Dawn Patrol

T here is a monotony to summer fishing in Texas. Trout and redfish have settled into their summer patterns and anglers can pretty much find them moving around among the same areas all through summer.

You have the usual suspects—the Drum Boat, the Color Change, Holly Beach, and south Bay. Maybe you’ll catch a black drum, or a sheepshead or mangrove snapper for a little variety.

Most anglers don’t complain that the fishing serves up the same dish day, day out. Most are pretty glad they catch the fish they do. It sure beats coming home sun-burnt, stinky, and broke, with nothing in the cooler but melted ice, right?

Still, I hear from readers all the time who want to know whether there is something else to do on the Texas Coast.

If your desire is a bent rod and a screaming drag— and a cooler full of fillets is secondary, you might want to try Brazos Santiago Pass on a calm day for a little Dawn Patrol. A morning troll might just whet your appetite for something different.

No telling what you’ll run into. On some days, you might find some streaking kingfish prowling the clean water a series of calm days pushes close to the beach. Other days, it might be pods of arm-length Spanish mackerel blitzing schools of baitfish in the swells.

Jack crevalle are always roaming the shorelines in search of trouble. Anyone seeking a good brawl can appreciate these maulers. Sometimes you’ll find king-sized snook or tarpon out there.

Trolling the surf line doesn’t take very specialized equipment. A typical angler can get along quite nicely with typical bay tackle. The typical seven-foot bay rod with a 2500-sized spinning reel or casting reel is fine. Make sure that your reels are fully loaded with quality line; you’d be amazed at how quickly a king or a big jack can dump a spool.

If you think you might run into kings, smacks, or even cero mackerel (that mingle with the Spanish), then you may want to pack some wire leaders. The coated, black braided wire leaders available almost everywhere are fine, but I prefer to make a short trace (three to four inches) of coffee-colored wire twisted straight onto my lure or hook. It’s the same rig I use casting from jetties, and I’ve found that it doesn’t seem to adversely affect how trout or other leader-shy species hit.

If you are fishing for smaller species, you’d be amazed how effective the same lead head jig/plastic tail combination works for trolling. On a very slow troll (no-wake speed), a lead head tracks straight and will sink in the water column.

Shad tails, paddle tails, and especially curly tail grubs have a lot of action on the troll. The much-maligned Alabama rig is ideal for this type of fishing, especially since its origins are in the larger Umbrella rigs that are popular in offshore trolling. Chartreuse patterns work well, but patterns with silver or gold metal flake or foil in them are especially effective.

Fishermen who want to focus on larger species such as kingfish, jacks, and even snook and tarpon, should turn their attention to swimming plugs or even large spoons. Medium and large broken-back plugs such as the Cotton Cordell Jointed Redfisn, Jointed Bomber Long A, or Sebile Magic Swimmer are ideal for these applications.

I have long preferred the Strike King King Shad when trolling or casting around the Brazos Santiago jetties. There is no reason they shouldn’t work slow-trolled along the beach.

Large spoons in the ¾ ounce to one ounce range are also great. They provide tremendous flash and wobble when pulled behind a boat. You may need to use a one-ounce trolling or bell sinker in front of a spoon, though. They tend to track high up in the water, even on the slowest of trolls.

Another lure with intriguing possibilities is the Shimano Waxwing, which was designed for fast retrieves. Its erratic darting action could prove to be strong medicine in a trolling application.

The key to trolling the Boca Chica surf line is going slow. Keep your boat around low no-wake speed as much as you can. Let your offering out 30 to 50 yards behind the boat and barely pop her into gear. If you are fishing more than two anglers on board—including the helmsman—it may be most practical to have only one or two lines out at any given time to avoid tangles from running fish.

Before heading out or back in, take a look around the Good Bye buoy. You never know when a big ling or a tripletail may be hanging around. The cobia will eat just about anything you offer them, whereas the tripletail may be a touch finicky.

For the latter, a Live Target shrimp—or the real thing—could be a good offering. Keep your drags battened down, though. If one of these bruisers wraps you around the anchor chain, the fight could end quickly.

Safety should always be a priority. If the seas are too rough, or there is a promise of high winds in the forecast, it might be smarter to stay inside the pass and look for fish in all the regular spots.

Also, be mindful about how far south you troll; the Mexican authorities are nowhere near as diplomatic as Americans. If you should unintentionally cross into their territorial waters, you might lose your boat. Make sure you fish far enough off the beach that your boat doesn’t get pushed into the surf, and never, NEVER shut your motor off. If your motor has been balky, don’t even consider coming through the pass.

Being different shouldn’t be dangerous.


Email Calixto Gonzales at ContactUs@fishgame.com

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