S OMETIMES, YOU JUST DON’T want to go through the expenditure and trouble of getting your boat on the water.
Rising gas prices, monstrous traffic, and the trouble finding parking on a crowded boat ramp parking lot just seem too big a hassle to drag your tired bones out of bed to endure. Still, the water beckons. It’s times like this you should consider hitting the jetties that are fish magnets.
Some of the most underrated summer fishing in South Texas takes place along both sides of the Brazos Santiago jetties. They bookend the pass by the same name, which feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre.
These jetties are accessible from land (the north jetties from South Padre Island, and the south jetties from Brownsville via SH 4, and turn left onto Brazos Island (known locally as Boca Chica Beach). However, access can be iffy now that Space X is building a launch pad in the area.
This jetty system offers excellent fishing for everything from the most popular species (speckled trout, redfish, flounder, tarpon and snook), mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, and even kingfish for the properly equipped.
Certainly, the most sought-after species of the dedicated rock-hopper are speckled trout and redfish. Both can be caught from the jetties on the same trip; but, different techniques are called for.
Speckled trout usually will be holding closer to the rocks and patrolling 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. On an outgoing tide, these currents 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.
The key to fishing the jetties is catching the “cupcake” conditions that prevail starting in late June and hold on into September. An incoming tide and soft southeast breezes send clean water in from the Gulf. This lays swells down make early mornings magical off the rocks.
A fisherman can do well throwing live bait under a noisy float such as an Alameda float or Cajun Thunder near the rocks for trout and mangrove snapper, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance.
On a Carolina rig out in the surf for redfish; the bait bucket, however, isn’t necessary, and might even be a nuisance for the fast-moving rock hopper. Bring a box filled with topwaters such as Yo Ziru’s poppers or PRADCO’s Heddon Pop’R, a few 1/4 ounce jigheads, and a ½ ounce silver spoon or two. Add a collection of your favorite plastic tails in red/white, or chartreuse patterns. By the way, weighted worm hooks such as the Eagle Claw Trokar are helpful to mitigate snagging on the rocks.
Start an early morning expedition on the jetties by casting back towards 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 flounder waiting in ambush. From those casts, expand out into the guts and cast parallel to the beach to see whether there are 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. However, 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, only they offer 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- to 12-pound tackle is enough.
However, if you hook into a big red or snook, you are going to be in trouble, and you may as well just give up if you hook into a tarpon or a jackfish. 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 also gives you a little more power in reserve if Mr. Big comes calling.
If you are going to walk all the way to the end of the jetties to take a shot at a kingfish or something else really big, you may want to upgrade to a surf rod and high-capacity reel. You could hook into a smoker, and if you don’t have at least 300 yards of 20-pound line, you may be waving bye-bye in less than a minute.
For moon launching off the end of the jetties, I prefer a Shimano Terez eight-foot spinning rod with an 8000 Sustain spinning reel loaded with 40-pound braid. I’ve handled 40+ inch kingfish and some big redfish with this rig. It offers enough flex that I can send a one-ounce Rat-L-Trap waaaaaayyyyy out there where the lunkers lurk.
Kayakers can have a blast fishing off the point of the jetties. Joe Montemayor of Joe’s Bait and Tackle in Pharr, Texas describes the “Dawn Patrol.” They will slowly pull a large Trap or a Live Target Rattling Pinfish behind their ‘yaks while working along the edge of the jetty point.
Some have replaced the plug with a large live mullet nose-pinned to a 7/0 hook. That sounds like an interesting plan.
Then again, you might be doing that anyway for one of the true monsters that sometimes show up around the jetties. Kingfish, sharks, tarpon, giant bull redfish, and other surfing hoods know no mercy.
Then you might not be rocking, but crying the blues.
HOTSPOT: Padre Island shoreline, north side of causeway
LOCATION: Left side, immediately after crossing.
SPECIES: Speckled Trout, Redfish
LURES/BAITS: Live shrimp or soft plastics under a Mauler or Popping Cork, topwaters early.
BEST TIMES: Early morning, late afternoon, especially with a rising tide. Wade out toward boat channel and fish dropoffs.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]