FORECAST CENTER: Saltwater – March 2020

FORECAST CENTER: Freshwater – March 2020
February 24, 2020
TEXAS HOT SHOTS – March 2020
February 24, 2020

Fishing May Not be Hot, But is Getting Warmer

SABINE LAKE & PASS

THE MAGICAL MONTH of March has found its way to the upper coast of Texas and has brought with it countless new angling opportunities.

Although there is no way to predict exactly what Mother Nature has planned for us this month, we can rest assured that along with some late-winter like conditions, there will be a few warm, sunny, fishable days thrown into the mix as well. We’re going to have to contend with the intense March winds which will be howling from one direction or another on most days, but that’s nothing we’re not accustomed to.

We are transitioning from a solid winter fishing season here on the upper coast, so expectations are high as we move into early spring.

If our neighbors to the north can catch a break this spring and not have to deal with record rainfall levels, we shouldn’t have to worry about runoff coming down the Sabine and Neches rivers and inundating an already mostly fresh Sabine Lake. The saltwater has been slowly making its way back into our bay since Harvey’s devastation, and if it is allowed to continue, March 2020 could be one of the best we’ve seen in a few years.

The entire eastern shoreline of Sabine Lake as well as the southern bank of East Bay have the potential to come alive this month, especially if we can string a few mild days together.

Water temperatures creeping toward 70 degrees coupled with big, strong March tides should bode well for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Soft plastics, topwaters and slow sinkers should all get the job done on the protected shoreline with good strong tidal movement. If you find bait, you should be able to find fish. The bait shouldn’t be too hard to find as the big tides and warmer water temperatures tend to jump-start the entire food chain.

Trout and reds will aggressively feed on seemingly helpless shad, mullet and shrimp as they cruise the shoreline and they should be more than willing to accept any offering you have for them.

Bridge Bayou, which is a little farther north on Sabine’s Louisiana shoreline, should produce good results. Try to hit it on an outgoing tide and throw soft plastics, curl tails and Gulp! Shrimp. Glow, Morning Glory and Red Shad Assasings or Sand Eels are good choices. Gulp! Shrimp in Pearl and New Penny are also hard to beat. Flounder also have no problem with these baits, but sometimes prefer the action of a curl tail like Gulp! Swimming Mullet.

Reefs like Hanna’s on East Bay or the big reef on Sabine’s south end are definitely worth a shot this month. The bull tides and increasing water temperatures bring baitfish. Sand eels, shrimp, and crabs invade the reefs and are closely followed by hungry trout, reds and flounder.

Have your drift sock handy and make long drifts over the shell. Use your sonar to mark bait and fish and throw long soft plastics for best results. If you pick up a few fish in an area, throw a buoy overboard so you can make the same drift again.

Reported by CAPT. EDDIE HERNANDEZ

Email Eddie Hernandez at [email protected]

 

•  •  •

GALVESTON

MARCH IS NOT usually remembered as a “Hot” fishing month on the upper Texas coast – and not just because the warm waters of spring have not arrived yet. Of course, cooler weather – and water – result in slower activity for both fish and fishermen, but there will be some fish available for those who are willing to risk being a bit chilled while pursuing them.

Big black drum should still be found in some numbers in the usual places – form beachfront piers, around the Galveston jetties and the Texas City Dike, and in certain deeper portions of the bays. Although not normally sought as a food fish, nor noted as an exciting game species, hefty drum reach sizes that do make them formidable “fighters” that require stout tackle for an angler to be successful. Stout rods spooling 30 – 50 pound test line are usually up to doing the job. Long casts are not normally needed. Dacron line might be chosen for it’s lack of “stretch”, but good mono resists shell and other bottom obstructions better. Wire leaders are used by some anglers for their resistance to the habitat more than the fish – drum don’t have rows of sharp teeth to cut line – but heavy mono is probably better.

Drum are bottom feeders, and at this time of year they usually are caught on crabs or carb portions, but some folks use large (dead) shrimp, or even squid. Because forage species are not as abundant as in warmer weather, scent is more important than bait movement. Many drum specialists use circle hooks for their ability to produce and maintain a hookset.

