Texas' Best Bets For Specks & Red

Texas' Best Bets For Specks & Red

Check out these great locations along the Texas Gulf Coast for taking both speckled trout and redfish this month. (May 2009)

May is one of my favorite months of the year to be on the water, and in the hunt for speckled trout and redfish along the Texas Coast. It's when cold fronts are history and our many miles of coastal bays and surf are warming. With those changes in water temperature, two things are going to happen. One is that fish are going to be on a big feed. Second, fishermen are going to be ready to hit the water.


Andy Smith caught this great speckled trout while wade-fishing the flats near Pass Cavallo at Port O'Connor, one of the author's favorite spots along the Gulf Coast for such sport.
Photo by Robert Sloan.

One thing is certain about the Texas Coast -- there definitely are no shortages of places to fish. We're talking about a range of excellent trout and redfish venues that stretch from Sabine Lake to the Laguna Madre. That's a lot of water and a lot of fishing opportunity. However, after fishing the Texas Coast for more than 45 years, I've found there are a few areas that are consistently better than others.

My top spot, the go-to place I put above all others on my must-fish list, is Port O'Connor, on the Middle Texas Coast. It's where you'll find miles upon miles of clear-water flats. There are islands in the sun. There are wide-open bays, backwater estuaries, a natural pass and some of the best jetties that you'll find anywhere on the Gulf Coast. With all that diverse water you'll find lots of trout and redfish.


This is a prime location that I've been fishing for more than four decades. And it's where I run light tackle and fly-fishing charters. The reason why is simple: excellent fishing for two of the most popular game fish in Texas salt water.


If you're looking to pole a shallow-water flat that's gin clear and full of tailing reds, you need to give Port O'Connor a shot. During the spring I spend a lot of time at Pass Cavallo. That's where I find lots of reds and trout on incoming tides. That's also where Sunday Beach is located. Sunday's a part of the Texas surf with white sand beaches and excellent trout fishing.

What I like to do there is run the surf and look for pods of baitfish up on the water's surface. More often than not, this section of sand and surf is trout green. Once I locate baitfish in the first or second guts paralleling the beach, trout usually are not too far behind. The fun thing about fishing the surf is that you'll likely catch solid trout along with a few big reds.

Best lure in this area of surf will be a 1/2-ounce silver spoon with a pink or yellow teaser on the treble. That lure can be cast a country mile and cover lots of water. That's important if you're into wading. What I normally do is find the baitfish, and then slip the anchor feed-out rope until I'm within casting distance of the area to be fished. That way I stay high and dry and can easily cover all the hotspots in the surf, like boat wreck reefs and the deeper washed-out guts.

Just inside of Pass Cavallo is an area known as the J Hook. It runs into a big body of water. This is one of my top spots for catching both trout and reds during May. It offers clear-water flats adjacent to 5 to 8 feet of wide-open water. I run a Maverick HPX. That's a shallow-running polling skiff that allows me to access very shallow flats. And that's where you can sight-cast to both trout and reds. Talk about fun, that's it.

Jetty fishing at Port O'Connor is excellent. I've caught thousands of trout along the rocks at POC's deepwater jetties. The trick to locating trout is to find irregular rock formations in 20 to 30 feet of water. That's where your electronics come into play. That type of rock formation causes upwelling currents that hold baitfish and, in turn, schools of hungry trout.

I love to fish the jetties anywhere along the Texas Coast. The best that I've fished are at Sabine, Galveston, Freeport and Port O'Connor. They offer the most consistent fishing for both trout and reds during May.

The Sabine jetties are located on the Texas/Louisiana border. That's kind of a quirky place to fish because the east jetty usually holds the best water and numbers of fish. The Louisiana side of the east jetty is the most popular place to fish, but to do that you'll need to purchase a non-resident Louisiana saltwater fishing license. The channel side of the east jetty is considered to be Texas water.

On any given day with a green tide, fishing along the Sabine jetties can be fantastic. My favorite way to fish them is with a Super Spook or She Dog in either bone or chartreuse color. The water along the Sabine jetties is fairly shallow up close to the rocks. That's why the topwater bite can be so good.

