TYPICAL FEBRUARY. Water temperatures remain low after January’s cold snaps. As a result, most Laguna Madre species, especially those of delicate constitution such as speckled trout, will be holding deeper than normal.
Most anglers will be staying home until water temperatures creep closer towards normal (70 degrees or so). Those who feel the need to wet a line can still find some great fishing. The key is finding deep water.
The most obvious target for deep-water fishing is the Brownsville Ship Channel. This big ditch is reaches depths of more than 25 feet and is a fish magnet in the best of times.
When weather is hostile and water temperatures dip, trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum, and other desirable LLM species see the warmer depths as sanctuary (see December, 2010 for further information).
Sunken concrete, broken-up metal, and various items that fall off of ships and barges provide structure that help hold fish.
Unlike in December, where the spots were located closer to Port Isabel, anglers should make a slightly longer run closer to the Port of Brownsville. It’s a little more gas, but well worth the run. You can also save on some fuel costs by dropping your boat in at the High 48 boat ramp, which is located between the Port and Port Isabel.
Some of the obvious targets are the points of some of the service channels that branch off of the main Ship Channel. The drop-offs on these points allow fish to set up near the security of deep water, plus a hunting ground should the sun warm the muddy bottom enough to be comfortable.
On sunny days, start by working a soft plastic or live shrimp under a popping cork in the shallower water (about 3 to 4 foot) to see if trout are actively cruising the ledge. If there are no takers, or it is a cloudy, cooler day, move off the ledge and either swim a soft plastic, or free-line your bait along the drop-off. The key is to be patient and thorough.
If the trout are on the point, work up and down the ledge on either side of the point until you locate your quarry. Naturally, a depth finder with a high-resolution transducer is very helpful to achieving your goal.
Admittedly, some anglers aren’t keen on the idea of running so far from homeport into relatively unfamiliar territory. So, does that mean that these anglers cry “no joy” and simply stay on dry land and have another cup of coffee at White Sands?
Anglers who want the relative security of staying close to port (or eschewing the windburn a long run in cold temperatures can provide) find deep water and structure in the Port Isabel Shrimp Basin, which is a short run west of down the Port Isabel channel. The deep water (30 feet) and docks and broken structure provide an excellent substitute for the Ship Channel.
The most popular spot is the drop-off near the dock of the old cement factory (look for the street light over the water), but the pilings of the docks up and down the shoreline are magnets for trout, sheepshead, black drum, some winter-paie mangrove snapper, and the occasional redfish.
The sheepsheads and trout will be hiding around the pilings, and drum will be closer to the bottom and a bit away from the docks, Some anglers throw out a prospecting rig with a live shrimp or chunk of crab into the deep water and put it in a rod holder while they fish the pilings; a lot of big drum get caught that way.
Do not be shocked to find some snook lurking about the pilings. There are two species of fat snook that don’t move out of the bay system the way common snook do. They seek out pilings and rip rap near deeper water to keep their body temperatures up.
They may be a bit sluggish, but they will strike the same baits and lures you may be throwing out for trout. They are hugging very close to structure, though; so don’t be surprised if they hit live bugs you throw out for sheepsheads.
This may be the same ol’ snotty February, but the fish are still out there, hungry. Of course, you could choose to stay warm and wait for spring, but where is the fun in that?
Location: Dolphin Point
Species: Black Drum, Sheepshead
Tips: Work the rocks with live or fresh shrimp for sheepies. Deeper water and bottom rigs are best for drum.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]