Of course, most Texas coastal winters do not see low temperatures so extreme that all resident species leave for warmer waters. Redfish are not as common as later in the spring, but can be found; often in the same spots their black cousins will be found. Croakers are also on the “menu”, as well as sheepshead and sand trout. Some flounder may show up as well. Speckled trout are not unheard of, but will be much more common in warmer weather. Inshore waters are definitely not as productive as in warmer weather, but fish can be found that will provide enough action – and some fresh fish dinners – to make venturing out in decent weather worth taking a chance.

Offshore conditions are generally not very comfortable in March, but on calm days with some sun, thy can be worth a try. Cooler water actually encouraged some bottom feeding species into shallower spots than they inhabit in hot summer conditions. Both red and lane snapper may be found on bottom structure in less than 100 feet of water out of Galveston and Freeport – including rocks and other spots of elevation and shallow water oil production structures. “Rigs” in deeper water can hold good numbers of snapper and a few nice grouper. Deep-water species often don’t see as much climate change in their habitat as surface feeders do, but they also do not “mind” cool water as much.

Wahoo are often noted to be winter feeders, but a few will be found as the season turn towards warm periods also. Some spots close enough to shore for fairly easy runs even in cooler conditions are known to hold king mackerel year round, and tuna are one of the deep water species that will roam closer to shore in cooler weather.

For those in boats offering comfortable rides in cool water, trolling for billfish is worth a try on “good” days, but not something I would personally want to do in an open boat until things warm up a bit more!

Reported by CAPT. MIKE HOLMES

Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]

 

•  •  •

MATAGORDA

SOME OF THE rewards of fishing the bays in March are pleasant weather and water temperatures that are warm enough to stimulate fish movement and feeding. On a nice day in late March, I was drifting out of a bayou in West Matagorda Bay in my kayak. After enjoying paddling and fishing the backwaters, it was time to put the kayak on the boat and head for home. But I thought, “One more cast”. My red Norton Sand Eel lure with a white tail was four feet from reaching my kayak when it got thumped. I got a good hookset, and in the next instant the trout jumped completely out of the water as high as my eye level and then plunged back into the water, taking drag, and looking like a silver torpedo. We had that hefty-18-inch trout for dinner, capping off a fine spring day.

Trout are usually found in water that is a foot or more deeper than surrounding flats. I didn’t catch any trout in the shallow back lakes and bayous on that day. On the way back to my boat I recognized two fishermen that were wade fishing the sandbar in the bay 100 yards from the shoreline. When we got back to Matagorda Harbor, I asked them how they did fishing in deeper water near the sand bar. They said, “We saw you fishing the bayous in your kayak. We fished on the bayside of the sandbar where the depth is 4 to 6 feet and caught 6 trout that measured 20 to 25 inches and we missed a very, very big trout.”

Flounder go offshore to spawn in November and December and return to the bays between mid-February and mid-April. A good place to find flounder is on a corner where water drains out of a bayou or lake into the bay on an outgoing tide. Water moving out tends to create an eddy or swirling motion on the corner, and little menhaden that have recently entered the bay system from offshore to grow, get caught in the eddy. Flounder settle on the bottom on corners like this and wait for the opportunity to vertically launch and capture bait fish. If you are fishing with mud minnows or shrimp under a popping cork, cast into the bayou and allow your bait to drift out with the current six inches off the bottom. If you are fishing with soft plastic baits, cast into the bayou and swim your bait past the corner. Sometimes a flounder will hit your lure so hard that the vibration travels up your arm and your automatic reaction is to set the hook. When that happened to me, I reeled in my lure without a flounder. But I knew that a flounder was on that corner, and unlike trout and redfish they don’t move. So, I ran the lure back over that spot, and this time the flounder tentatively bumped the lure. I let it drop and waited. Flounder will sometimes hit a bait to stun it, and then eat it. Soon I felt my lure move and set the hook and reeled in the flounder.

Redfish will be roaming in search of prey in March. If you are not finding redfish in the open bay, wade or kayak fish the back bayous and lakes. One of my favorite redfish spots is a lake accessible by kayaking into a bayou or wading across the marsh. My lure of choice under these circumstances is a gold spoon with a piece of scented Fishbite. Redfish may be on the shoreline or anywhere in the lake. I drift the lake casting from one side to the other with my casts about 10 feet apart.

