T here is a lull in fishing on the Texas coast during December. Deer hunting rules the state.
Most anglers have put away their boats and rods to look for Ol’ Mossyhorn. Anglers in the know realize that means they have the bay all to themselves, along with the hungry redfish that are looking for a winter meal.
Mature (mostly over 26 inches, and quite a few over the 28 inch slot) redfish are schooling up or “herding,” as many locals say.
Smaller fish, 18-24 inchers, are also schooling up and partaking of the annual mullet run that occurs in the fall. It isn’t uncommon to find schools of redfish chasing hapless schools of finger mullet against either the spoil banks shorelines immediately west of the IntraCoastal Waterway, or the Padre Island shoreline.
These aren’t small pods of redfish, either. On more than one occasion, while fishing with Captain Jimmy Martinez (956-551-3581), I have seen schools of large redfish numbering hundreds of fish. A strawberry field of that size is something to behold. Some fishermen who still remember Laguna Madre before Hurricane Beulah, remember schools three times that size.
Schools that size, however, are more than enough for the modern fishermen with aspirations of latching onto the sort of line-peeling action these fish can provide.
“The east side of Laguna Madre is just full of redfish,” said Captain Martinez. “If there is a little wind and some moving water, you can drift into them over and over again. The action can be non-stop.”
Gaswells Flats is an excellent starting point when looking for September reds. This broad flat on the south side is deep enough for drifting, but still shallow and clear enough for sight fishing.
Look for tailing reds, or when the tide is in, for disturbed water and skipping bait. The water is sometimes clear enough that you might actually be able to spot the fish themselves. You’ll often see fishermen standing on their center console, or in a fish tower looking for these brutes.
Lure selection for these fish is pretty straightforward. The Pettys stick to the venerable gold spoon for their reds. A ¼-ounce gold weedless spoon is an effective, classic lure for redfish.
As I mentioned earlier, these redfish are feeding primarily on large mullet and other baitfish. Topwaters such as the Top Dog, Skitterwalk, or River2Sea Wideglide are also good choices. The three most popular patterns for these are bone, Halloween (black back/gold sides/orange belly), and chrome/blue.
Swimbaits such as the Storm Wildeye Shad and Berkley Power Swim Bait have also started to develop a following among LLM fishermen. The wobbling, throbbing action of these baits throws off an incredible amount of vibration, and I’ve had redfish come from a good way off to kill these baits.
If you prefer bait, live shrimp under a popping cork is always tough to beat, but cut ballyhoo is a solid close second. Take the front half of a six-to-eight inch ‘hoo, break off the beak, and run a 3/0 Kahle hook up through the chin. Cast the bait out in front of a school of reds, and work the lure back as you would a topwater. Redfish will not ignore it.
Fishermen who prefer staying close to Port Isabel or South Padre Island would do well fishing the Pasture, which is just north of the Queen Isabella Causeway, Mexequita Flats and South Bay. All produce excellent numbers of redfish in the winter. It’s important though, to pay attention to the tides, otherwise you’ll be waiting a while for high tide.
Anglers looking for something bigger than the typical slot redfish should consider surfing. Some of the real giants of the species start roaming the surf up and down the Texas Coast.
Local fishermen interested in tangling with a real bull more than 40 inches should look to Boca Chica Beach, across Brazos Santiago Pass. It is a bit of a drive to get there. Take US 77 to Brownsville, take the Boca Chica exit, and continue until it turns into SH 4, and ends at the beach. It is well worth the drive.
Most anglers prefer using large spinning outfits. I prefer a Shimano eight-foot Terrez paired with a Stradic 8000 FJ loaded with 50-pound Power Pro. Use a fish finder rig with a one- to two-ounce pyramid or flat sinker and a 5/0 Khale or Circle Hook. Cut bait works well, but live mullet or pinfish works best.Some fishermen will drive down to the mouth of the Rio Grande to castnet baits, but you can also find some finger mullet in the first gut along the beach. Cast your rig into the second gut right up against the third bar.
It may take some work to find and land a true Boca Chica bull, but many will consider it well worth the effort.
Location: North Brazos Jetties
Species: Speckled Trout
Techniques: Fish live shrimp under a popping cork near the rocks. Soft plastics work too.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]