arguably his most active during the dog days of July. On the perfect day, every mangrove that marks the shoreline of the western side of South seems to be sheltering a feisty snook.
Arm-long shadows seem to hover over the patches of oyster shells scattered throughout the bottom. Mullet flick and jump for their lives as something big and hungry cruises underneath them. South Bay is an ideal hangout for any fisherman looking for a date with snookums.
The mangrove trees and boat channels in South Bay are a good place to start. A Mirrolure Top Dog or a Rapala Skitterwalk are two popular choices among South Bay snook hunters.
Bone is a popular pattern, with chartreuse/silver/white a close second. A smoke or natural mullet pattern is also very effective in spring and late summer, when mullet are in big pods in the shallows.
A seldom-used but effective lure is a broken-back minnow-imitator such as a Cotton Cordell Broken-backed Redfin or a jointed Rapala. Begin by casting along the edges of the boat channels and toward sandholes visible in the sea grass, and retrieve back in long sweeps. The snook won’t have a very hard time deciding whether they want to try a kill shot at the wobbling bait.
Don’t ignore using soft plastics, however. Shad tails in the four- to six-inch range have accounted for plenty of snook over the years. A red/white tail Cocahoe Minnow or Norton’s Bull Minnow fished on a 1/8-ounce jighead is strong medicine for South Bay’s linesiders.
Snook will also hit a six-inch twitch bait such as a Berkley Power Jerk Shad or a BassAssassin fished Texas-style. An offset worm hook such as the Mustad 38105 or 37145 Ultra Point are good hooks for this application.
A lure worth a try is Berkley’s Gulp! Alive Jerk Shad. The tentrils on the split tail enhance the tail’s action when fished either Texas Style or on the same 1/8 ounce jighead that you fish your shadtails on (1/8 ounce is an ideal size because of the relative shallow nature of South Bay; a ¼ ounce or heavier jighead will sink too fast).
Swimbaits such as the DOA Tough Guy or Storm Wildeye Pro Series Curlytail or Paddletail Shad are also good choices. Fish them just as the name suggests: reel them back straight and allow the bait’s swimming action to do the job for you.
Twitchbaits are especially effective because you can work them more slowly while fishing them around mangroves or over potholes of sand, which gives even the finickiest of snook time to decide to kill it. The Mirrolure Catch 2000 and Catch 5 immediately come to mind.
Don’t be ashamed to fish with live bait if you aren’t a very good hand with hardware. The classic shrimp/popping cork rig is very effective. If you can, use the largest shrimp you can find in the baitwell (a sure way to save some money is to try using a ½ ounce DOA Shrimp or Berkley Power Bait Rattle Shrimp on the same rig. Most fish don’t seem to know the difference). If large shrimp are hard to find, a lively three-to four-inch piggy perch or finger mullet on the same rig will work as well. Cast the bait as close to the mangroves as you can, and work the bait slower than you normally would.
Kayakers will also find that South Bay is an ideal area for them to paddle around searching for fish. The shallow bay lends itself to the stealthy approach of a well-handled ‘yak. It might be a bit of a scull to get there from Long Island, which is across from the Bay via Mexequita flats, but a kayaker can mitigate some of the effort and take along an umbrella to catch the southeastern breeze and sail back home. Be careful, though, and keep an eye out for shrimp boats, fishing boats, and barges when using wind power.
Southeast of the mouth of South Bay is an area called the Railbed. The parallel line of stones that formed the old railbed can be seen leading from shore into Laguna Madre. There is a ledge a bit out from the shoreline. Snook, trout, and redfish follow this ledge along the edges of Brazos-Santiago Pass as they travel from the pass to the Laguna and back. The astute angler can intercept these fish with the same live bait rigs he used in South Bay. You can also choose the same soft plastics and twitch baits that work in the Bay.
There is no denying that snook are great eating, and state regulations allow each angler to keep one fish between 24 and 28 inches per person per day. However, these fish are more valuable alive, so it doesn’t hurt to practice a little moderation if there are three or more fishermen on your boat.
After all, you do want another date with snookums.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]