Air temperatures in March are comfortable, not too hot or cold, but March can be very windy, so be sure to check the direction and speed of the wind before venturing out. The weather prediction for this March calls for very little rain. Fog can disrupt a day of fishing in March. It is dangerous to be running a boat when you cannot see, so even though you are excited about going fishing, if it is foggy it is wise to wait until it lifts, which usually happens when the temperature warms up by 9 or 10 am.

Reported by MIKE PRICE

Email Mike Price at [email protected]

•  •  •

HOTSPOTLIGHT:

Keith Lake

KEITH LAKE is a saltwater lake located of State Highway 87, just 9.8 miles from Port Arthur, in Jefferson County near Sabine Pass. The most popular species caught here are Red drum, Black drum, and Spotted seatrout.

Fishermen will also find flounder here.

A channel runs from Sabine Lake and Pass into the lake. There is a boat ramp on the north shoreline of the lake, just off SH 87.

•  •  •

Location: East Galveston Bay
Hotspot: Hanna’s Reef
GPS: N 29 28.471, W 94 43.251
(29.4745, -94.7209)

East Galveston Bay

East Galveston Bay Hanna’s Reef

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: MirrOlure Lil John
Contact: Capt. Mike Losoya
409-939-8311
[email protected]
getbitgalveson.com
Tips: Fish over shallow, darker mud near deeper shell pads and reefs. In windy conditions, go to the north shoreline. Watch for bait movement.

Location: West Galveston Bay
Hotspot: Snake Island Cove
GPS: N 29 9.565, W 95 2.215
(29.1594, -95.0369)

West Galveston Bay

West Galveston Bay Snake Island Cove

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: MirrOdine XL soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Paul Marcaccio
281-788-4041
[email protected]
www.gofishgalveston.com
Tips: This is prime time for wading for big trout. In a boat, drift over the fish instead of staying on them.

Location: Galveston Trinity Bay
Hotspot: Levee Flats
GPS: N 29 26.0102, W 94 54.0052
(29.4335, -94.9001)

Galveston Trinity Bay

Galveston Trinity Bay Levee Flats

Species: Black Drum
Best Baits: Fresh frozen crab or dead or live shrimp
Contact: Capt. Mike Williams
713-256-9260
[email protected]
galvestonfishinguides.com
Tips: The black drum are running. Great fishing for kids on spring break.

Location: East Matagorda Bay
Hotspot: Old Gulf Cut
GPS: N 28 42.919, W 95 53.21
(28.7153, -95.8868)

East Matagorda Bay

East Matagorda Bay Old Gulf Cut

Species: Speckled Trout and Redfish
Best Baits: Live shrimp or Gulp under a popping cork, or Down South soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Stan Sloan
832-693-4292
[email protected]
fishfcc.com
Tips: A 1/16 oz. jig head works well over the shell pads here. Work it slowly.

Location: East Matagorda Bay
Hotspot: Bird Island
GPS: N 28 43.86, W 95 45.6169
(28.7310, -95.7603)

East Matagorda Bay

East Matagorda Bay Bird Island

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: topwaters
Contact: Capt. Tommy Countz
281-450-4037
[email protected]
www.matagordafishing.com
Tips: March is still a good time to look for that trout of a lifetime in East Bay. Most fishermen prefer Corkys but with water temperatures up I like pulling out my topwaters. My go to floater has been a Pink Skitterwalk for several years and I don’t anticipate that changing. Key on bait fish and drains and don’t be surprised it a redfish decides to hammer your offerings.

Location: East Matagorda Bay
Hotspot: Half Moon Shoal
GPS: N 28 43.345, W 95 46.392
(28.7224, -95.7732)

East Matagorda Bay

East Matagorda Bay Half Moon Shoal

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Soft plastics, live shrimp
Contact: Capt. Tommy Countz
281-450-4037
[email protected]
www.matagordafishing.com
Tips: March in Matagorda is a great time to fish. Usually as we get deeper into the month we start to see water temperatures slowly rising, tides gradually increase, and overall more spring conditions and less winter conditions. If we’re boat fishing, we are normally in East Matagorda Bay making long drifts on the west end either tossing soft plastic on 1/4 to 3/8 ounce lead heads or throwing live shrimp rigged under a popping cork with at least a 4 foot leader. For this method I can’t stress enough the importance of popping that cork and keeping the slack out of your line.

