L ast month, I mentioned in my Saltwater column that jetty fishing was beginning to pick up in May and there were techniques to effectively fish the tackle-eating rocks. This column elaborates on fishing the jetties, which are a great and easily accessible hotspot in early summer.
Fishing the jetties in early summer isn’t a journey just for 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. This pass feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre.
These jetty systems, which were lengthened and reinforced in late 2012, are accessible from land. You can get to 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.
These locations 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 quarries are speckled trout and redfish. Both species can be caught from the jetties on the same trip. However, different techniques are called for.
Usually, speckled trout will hold closer to the rocks and patrol 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 prowl 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, which send clean water in from the Gulf, lay swells down and 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 snapper, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance).
The problem is that 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 empty your bait bucket and leave you talking to yourself. Fortunately, live bait isn’t necessary.
Bring a box filled with chugging topwaters such as the Storm Chug Bug or PRADCO’s Heddon Pop’R, a couple of pink/polka-dot Rat-L-Traps, a ½ ounce silver spoon or two. Add 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). This combination is perfect to keep you mobile. If the wind is straight from the south, you can still fling topwaters parrallel to the rocks. In fact, the trout seem a little more aggressive in the more active water.
Start an early morning expedition 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 (still another little-know—or long forgotten—feature of the Brazos Santiago jetty system). 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 put a few wire leaders in your tackle box. This time of year, schools of Spanish mackerel and some small bluefish 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, offering 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- to12-pound tackle is enough. However, if you hook into a big red or snook, you are going to be in trouble.
Upping slightly to 14- to 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. Again, this is a slightly longer walk than before, now that the jetties have been lengthened. 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 Live Target 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.
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 may show up and turn your June into a month to remember.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]