Another very good lure is a Heddon Swim'N Image. This is a 3-inch-long shallow-running crankbait that's deadly on both trout and reds along the Sabine rocks. Believe it or not, the speckled trout color pattern is best. It looks just like a trout fingerling. What makes this lure so good is that it demonstrates a super-tight wobble. You can fish it up against the rocks or away from them where the water drops to anywhere from 5 to 8 feet deep. Even when the water along the rocks is a bit sandy, this particular vibrating crankbait will lure 'em in.

Even though Hurricane Ike slammed the Sabine and Galveston jetties, they're still in good shape -- and two of the best combo-fishing options for trout and redfish on Texas' Upper Coast.

The great thing about the Galveston jetties is that you can walk them. The most popular is the south jetty. I've fished both the north and south Galveston jetties since I was a kid. Ditto that for the Freeport jetties. You can walk both the Galveston and Freeport rocks, which is why they are so popular among Texas saltwater anglers. Usually the Gulf side of these jetties is the best option.

If you plan on walking the rocks, you have to plan ahead. Everything has to be packed in and packed out. What I like to do is load my gear up in a daypack. That includes water, food, tackle and, of course, a camera. (Send some of those pictures to Texas Camera Corner, 2250 Newmarket Parkway, Suite 110, Marietta, GA 30067.) And it's all out of the way for easier fishing. I use a Kelty pack that's got plenty of storage pockets and comes with a wrap-around waist support belt. That's very important for back support.

The problem with walking the rocks is that you've got to keep your fish on a stringer, and keep them in the water. And if you really get into them, you've got a load coming out. That'll usually draw quite a bit of attention, which is a pleasant problem.

A silv

er spoon is tough to beat when fishing the rocks. But I'll usually pack in a small selection of lures that includes a couple of Super Spooks in bone or mullet color patterns, a chrome She Dog, and six 1/4-ounce jigheads. They can be rigged on soft-plastic tails. I like Assassins or Stanley Wedgetails in white/chartreuse, smoke or red shad. The Wedgetails are good in water that's a little sandy because of the tail vibration.

Deep-diving cranks are also good to use along any jetty. That's how most of the redfish pros fish the rocks. And it's how the FLW tournaments have been won along the Sabine jetties for the past two years. You can fish the deep-diving crankbaits fast and deep, and thus cover plenty of water.

Live bait is also very deadly along the jetties. Free-lined live shrimp are the best baits. Rig them on a No. 2 treble hook. It's usually best to pinch on a single lead split shot about a foot above the hook. That keeps the shrimp down in the water column. Free-lining is easy. Simply flip the live bait in the water and feed out line. This is a good technique because the current will move the bait deep and parallel to the rocks.

The latest fad for fishing the rocks is to rig Berkley Gulp! on a bare hook and free-line it along the rocks. The scent of this soft-plastic lure is incredible. Anything in the ocean will eat it, especially trout and redfish.

I've fished Sabine Lake and Sabine Pass for more than 19 years, yet this is a bay system you don't hear a whole lot about. And it doesn't get the kind of pressure that places like East and West Galveston bays do. Even though Sabine Lake has been severely whacked by hurricanes over the past few years, it's still an excellent option.

In fact, it's one of the best big-trout options for fishing during May. I don't know what it is, but this bay attracts plenty of big trout from late April through May. My best is just over 10 pounds. I caught that wallhanger in Sabine Pass on a black and chartreuse She Dog fished along a shallow flat that dropped off a ledge into about 20 feet of water.

The lower end of Sabine Lake is loaded with oyster reefs that haven't been harvested in years. Those reefs attract numerous reds and trout. Some of the best are located from Blue Buck Point to the Causeway Bridge that connects Texas and Louisiana. The best way to fish the reefs is with a topwater lure. Two of my favorites are a Super Spook or She Dog in black/chartreuse, chartreuse or a clown pattern.