Location: West Matagorda Bay
Hotspot: Twin Island Reef
GPS: N 28 38.828, W 96 2.425
(28.6471, -96.0404)

West Matagorda Bay

West Matagorda Bay Twin Island Reef

Species: Speckled Trout and Redfish
Best Baits: Live shrimp or Gulp under a popping cork, or Down South soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Stan Sloan
832-693-4292
[email protected]
fishfcc.com
Tips: During a big flooding rain it will push all the bait fish out of the river into West Matagorda Bay.
Location: West Matagorda Bay
Hotspot: Culver’s Cut
GPS: N 28 39.349, W 96 0.509
(28.6558, -96.0085)

West Matagorda Bay

West Matagorda Bay Culver’s Cut

Species: Speckled Trout and Redfish
Best Baits: Live shrimp or Gulp under a popping cork, or Down South soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Stan Sloan
832-693-4292
[email protected]
fishfcc.com
Tips: If that happens, I will be fishing the south shoreline, drifting instead of wade fishing.

Location: Sabine Lake
Hotspot: East Pass 29
GPS: N 29 59.027, W 93 46.582
(29.9838, -93.7764)

Sabine Lake

Sabine Lake East Pass 29

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Topwaters and soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Bill Watkins
409-673-9211
978[email protected]
www.fishsabinelake.net
Tips: Capt. Watkins starts his day with a topwater bait and then switches off to soft plastics as the sun comes up. He says colors is that important on the soft plastics. More important is the action of the bait.

 

Red Wing Boat Co., Inc.

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•  •  •

Spring Comes Early to the Middle Coast

SAN ANTONIO BAY AREA

THIS MONTH WE’LL celebrate the Spring Equinox on March 19, 2020.  It’s officially the first day spring, which also marks a time of change and evolution.  We’ll begin seeing a shift in air and water temperatures this month as the coastal climate begins a slow warming trend throughout the next few months.  Warmer temperatures will invite new growth in area bay waters, bringing underwater grass beds back to life once more, as well as new hatchings of shrimp, crab, and a multitude of small baitfish species.  This won’t all happen in March, but the process certainly begins now and will typically last through the month of May, if not even longer.

As these changes evolve, speckled trout feeding patterns will begin making a slow transition also.  The trout will begin shifting from chasing large, harder to catch, adult mullet to feeding upon the small, young shrimp and baitfish that will slowly become more and more abundant on area flats throughout the next few months.  As a result, now is a great time for you to downsize the baits you’re using.  Replace that large top water bait with something much smaller, and look for the trout in places where you would expect them to be – where the food is!

As we talked about earlier, the spring food source for the trout is going to slowly become the newly hatched shrimp, crabs, and small baitfish.  Throughout the spring months, and even into early summer, the majority of these new hatchlings are going to be found in very close proximity to where they hatched.  For the shrimp, crab, and small baitfish, this means they are going to be located in the back lakes and marshy areas.  When high tides push extra water into these areas, the trout (and redfish) will push into the flooded marsh and will gorge themselves on all they can find.  Anglers should do the same by focusing their attention on the back lakes out on Matagorda Island, especially during periods of higher water conditions over the next few months.

Eventually, these juvenile crustaceans and pinfish are going to begin making their way into the open bay system, and when they do, they’ll be looking for the protection of some type of cover.  Although shell reefs represent a hard structure that provides protection from the predator fish, grass beds will typically be the preferred natural cover chosen to hide from hungry predators.  It’s for this reason that anglers should focus on emerging grass flats this time of year, paying close attention to the edge of the grass beds, as well as to any barren potholes, as these serve as great ambush points for the trout and redfish.

