APRIL ALWAYS SEEMS LIKE a new beginning on the Lower Laguna Madre.
Spring tides push warm water back into the system, and push water temperatures up to that magic 70 degrees. This warms the blood of winter-weary trout and gets them feeding actively.
Fresh hatches of mullet, pinfish, pogies, and other baitfish and crustaceans set the table for these hungry fish to put on the feedbag. Anglers who stayed bundled up and indoors while a cold north wind blew, start thinking about where to go and what to use to tempt these ravenous predators.
Some even start thinking about donning shorts and wading boots and feeling the water against their legs for the first time in months.
One of the most popular bank accessible wading spots on the Lower Laguna Madre, for example, is the Community Bar in Port Mansfield. Wade fishermen can gain access to the area via Fred Stone Park, which is adjacent to the King Ranch.
Fishermen can walk along the shoreline for the ¾ mile to the Bar’s general area (that’s just a good stretch of the legs for the average Texan). Over the years, rainfall and floods have created a muddy, boggy ditch that separates the access point from the parking lot.
Some resourceful fishermen place pallets and boards across the ditch, but it might be easier to wade in and around the end of the fence line and back onto shore. Then you can hoof the rest of the way on dry land.
Regardless of how you reach Community Bar (boaters can also anchor up on top of the shallow bar and disembark to fish the edges), you can wade out toward the bar and start fishing.
Don’t head straight out into deeper water immediately. It doesn’t hurt to work parallel to the shoreline in knee-deep water, especially on a high tide. Redfish and trout will cruise close in during low-light conditions.
Work the area with smaller topwaters such as a Spook, Jr., or the Mirr-O-Lure Mirrodine. These are also excellent choices for working the early morning shallows.
Soft plastic aficionados can work weightless jerkbaits such as the DOA Shrimp or Gulp! five-inch Jerk Shad. After you’ve worked the area thoroughly, then you turn your attention to deeper water.
There is plenty of deeper water. Between the shoreline and Community Bar is a deep gut that speckled trout use as a migration route up and down Laguna Madre. The wide gut deepens until you are in neck-deep water, which can make a fisherman pretty nervous.
It’s easy to spot where the really deep stuff is, though, because local commercial crabbers set their traps at the bottom of the gut, and the white buoys mark where the really deep water is. They also make great fish attractors, so it never hurts to make a number of casts to it.
Set up in waist-deep water and fan cast into the gut to prospect for trout. The classic shrimp/popping cork rig is the top fish producer in the area, but many fishermen who would rather avoid lugging a bait bucket switch over the either a Gulp! Shrimp in Nuclear Chicken or Glow. Another great option is the DOA Deadly Combo, which is a Shrimp/cork combination. The Gulp tails, along with other soft plastics, are very effective under a popping cork or Mansfield Mauler.
You can also use a ¼ ounce Gulp! Shrimp in Root Beer or Red, or any of the classic patterns produced by Norton Lures or Berkley. Make sure your leader is 18- to 24-inches long, and that your rod is long enough (seven to seven and a half feet) to facilitate long casts into the gut.
If you prefer eschewing the floats, shad tails such as the classic H&H Queen Cocahoe Norton Bull Minnow are good choices to fish the gut (the latter, especially the classic strawberry/white pattern, has literally caught millions of trout in LLM).
The throbbing shad tail puts off plenty of vibration that can get a trout’s attention from a long way away. Al lipless crankbait such as the Rat-L-Trap in gold/black is also an excellent option for the gut, and they help you cover a lot of water quickly.
Fan cast an area, and if you don’t find any fish, move a few feet to your left or right. Keep working the deeper water until you hit pay dirt.
Some adventurous fishermen are willing to negotiate the deeper water to cross the gut and reach the actual Community Bar. Then they will either fish on top of the grassy top for redfish (with gold spoons being the #1 choice),
or they turn around and fish the edge of the depth break. The latter method is quite popular because it allows you to fish the deeper water with the wind at your back. There will almost always be a stiff breeze pushing off the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of the day.
Boaters need to keep a close eye if they are passing by the Bar en route to another part of LLM. Wade fishermen aren’t very mobile. Most boaters are savvy enough to give the shallows a wide berth in this area, but there is always an angler ignorant of the area’s popularity among waders.
Don’t let those boaters deter you though. The fishing around Community Bar can be quite good. Keep a sharp eye, and you’ll be fine.
Location: Isla Blanca Park Surf
Species: Speckled Trout, Redfish, jackfish.
Tips: Fish shell areas with live bait or soft plastics.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]