M ost of the anglers who are not spending their Novembers in deer blinds are usually fishing all the traditional autumn hot spots for trout and redfish, which is understandable.
Most of these spots are tough to beat for steady action from aggressive, and sometimes sizeable, fish. Even so, a lot of these fishermen are missing out on some top of the line November fishing by ignoring the activity around the Brazos Santiago Jetties.
Some of the most underrated fall fishing in South Texas takes place along both sides of the pin granite breakers that bookend the pass known as the “Arms of Saint James.” This pass feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre. These jetties 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) and 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. In November, save a severe blue norther, the water remains in the mid to high 70s most of the month, which will hold many warm water denizens within casting distance.
Certainly, the most sought-after species 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 usually will be holding closer to the rocks and cruising 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 and makes early mornings magical off the rocks. A fisherman can do well throwing live bait under a popping cork. Cast your line near the rocks for trout (and mangrove snapper, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance). A Carolina rig out in the surf for redfish can also produce.
The bait bucket, however, isn’t necessary. A box filled with chugging topwaters such as the Storm Chug Bug, Pop-A-Dog, similar such poppers, a couple of pink/polka-dot Rat-L-Traps, and a ½ silver spoon or two. 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 toward 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 whether there are any redfish.
It doesn’t hurt to take a few wire leaders in your tackle box. This time of year, schools of Spanish mackerel 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, and they offer some gill-rattling jumps for your thrills.
Boaters may have to pick their days, but working around the north point on a calm day can be very productive. Schools of large slot-sized redfish cruise around the point.
Fish with a ½ ounce jighead and your favorite soft plastic to tempt them to bite. Bait colors that usually mimic the pilchards and mullet that they feed upon this time of year are usually the best bet. I’ve had better success using a four- to five-inch bait, although a three-inch bait will also work.
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. 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 a Berkley Power Mullet 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.
On one particular trip, while fishing with friends David Rutledge, Oscar Garcia, and Anibal Gorena, we were slow trolling with large live mullet. Dave pulled his mullet up to see if it was still lively. Just as he pulled it out of the water, a 150-pound-class tarpon came up and cherry-picked the hapless baitfish off his rig. We were pretty quiet for some time after that.
You never know what may show up and rock your world.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]