If you’re trying to decide what kind of lure to use this month, try sticking with a topwater bait, but use a smaller one.  In that March marks the start of the spring spawning season for may marine animals, the trout are still going to be chasing mullet until they are presented with an alternative, so try tossing something like a Super Spook Junior or Skitter Walk Junior at them for at least the first-half of the month.  The bay waters are going to begin slowly warming, and new bait is going to be hatching, all of which will often stimulate a trout bite that can prove to be quite good on top water baits. As usual, however, all coastal anglers will have to deal with some strong spring winds on occasion, which will require the use of your bigger top water baits, just so their movement can be seen and heard in the rougher water conditions.  On calm days in March, however, downsize to the small top waters and hold on for what can often turn into being a very exciting day of fishing.

Later in March, try turning to a couple of the plastic alternatives like the Baby Vudu 2” shrimp, the DOA 3” shrimp in natural colors, or the scented Gulp 3” shrimp rigged beneath a popping cork on a 12-18” leader.  Use less of a leader if fishing over grass in shallow water, and a longer leader if fishing over shell in a bit deeper water.  Keep in mind that a lot of your regular baits will still draw strikes from March trout, but there will be times when the trout will be feeding strictly on a particular size of bait, so it will be a good idea to have an assortment on hand if needed.

Reported by CAPT. CHRIS MARTIN

Email Chris Martin at [email protected]

Visit Online: BayFlatsLogde.com

 

•  •  •

ROCKPORT AREA

MARCH IS A TIME which can see small schools of bait making their way back into our bays. The angler who finds these small schools of bait can be rewarded with some fun fishing.

Copano Bay: Mid-bay reefs like Lap Reef hold sheep head this time of year. Small kahle hooks baited with small pieces of squid is the ticket.  Redfish Point is a good spot for reds using finger mullet or cut mullet; use a free line for the finger mullet and a light Carolina rig for the cut mullet.

Aransas Bay: Drifts down Traylor Island produce trout using a popping cork and live shrimp. Jerk shad in new penny and in camo and molting color works well. The mouth of Blind Pass is a good spot for trout using live shrimp or Gulp! in new penny and white colors; a yellow jighead is best.

St Charles Bay: East Pocket is a good spot for reds using free lined finger mullet. The key to this area is a stealth approach.  The area at the mouth of Twin Creek is a good spot for black drum using peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig.

Carlos Bay: Carlos Dugout is still the go to spot. Deep running lures in bone and red colors work well. On warm days the shallow shell edges hold reds, black drum and trout.  A silent cork using Berkley shrimp or live shrimp is best.

Mesquite Bay: Mouth of Cedar Bayou is a good wade for trout using Jerk shad in morning glory and camo colors. Move slowly and be far enough from the bank to cast 360 degrees. The east shoreline is riddled with many shell reefs; a trolling motor worked here is very productive.  Live shrimp free lined or under a silent cork can produce reds and some flounder.

Ayers Bay: Ayers reef mid-day is a good spot for reds using free lined finger mullet. When a fish is hooked keep the rod tip high as this a heavy shell area and your line can be easily cut. There is black drum on the easy shoreline, but they move constantly.

Reported by CAPT. MAC GABLE

Email Mac Gable at [email protected]

Or Visit Online: macattackguideservice.com

 

Bay Flats Lodge

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•  •  •

HOTSPOTLIGHT:

CARLOS BAY

CARLOS BAY is located between Mesquite Bay on the north and Aransas Bay to the south, approximately 45 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. The most popular species caught here are Red drum, Black drum, and Spotted seatrout.

A series of oyster reefs provide the separation between Aransas and Carlos bays. The reefs also provide excellent habitat for crab, shrimp and other bait, and consistently attract good numbers of gamefish.

A series of dugout cuts as deep as 16 feet that are good fish passes. The many reefs can be hidden during high tides, so exercise caution when boating in the Bay.

•  •  •

 

Location: Espiritu Santo Bay
Hotspot: Farwell Island
GPS: N 28 21.610, W 96 27.652
(28.360167, -96.460867)

Espiritu Santo Bay

Espiritu Santo Bay Farwell Island

Species: Speckled trout
Best Baits: Topwaters, soft plastics
Contact: Capt. Chris Martin
888-677-4868
[email protected]
bayflatslodge.com
Tips: The water here is three to five feet deep. Wade the shallow depths around the spoil are-as, or drift the deeper water near the spoils. Topwater action is best dawn to mid-morning or late afternoon—evening.

