A n asset that makes Lower Laguna Madre such a remarkable place to fish is the wide variety of fish available to anglers.
There literally is something for every fishing preference. Besides the usual suspects, speckled trout and flounder, roaming the bay, Mangrove snappers and sheepsheads are milling around structure and waiting to go knuckle-and-skull with anyone who dares flip a live shrimp into the shadows of their dens—or a frozen one; they’re aren’t very picky.
Tarpon patrol along the Brazos-Santiago jetties and in the surf. Sometimes they school up and go on wilding parties in the bay itself to terrorize unsuspecting fishermen who may be looking for smaller, more cooperative prey. Spanish and king mackerels are within casting distance of surf- and jetty-bound anglers (the latter of which are partial to large chrome/blue lipless crankbaits).
Then there is the snook.
Most people think of the snook as summertime fish of July and August. They are correct. Some of the best snook fishing occurs in the heat of summer.
However, when dove season opens in Texas, snook season is really starting to pick up. September is still a warm month, and snook take advantage of that by starting to roam more and feed on the congregating schools of mullet and other baitfish that school up in the fall.
Snook have become more plentiful over the last decade and are liable to pop up anywhere as far north as the Land Cut.
However, if you are looking to pick a fight with a Lower Laguna Madre snook, your best shot is to look to South Bay. South Bay holds a stable population of snook that takes up residence from mid-spring until the first major cold front in the fall (which could be as late as early December).
The mangroves that line the shoreline, grassy flats, deeper channels and boat guts offer ideal habitat for the linesiders. When the tide is up or incoming, snook will gravitate to the cover and forage the mangrove trees provide.
Once there, they strafe mullet, pilchard, and small pinfish. When the tide starts moving out, they’ll fall back into deeper water and wait for the current to flush bait off the flats and to them.
While fishing around the mangroves, your best bet is to move stealthily into position either by poling or using a trolling motor. Watch for fish holding in the shadows and under roots and overhangs. When you spot one, cast a soft plastic such as a ¼-ounce DOA Shrimp, chartreuse or pearl Bassassin, or a Logic Lures Tandem in clear/glitter. Do not cast directly in front of the fish, or you may spook it. Work the bait past the hidey-hole. Use a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader tied to your line with a uni-to-uni knot or blood knot to prevent a breakoff if your quarry drags you across a limb.
Early on calm mornings, you might spot snook chasing bait along the surface near the mangroves. When these fish are actively feeding like that, your favorite topwater can really prove effective. Try a Spook, Jr. or a Saltwater Chug Bug in bone or white. If the fish are missing the plug on the strike, switch to a sub-surface bait such as a Catch 2000 or Bomber Saltwater Grade Badonk-adonk SS, also in bone or white for better hookups. Soft plastics such as the afore-mentioned Bassassins and Logics work well, too.
I have also begun playing around with a River2Sea Wideglide, which is a subsurface plug with a unique action. The weight is mostly forward in the head of the plug, which gives it a very wide “walk” when worked on a twitch-slack line retrieve.
The end result is that the bait doesn’t so much walk the way traditional plugs do. It glides two feet in each direction. Whether it is a more natural presentation or simply different from what snook (and trout and redfish, for that matter) have seen, the Wide Glide has gotten some promising results.
Of course, natural baits are also very effective for snook. The first choice is a live finger mullet, with large shrimp a very close second. Hook the mullet just above the anal fin, use the smallest weight possible for casting distance, and lob it towards the mangrove. Popping corks are more a liability than an asset in this application because of the risk getting snared in the limbs of a tree. Moreover, the water averages two feet or less, so a cork is not necessarily effective.
If you use a soft plastic or live bait, do not be surprised if you latch into a big flounder. Flatties hide in ambush along the mangroves sometimes. They aren’t averse to taking a shot at a finger mullet or a soft plastic that should meander by.
In June of 2011, I had a four-pounder hammer a Spook, Jr. while I was walking it back after missing a big snook that was cruising the tree line. It was my largest flounder of the year.
Even when you are looking for a specific target, you can end up with a little variety.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected].com