FISHING REALLY KICKS OFF in May on the Lower Laguna Madre. The weather has stabilized, although the wind can be a bit of a hassle when weather systems in the Great Plains suck air from the Gulf in the form of 40 mile an hour winds.
However, after the relatively mild winter South Texas enjoyed, it won’t take long for water temperatures to pass 70 degrees, which is the green light for gamefish to begin prowling all their favorite haunts and feed actively.
Mexequita Flats is nestled in between the Old Queen Isabella Causeway and the Brownsville Ship Channel portion of the Intra Coastal Waterway. Beginning with the spring tides of late April, warm Gulf waters flood over these grass and sand flats and quickly boost water temperatures over the magic 70-degree mark. If you are looking for an area where trout and redfish and bait are going to gather, this is it.
Like many of the other productive regions in Lower Laguna Madre, Mexequita is a broad grass flat pockmarked by sand pockets, or potholes. Trout will lurk around these potholes, especially early in the morning.
Live shrimp or soft plastics such as a DOA Shrimp or Gulp! Shrimp are very productive when fished under a popping cork or Alameda float. If redfish are your preference, big, noisy topwaters such as a Top Dog, Jr. or Yo-Zuri Hydropopper are good choices early in the morning.
These topwaters are smaller, which serves two purposes: first, they match the size of young-of-the year baitfish; second, the smaller baits seem easier for uber-aggressive reds to zero in on. Don’t be afraid to go “Old School” and toss a Devil’s Horse. These little buggers resemble small ballyhoo perfectly, and both redfish and trout will strike it with abandon.
As the day grows longer, then switch to a ¼-ounce gold or bronze spoon and swim it slowly. A chartreuse or red plastic trailer seems to enhance the attractiveness of the spoon.
Because Mexequita is literally within site of the Brazos Santiago Pass, it is affected by tides more than most of the other popular fishing areas. The most effective time to fish is during an incoming tide, when the flats are flooded by fresh water directly from the Gulf. Trout and redfish become very active and start prowling the flats. Once the flood tide is reached, then they’ll settle around the potholes and ambush any hapless prey that swims by.
Conversely, be careful not to be caught on Mexequita during an outgoing tide. The place becomes a vast desert when the water drains, and it isn’t uncommon to see some tunnel-vees and even scooters trapped in the flats until flood tide (which really stinks on a two-tide day!).
The afore-mentioned Old Queen Isabella Causeway is another short run, and it also doesn’t get as much attention as other more popular areas. Part of that may be the general belief that the area is strictly a bait fisherman’s paradise full of mangrove snappers, sheepsheads, and other pan fish.
That, in fact, is very true, and it is thus a great spot to bring big and small kids who are more concerned with just getting their line stretched than catching the state record trout. On a good day, you may find some jumbo whitings, and cosmopolitan pompanos also crash the party.
The mangrove snappers and sheepsheads that hang around the pilings are tough fish, and a 13-inch mangrove or 15-inch sheepshead can be quite a handful on light tackle.
Even the lowly whiting can put up a spirited fight on lighter tackle. A standard free-shrimp rig—18- to 24-inch leader, #1 short-shank hook and #3 split shot—with a lively shrimp pinned on it is perfect to entice these structure-lurking battlers.
You’ll find plenty of fish around the crumbling pilings, but don’t hesitate to cast in between the pilings. Pieces of the causeway have fallen into the water, and some of the larger fish tend to hold around these isolated concrete chunks. If you fish parallel to the defunct bridge, you might luck into a pompano, or even find one of the snooks that gravitate to the structure.
Don’t be surprised if you latch onto a good-sized trout or flounder around the Old Causeway. The pilings create current eddies that both fish hold around and wait for the tide to push bait by them. Fish parallel to the current eddies. Cast your bait into it and let it drift with the current. Keep a finger on your line. If you feel a tap, drop your rod tip and let the line come tight, then set the hook.
If you prefer fishing with hardware, the DOA Shrimp, CAL Shad tail, or an un-weighted Gulp! Shrimp are perfect for fishing eddies around the Old Causeway. The do-nothing action of these lures makes them look like an actual shrimp being taken where the current will. Let the bait drift on a semi-slack line and give it a twitch every five seconds or so. No predator will let that sucker drift by their noses.
Another very good part of the Old Causeway is the curve where the bridge joins the mainland (or Long Island, as the case may be). Speckled trout, redfish and flounders congregate around the drop-off that is formed by the roadbed. You can use either live bait, including finger mullet, on a ¼-ounce fish-finder rig. Or you can bounce a soft plastic such as a shrimp or shad tail on a ¼-ounce jighead off the drop-off and into the deeper water. Either technique is very effective to put fish in the box.
Lent is over, but fresh fried fish never gets old.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]