Location: Port Aransas
Hotspot: Upper Estes Flats
GPS: N 27 57.058, W 97 5.331
(27.9510, -97.0889)

Port Aransas

Port Aransas Upper Estes Flats

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Live or dead cut bait
Contact: Capt. Len Jones
361-779-9144
lenjonesguideservice.com
Tips: Some kind of dead bait, live or dead shrimp is usually pretty good in March.

Location: Mesquite Bay
Hotspot: Cedar Bayou Flats
GPS: N 28 7.0052, W 96 49.0053
(28.1168, -96.8168)

Mesquite Bay

Mesquite Bay Cedar Bayou Flats

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Topwaters, soft plastics, croaker
Contact: Capt. Mac Gable
409-354-3865
[email protected]
macattackguideservice.com
Tips: Cedar Bayou provides a pretty good wade fishing spot. The redfish are starting to migrate back into the bays, and you can catch some good limits wading the surf at Cedar Bayou.

Location: San Antonio Bay
Hotspot: Panther Reef
GPS: N 29 13.0105, W 96 41.0139
(29.2168, -96.6836)

San Antonio Bay

San Antonio Bay Panther Reef

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Cut menhaden and cut perch head, dead shrimp
Contact: Capt. Chris Martin
888-677-4868
[email protected]
bayflatslodge.com
Tips: March is big time redfish fishing around San Antonio Bay. If the wind picks up, move clos-er to Matagorda Island. The action is strong all the way from Panther to Cedar Bayou.

Location: Upper Laguna Madre
Hotspot: King Ranch Shoreline
GPS: N 27 29.0022, W 97 21.0018
(27.4834, -97.3500)

Upper Laguna Madre

Upper Laguna Madre King Ranch Shoreline

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Corky Fat Boys
Contact: Capt. Brett Caron
361-290-8442
[email protected]
Tips: Wading 3 – 3 1/2 feet between sand and mud, waist to ankle deep water. After a cold front, they (fish) push up on a shoreline in shallow water.

 

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•  •  •

Prime Time for Trout on Baffin and the Laguna

BAFFIN BAY

SPRING HAS SPRUNG and so have the heaviest trout on Baffin Bay. Trophy trout seekers are slowly working artificial lures over the legendary waters of Baffin Bay looking for their personal best or in my case even a new state record trophy trout.

Finesse fisherman and even some lucky first timers will hook onto and hopefully land some of the biggest trout of their lives in the spring time on Baffin Bay which is known for big giant fish.

There’s no more of a nerve-wracking moment than when the fish you have hooked but you have yet to see shows itself in near proximity and you know it’s that fish you’ve been hunting for

Net or Boga grip, it does not matter, because your hands are shaking and all you really want is a great picture but you’ve got to hold it first! Watching that fish swim around you with the lure barely hanging out of its mouth is heart stopping and I don’t know any fisherman who doesn’t lose their entire cool when this happens

Even if you have fished for trophy trout for 20 or 30 years, this same scenario repeats itself on almost every really big fish! It should because catching a huge trout is a very special feat.

Think about it. Big-time trout seekers invest about $70,000 in a boat, another $10,000 in gear, not to even mention the fancy truck to pull it all with! That’s quite an outlay for a 10-pound fish!

A 28-inch trout used to be a trophy on Baffin Bay but now that number has moved up to 30 inches. The size has risen as time has gone by as more and more giant fish are caught on a regular basis.

But honestly, any trout 8 pounds and up is something to brag about and almost ANY good-sized fish caught on a top water lure is just about the best!

Most big fish are caught in relatively shallow water from waist deep to knee deep. When it’s really cold outside, sometimes it might be best to stand in waist deep water casting a little further out and letting your lure sink close to the bottom.

The mantra on Baffin Bay when water temperatures are cool is “low and slow.”

When water temperatures rise, the really, really big fish go super shallow and start to spawn. This does not happen, however, until the water temperatures rise to 75 degrees and stay there, so that’s closer to the end of April and beginning of May.

If beating your personal best or catching a double-digit speckled trout is something that you have always dreamed of doing, then now is the time to do it on Baffin Bay!