My favorite reefs on the lower end of Sabine Lake are in about 3 to 4 feet of water. They aren't very big. Most are about the size of a two-car garage. What I like to do is drift in silently, stake out my boat, and work each reef with topwater lures. At times the reefs are marked with slicks, a good indication that fish are present and feeding.

The surf between the Sabine and Galveston jetties can hold some pretty big trout during May. Naturally, that's a lot of water to fish. The best thing to do is to put in at the town of Sabine, and cut through the boat cut in the west jetty. From there you can run the surf looking for slicks and baitfish.

Once I locate good water I'll bump-troll while fishing topwater plugs, spoons and soft plastics. What I mean by bump-trolling is staying in position by turning the trolling motor on and off. That way I don't spook any fish that are in the area.

East Matagorda Bay, located between Freeport and Port O'Connor, is a trophy-trout hotspot during late April and May. If you're into wade-fishing, this is the place for you. The drill here is to run from one reef to another. What guides like Charlie Paradoski and Bill Pustejovsky will do is ease up to a reef, anchor the boat, and wade. I've fished with both of these guides for years. They are very good at locating big trout on East Bay.

Typically, they'll move from one reef to another. If one reef doesn't produce a fish within an hour or so, they'll load up and move to another location.

But there are certain reefs that are better than others. And at times I've seen these guides wait out the fish. For example, if they know a particular reef is "hot" on an outgoing tide, they'll stay on it rather than move to another spot. When the trout bite is on, there can be excellent fishing on those reefs.

Soft plastics will always catch trout and reds over the reefs in East Bay, when the fish are feeding. But take it form me: It's usually the topwater plugs that take the big sows. And when you've got 5-pound-plus trout busting topwater lures, you're having some serious fun. A couple of the best topwater lures in this bay are the He Dog and She Dog. Best colors are chartreuse, bone or chrome.

It's usually best to use the smaller She Dog in slick, calm water. If you've got a little breeze and slightly rougher water, opt for the bigger He Dog. A long cast is usually best when wading the shell reefs of East Bay. That's another reason to use a He Dog; it can be cast from here to China.

Speaking of long casts I've switched to spinning rigs, as opposed to baitcasting reels. They are easy to cast, and don't malfunction nearly as much as baitcasting reels do. My go-to rig right now is a 7-foot Castaway Skeleton rod built for fishing 1/4- to 5/8-ounce lures. It's seated with a Shimano Stradic 1000F spinning reel, sporting a 6-to-1 retrieve ratio. Here's the catch: The reel is spooled with 10-pound-test Power Pro microfilament line. The diameter of that line is the equivalent of 2-pound-test monofilament, and just about impossible to break.

This is a lightweight rod and compact reel that I've used to catch some hefty trout and reds. The thin diameter line will cast a country mile with the flick of a wrist. I've gone through all sorts of elbow problems over the past few years. This is a rod and reel that is easy to use and easy on your arms. It's also a go-to rig for redfish tournament pros.

By the way, I use about a 5-foot section of Silver Thread fluorocarbon line as a leader. It's attached to the braided running line with a Uni-to-Uni knot. I tie my lures on with a locking loop knot.

Going after reds and trout with light-action spinning tackle is a hoot. Ditto that for fly-fishing. At places like Port O'Connor, Rockport and the Laguna, you have many miles of clear-water flats. And until you've drifted or poled over some of those flats, you have not experienced the true essence of fishing for trout and reds. Sight-casting to these sport fish is incredible fun. If you get tired of fly-fishing for tailing reds, there's always the opportunity to switch over to spincasting tackle and work the drops and deeper flats for trout.

Last summer I had a charter with two guys and we were smoking tailing reds on one particular flat with flies. When that became boring we moved out to the surf, which was flat and green to the beach. We tied on chrome/blue Super Spook Jr. plugs and proceeded to catch limits of trout. Talk about fun fishing, that was about as good as it gets!

FOR YOUR INFORMATION
For details on light tackle and fly-fishing for reds and trout at Port

O'Connor, call (409) 782-6796, or go to www.hightailangler.com.

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