COASTAL FORECAST: Lower Coast

SPECIAL SECTION
July 25, 2016
COASTAL FORECAST: Rockport
July 25, 2016

Fishing in the Pink

A ugust can be brutal. It’s hot, the winds have either disappeared altogether or make you feel like you’re in clothes dryer with a bunch of wet socks.

Laguna Madre waters have warmed into the mid-to-high 80s, and after brief, early morning bites, trout and redfish seem to disappear from the flats. The water becomes a hot, steamy anvil, and the sun is a 10-pound sledge, and guess who is right in the middle?

There doesn’t seem much an angler can do in August except get up at early-thirty to try to get a few fish and then sit in the condo for the rest of the day. August fishing can be tough sometimes.

Fishermen can take heart, however. The jetty systems of both Brazos Santiago and Mansfield passes provide some excellent (and sometimes better) fishing for a variety of fish, some that are highly desirable among even the most discriminating anglers. 

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 that feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre. These jetty systems 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. Even when the Big Three aren’t cooperating, there is a healthy array of alternative species to keep you occupied (check my tandem saltwater column “Bench Depth” for further information).

Certainly, the most sought-after quarry are speckled trout and redfish. Both fish can be caught from the jetties on the same trip. However, different techniques are called for.

Speckled trout will usually hold closer to the rocks and cruise 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. 

An incoming tide sends clean water in from the Gulf, lays swells down and makes 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 snapper, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance), or on a Carolina rig out in the surf for redfish.

The bait bucket, however, isn’t necessary. A box filled with chugging topwaters such as the Storm Chug Bug, Pop-A-Dog, similar such popper, a couple of pink/gold Rat-L-Traps, a ½ ounce silver spoon or two, and a collection of your favorite plastic tails in red/white, or chartreuse patterns and some 1/8 ounce jigheads (the lighter heads are less apt to snag up) is perfect to keep you mobile.

If 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 any redfish.

It doesn’t hurt to take a few wire leaders in your tackle box. This time of year, there are schools of Spanish mackerel that tear into bait balls in front 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, only they offer some gill-rattling jumps for your thrills. 

The question always comes up about the sort of tackle needed for the jetties. Honestly, your traditional inshore 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, and it gives you a little more power in reserve if Mr. Big comes calling. My preferred rig is a 7 ½ foot medium action casting rod with a Curado 300-e loaded with 10/40 Power Pro braid. This outfit will tackle pretty much any fish you might run into on the rocks (unless a 150 pound tarpon grabs your plug; then, all bets are off).

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. Tarpons prowl the currents and eddies on the channel side of the jetties when the tide is running. Mullet-imitators such as a large Rapala, LiveTarget Mullet, or a large white Bassassassin 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 eight- or nine-weight fly rod.

Kayakers can have a blast during these calm days with what tackle shop owner Joe Montemayor calls the “Dawn Patrol.” This involves paddling out parallel to the jetties early in the morning with a one-ounce Trap or Russelure behind him. The pace is the perfect speed to maximize the action of either lure. You never know what is going to nail your offering.

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.

You never know what may show up and rock your world.

Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]

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