IT’S BEEN A TYPICAL South Texas summer. It’s hot, the winds have either disappeared altogether or make you feel like you’re in a bamboo steamer.
Laguna Madre water has been in the mid-80s since mid-May, and trout and redfish have disappeared from the flats. There doesn’t seem much an angler can do in September, except get up at oh-dark-thirty to try to get a few fish, then had back to the dock for the teeth of the day. September fishing can be tough sometimes.
Fishermen can take heart, however. The jetty systems of Brazos Santiago and Mansfield passes provide some excellent (and sometimes better) fishing for a variety of fish. Some of these are highly desirable among even the most discriminating anglers.
Some of the most underrated summer fishing in South Texas takes place along both sides of the Brazos Santiago Jetties. The two jetties bookend the pass by the same name, which feeds in and out of Lower Laguna Madre. They are accessible from land—the north jetties from South Padre Island, and the south jetties from Brownsville via SH 4, and then a left turn onto Brazos Island (known locally as Boca Chica Beach). They offer excellent fishing for everything including 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 species are speckled trout and redfish. Both fish can be caught from the jetties on the same trip, but different techniques are called for.
Speckled trout will usually hold closer to the rocks and cruise 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.
An incoming tide sends fresh water in from the Gulf and lay swells down to 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 snappers, which almost become a nuisance with their abundance. Or you can toss a Carolina rig out in the surf for redfish.
The bait bucket, however, isn’t necessary. Bring a box filled with chugging topwaters such as the Storm Chug Bug, Pop-A-Dog, similar such popper, a couple of pink/polka-dot Rat-L-Traps, a ½ silver spoon or two, and 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 and are perfect to keep you mobile. If the wind is straight from the south, you can still fling topwaters parallel to the rocks. In fact, the trout seem a little more aggressive in the more active water.
Start an early morning expedition on the jetties by casting back toward the corner where the rocks meet the beach, then work the lure back along the bottom. Trout should be there, but a few big flounder may be waiting in ambush. From those casts, expand out into the guts and cast parallel to the beach for redfish.
It doesn’t hurt to take a few wire leaders in your tackle box. This time of year, there are schools of Spanish mackerel that 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, but the presence of snook in the suds more than makes up for the tougher work. These fish will attack the same trout and redfish lures with abandon, and 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, but 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 also gives you a little more power in reserve if Mr. Big comes calling.
My preferred rig is a 7½-foot medium action casting rod with a Curado 300-e loaded with 10/40 Power Pro braid. This outfit will tackle pretty much any fish you might run into on the rocks—unless a 150-pound tarpon grabs your plug; then, all bets are off.
If you feel a little ambitious, walk all the way to the end of the jetties to take a shot at a kingfish or tarpon. 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 Berkley Power 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.
You never know what may show up to rock your world.
Location: Coast Guard Station
Species: Speckled Trout, Flounder
Tips: Wade fishing with live shrimp/soft plastics under a Mauler.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]