Reported by CAPT. SALLY BLACK

Email Sally Black at [email protected]

Visit Online: BaffinBayRodandGun.com

 

•  •  •

LOWER LAGUNA MADRE

THE ANGLER WHO is willing to live with a little wind and a mildly bumpy ride can really do well in March. Redfish and trout begin to return to springtime patterns as water warms up and southeasterly winds begin to prevail.

Coastal fishermen anxious to work out the kinks in their joints and fishing line should look to do a little springtime island hopping along the spoil banks that dot the Lower Laguna Madre between Port Isabel and Arroyo City.

The stronger spring tides that begin in March push more water onto the flats, and you’ll find deeper water around Three Islands. Redfish cruise around the grass and algae clumps looking for emerging baitfish, small crustaceans, and larger finfish that survived the long winter. They’re hungry, and they’re aggressive.

Redfish-minded anglers should set up a drift near the color change between the deeper sand and mud flats near the Intercoastal Waterway and the clearer water of the grass flats. Redfish cruise on the clear side of the change, but they will use the murkier water both as cover and as an ambush point. Baitfish also tend to hold near to the color change because it will provide cover (unless, of course, there is a hungry redfish lurking in the clouds, then it’s just another place to die).

Live shrimp increase in availability during March. This is the bait of choice for anglers who make the long run from Port Isabel or South Padre Island—or the shorter run from the Arroyo Colorado.

Most fishermen use a large 4 to 4 ½, brightly colored popping cork with a live shrimp pinned on a No. 4 treble hook suspended 24 to 30 inches below it. The treble hook tends to tear up smaller fish, so more conservation-minded anglers will trade the treble hook for a No. 1/0 Kahle or Octopus hook.

I’ve had some success with a smaller circle hook, which does, in fact, lodge in the corner of a fish’s mouth, but many fishermen would rather avoid the adjustment period it takes to train themselves from trying to set the hook, and the resultant missed hook-ups. If you are going to use a treble hook, roll or mash down the barbs to minimize the trauma to the fish. If you keep the line tight, you won’t lose a fish.

Use the brightest cork you can find, by the way. When the wind kicks up a chop, a tall cork in florescent orange or Kelly green is much easier to spot. If you can’t spot it, reel until your line comes tight and set the hook. A red has probably taken the bait and has swum towards you.

Lure aficionados will be shelving the top waters for the most part this month. The combination of deeper water and stronger chop makes a Top Dog’s effectiveness an iffy proposition unless you hit a spoil bank shoreline early enough that the wind hasn’t cranked up.

Most grinders will fling soft plastics such as the Down South Lures Shad in Limetreuse or Morning Glory. Kelly Wiggler Balltail Shad in Fire Tiger and LSU are also popular choices. The Berkley Gulp! 5-inch Jerk Shad is also an excellent choice. Use a 1/16th ounce jighead to slow their descent and keep them out of the slop.

Shrimp imitators are also quite popular. The 3-inch Gulp! Shrimp in New Penny is the standard choice, but Glow has also gained quite a few fans. The ¼ DOA Shrimp in Glow or Glow/pink have started to show up in more and more tackle boxes.

The most common method is to fish these baits under a noisy float such as the aforementioned popping corks or a 3 ½-inch Alameda Rattle Float (which is produced by Comal Tackle). The latter float’s squat shape makes it a little harder to see on the water’s surface during a choppy day, but the internal rattles give off a louder, more constant sound as the cork bobs along. It makes the Alameda Float well worth the extra effort.

If the redfish aren’t in a cooperative mood, move your boat to deeper water near the ICW edge, rig up a fish-finder or split-shot rig, and plumb the depths for black drum. These bruisers cruise the ICW drop-offs through March, and their proletarian image shines through. Wind and chop doesn’t bother them, and a Big Ugly would have to be full to the gill to turn down a live shrimp.

No special tackle is required for black drum. The same medium outfit you use for redfish is more than adequate. Cast a shrimp-baited rig out just beyond the Waterway edge, and let your bait tumble along with the current. It won’t take very long before a pod of hungry grunters will come along. The pick-up isn’t a sudden event. Rather, the line slowly comes tight as the fish sucks in your bait and continues his merry way. Lower your rod tip, let the line come tight, then bring up your rod tip, and you’re on.

