T here is a reason why experienced Coastal Bend anglers look for grass beds and grass line when they seek out Laguna Madre’s bruiser reds and speckled trout. There is a reason why the better guides from the Sabine to South Bay will drift their clients over grassflats or line them along a breakline that is traced by a long pasture of shoal grass. It’s a simple reason, and a very good reason.
Grass Flats mean trout, redfish, and flounder—big ones.
Anyone who has seen speckled trout strafing schools of baitfish that are stacked up against a grass bed, or pods of big redfish tailing around in potholes surrounded by acres of shoal and turtle grasses will agree. Anyone who has felt the tell-tale “thump” when a big flounder lands on top of a jig scooted along the bottom parallel to a grass line that graces the Intracoastal Waterway will agree with that sentiment. Vast meadows of green submerged under air-clear water are fish magnets of the first order.
Predatory fish gravitate to the breaks where seagrass meet sand or mud because the difference provides cover to hide from any unfriendly that may be stalking about, but also because it forms a splendid ambush point to nail hapless prey.
Live bait is very effective along grass lines. Croaker is very popular, but piggy perch might be easier to come by in summer and fall. By fall, croaker, the bait of choice of summer, decreases in availability. Mullet and perch become primary forage targets of large predators. Perch are more plentiful in the marine grass beds, and are thus the primary forage for the predators in the area. There is another feature that recommends perch over other baitfish—sound.
Hook the perch through the flesh where the anal fin meets the body. The bone structure of the fin secures the hook, and the hook’s placement prevents the perch from diving into the grass to hide. Rather, the fish will be more prone to swim upwards and swim above the top of the grass, croaking and grunting in displeasure.
Perch are much hardier than both croaker and mullet, which seem to look for any reason to turn belly-up in the bait well. A well-aerated live well is more than enough to keep two or three dozen piggies alive on a hot July day.
Another technique that is popular on the Lower Laguna Madre—which has its share of sea grass, as popular spots with names such as The Pasture would indicate—should also find room in the Upper Laguna Madre fisherman’s bag of tricks.
A live pinfish or the front half of a six- to eight-inch ballyhoo can be pinned through the nose of a Kahle hook and fished under a rattle float or Cajun Thunder. The float holds the bait over the grass, and also adds noise to the equation. The rig is effective while drifting over long flats and helps you cover more water efficiently.
If you have a tough time finding a shop that, sells perch, and you don’t want to go through the trouble of throwing a cast net (or just aren’t adept at it), or checking traps to make bait. In those cases, there are plenty of artificials that will get the job done—provided they have gold and/or chartreuse.
The most popular and perhaps most successful lure to use in these grassy environments is the old standard: the gold spoon. The gold spoon covers a lot of water in the shortest amount of time. It’s an excellent search bait that you can fan cast around grassbeds, potholes, and weedlines to locate concentrations of redfish and trout. Contrary to popular belief, a speckled trout—or even a flounder—will zap a wobbling, fluttering ¼ ounce weedless spoon, especially if it has a feather or plastic trailer). Moreover spoons are easy to use. Simply cast it out, reel it in, and the spoon provides its own action and flash.
Aside from ease of use, another factor that makes the gold spoon so popular is that it effectively mimics the same flash of a pinfish.
Another good grass technique is a Texas-rigged jerkbait such as as a classic BassAssassin or Sluggo. A six-inch jerkbait in darker colors such as Motor Oil, Fire Tiger, or Baffin Magic can be very effective early in the morning and under low-light conditions.
For a different approach, especially if the fish are a bit skittish on very clear days, Texas rig a four-inch Gulp! Shirmp on a 3/0 swimbait hook. Make long casts toward the potholes and slink it along the bottom. Redfish can’t resist it.
The grass meadows of the Texas Coast are a vital and diverse ecosystem. As vast as they are, they are also fragile. It doesn’t take much to wipe out patches of the marine greenery, and the fauna that relies on it, but it takes years, and perhaps decades, for it to regenerate. As responsible sportsman, it is imperative we safeguard these environs.
The only current outboard-restricted area on the Coastal Bend is Redfish Bay, but there are other areas of Laguna Madre and the adjoining bay systems that bear prop scars from super shallow-running boats and the owners that blow them over shallow flats at low tide. A few minutes detour can prevent the sort of damage that can lead to prop scarring and the regulation of where fishermen can run their boats. Just because a boat can run in 10 inches of water doesn’t mean it should be run in 10 inches of water.
Besides, isn’t it more fun to quietly pole, drift, or even wade up to a grassline and see redfish tailing or trout terrorizing baitfish on the surface?
That sort of experience can get you hooked on grass in very short order.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]