Contrary to popular belief, a drum is a tough fighter. A fish in the 22-30-inch range will offer a stout fight with hard runs. When he isn’t peeling drag, a good-sized drum will sit in the current and sulk, forcing you to try and drag him up and toward the boat. That’s when he’ll make another run. You’d be surprised at the sophisticated fighting tactics that this piscine version of Brock Lesnar can offer.

Moreover, the broad, thick fillets fry beautifully and make for a good meal.

Reported by CALIXTO GONZALES

Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]

Or Visit Online: macattackguideservice.com

 

Mt Houston Marine

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•  •  •

HOTSPOTLIGHT:

ARROYO COLORADO

ARROYO COLORADO is located between Port Mansfield on the north and Port Isabel to the south, approximately 45 miles north of Port Isabel. The most popular species caught here are Red drum, Black drum, and Spotted seatrout.

Drifting the Arroyo shoreline is a good tactic for reds and trout using live mud minnows free-lined. Cedar Reef is a good spot to fish with live shrimp under a silent cork. Reds, drum and trout hang in this area on warmer days.

•  •  •

Location: Arroyo Colorado
Hotspot: Green Island
GPS: N 26 23.533, W 97 19.33
(26.3922, -97.3222)

Arroyo Colorado

Arroyo Colorado Green Island

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Live bait, cut bait, gold spoons.
Contact: LG Outfitters
956-371-0220
[email protected]
lgoutfitters.com
Tips: This water seems to stay fairly clear, even with a strong southeast wind blowing. A gold spoon or spinnerbait with a red trailer can be deadly, especially when the sun is higher in the sky.

Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hotspot: Unnecessary Island
GPS: N 26 13.811, W 97 16.342
(26.2302, -97.2724)

Lower Laguna Madre

Lower Laguna Madre Unnecessary Island

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Live Shrimp, cut bait, topwaters, gold spoons.
Contact: Captain Jimmy Martinez
956-551-9581
Tips: The shallows are beginning to warm as Spring-type weather starts to move in. Live Shrimp always is a good first choice.

Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hotspot: Intracoastal Waterway
GPS: N 26 13.8, W 97 16.3
(26.2300, -97.2717)

Lower Laguna Madre

Lower Laguna Madre Intracoastal Waterway

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Live shrimp, Gulp! Shrimp in New Penny, Rootbeer/Chartreuse.
Contact: Captain Jimmy Martinez
956-551-9581
Tips: Fish the deeper water near the ICW to locate speckled trout that are showing an appetite after winter dormancy. The same live shrimp/popping cork rigs that you are using for redfish on the flats will work for speckled trout.

Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hotspot: Gaswell Flats
GPS: N 26 10.713, W 97 11.107
(26.1786, -97.1851)

Lower Laguna Madre

Lower Laguna Madre Gaswell Flats

Species: Redfish
Best Baits: Live bait, cut bait, gold spoons, soft plastic in red/white, Bone/chartreuse
Contact: Captain Jimmy Martinez
956-551-9581
Tips: Drift the flats between the two bars for pods of redfish. Gold spoons work well on sunny days, but bait works best when fish are finicky.

Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hotspot: The Pasture
GPS: N 26 5.857, W 97 10.897
(26.0976, -97.1816)

Lower Laguna Madre

Lower Laguna Madre The Pasture

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Live shrimp, soft plastics in New Penny, Chartreuse, Gold/glitter.
Contact: Captain Jimmy Martinez
956-551-9581
Tips: Fish dawn to midday. Wade the mouth on an outgoing tide.

Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hotspot: Airport Cove
GPS: N 26 10.02, W 97 18.12
(26.1670, -97.3020)

Lower Laguna Madre

Lower Laguna Madre Airport Cove

Species: Speckled Trout
Best Baits: Live Shrimp, soft plastics in red/white, Bone/Chartreuse.
Contact: Captain Jimmy Martinez
956-551-9581
Tips: Live Bait is tough to beat in early spring. If the water is still cool, fish soft plastics near the bottom with 1/8th ounce jigheads. Work slowly and keep a soft touch to detect light takes

 

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