From the Red River to the Rio Grande, there is plenty of action for Texas saltwater wade-fishing.
By Capt. Robert Sloan
The unique thing about the Texas coast is that it’s so diverse. On the upper end, we’ve got the Galveston Bay complex and Sabine Lake.
On the middle coast, we’ve got East and West Matagorda bays, and in South Texas there is Baffin Bay and the Laguna Madre. That’s a lot of water and it’s all wader friendly, with the options on any given day of catching trout, redfish and flounder.
Some of the best wading on the entire Gulf Coast is on East and West Matagorda bays. That’s where guide Charlie Paradoski has been running fishing charters for decades.
“I’ve fished from one end of the Texas coast to the other,” he says. “But when push comes to shove it’s tough to beat the options we have on East and West Matagorda bays. East Bay is well known for producing big trout and lots of slot reds. That’s because there are so many reefs. They are scattered all over the bay. On most days, it’s simply a matter of moving from one reef to another until you find fish.”
Last June I met Paradoski at the Matagorda Harbor for a morning of wading on East Bay. The end result was a cooler full of trout, reds and one huge flounder. We started out fishing small shell reefs along the east shoreline. That’s where we found lots of bait along with a number of slicks produced by trout feeding on mullet.
The key to that successful wading trip was fishing a windward shoreline that had pushed mullet up shallow over the shell. The trout and reds were right there with them.
“My go-to lures on East Bay are Bass Assassins,” Paradoski says. “The 5-inch Assassin is best on most days. But if that’s not producing I’ll switch over to a 4-inch fork tail shad. The key to catching trout is to find out what the fish are going to bite. It’s different every day, and colors can definitely make a difference. Two of the best colors are opening night and electric chicken. Black is also a good color. I just keep switching colors until I find out what the fish are eating.”
Paradoski says the topwater bite is usually good for at least a few trout and reds at daylight. His favorite is a Super Spook Jr. in bone or pink/silver. At daylight, it’s always best to cover a lot of water. If one color is not working try another. Right about now, when the water is warm, it’s best to use a fast retrieve.
Port O’Connor is located just south of the town of Matagorda. Without a doubt, this is the most popular wade fishing spot on the Texas coast. It’s got over 30 miles of shoreline to wade along Matagorda Island. This is where I’ve been fishing and guiding for over 40 years. This is where the clear water along the Texas coast begins. From Port O’Connor and down to the Texas/Mexico border are miles upon miles of clear-water flats.
I spend a lot of time wading the Matagorda Island shoreline. It’s got lots of coves, Pass Cavallo, Pringle Lake and scattered nearby islands that offer some of the best fishing for trout, reds and flounder along the Texas coast. During the summer months, it’s usually best to wade the shoreline of Matagorda Island. The most consistent catches of trout and reds will be over sand and grass. The best catches of trout are made with soft plastics fished over sand pockets in the grass. One of my go-to lures is a Yum Money Minnow in white or white/chartreuse. I’ll rig them on an Assassin spring-lock jig head. Most of the time a 1/8-ounce jig head is best. That allows me to fish the jig slowly over potholes where trout will ambush shad and mullet.
A very good area to wade is on Pringle Lake. It’s located about 7 miles from Port O’Connor, just south of the old Army base on Matagorda Island. The south shoreline of Pringle is a good wade fishing spot for both trout and reds. The No.1 lure here is a weedless silver spoon. Silver is best for trout; copper or gold is better for reds. The smaller 1/8-ounce spoons are best for medium to fast retrieves. At times, you can find tailing reds up against the island shoreline. They will be feeding on small crabs, shrimp, shad and finger mullet. If you’re into fly fishing you’ll really get into the clear water sight casting for reds at Port O’Connor.
The Laguna Madre is where you’ll find Capt. Ruben Garza, Jr. on just about any given day. He’s been fishing here for years. A lot of his trips start at Get Away Adventures Lodge located in Port Mansfield. His wife Sandra Garza is the lodge manager and chef. Between the two of them the fishing is great and the food is excellent.
Just about all of Garza’s trips center on wade fishing.
“I do both drift fishing and wading,” he says. “But between the two, wading is the best option. If gives us a chance to slow down and hit more of the good spots that hold some of the big trout.”
The Laguna Madre is known for producing big trout. The state record speckled trout, weighing 15.60 pounds, was caught on the Laguna Madre by Bud Rowland while fly fishing on May 23, 2002. The state record trout caught on a conventional rod and reel weighed 13.69 pounds and was 33.13 inches long. She was caught by James Wallace while he was wade fishing on Baffin Bay Feb. 6, 1996.
He used a slow-sinking Corky to make that record catch. While talking to Wallace shortly after he caught the state record, he told me that he wades with a small box of lures that usually includes a couple of Corkys, a Jumpin’ Minnow and a broken-back Redfin. His top Corky colors were chartreuse/sparkle, pearl/chartreuse and chartreuse/black back sparkle.
The Laguna Madre is about 130 miles long. Its average depth is 3 1/2 feet, and it’s about 4 to 6 miles wide. When it comes to wade fishing this place rules.
“The Laguna Madre has everything you can wish for in the world of wade fishing,” Garza says. “The clear water flats hold both reds and trout. The many miles of shoreline attract lots of tailing reds. There is one stretch of shoreline that’s about 6 miles north of Port Mansfield. It’s an area with grass and sand that’s perfect for trout. The sandy shoreline holds reds. It’s a good place to fish a gold weedless spoon for tailing reds. Or you can back off the shoreline about 20 yards and use either topwater lures or soft plastics to catch trout. It’s prefect for wading.”
Garza will also wade the flats along the Intracoastal Waterway. That’s where you’ll find a bottom that’s a mix of mud, sand and grass. That’s the type of structure that will hold reds and trout that are feeding on mullet most of the time. This is where soft plastics rule.
The Galveston Bay complex is huge and is made up of three areas of water that are East Bay, West Bay and Trinity Bay. That’s a lot of water. Capt. Jim West has been wade fishing this bay system for decades. What’s his secret weapon? Wading the shell reefs.
“It’s no secret that shell attracts baitfish and then trout,” West says. “We’ve got several big reefs on East Bay that I like to wade fish. The key is knowing when to fish each reef. Some are best on an incoming tide, others are good on an outgoing tide. Also, you need to know what areas of a reef to fish on any given tide.”
Last June I was fishing with West on East Bay. It was on a Thursday, so we didn’t have too much boat traffic to contend with. That can definitely be a problem on weekends. On this particular day, we started out wading along the south shoreline where there were scattered pods of mullet. After zero hits for an hour West made the decision to move to an upper bay reef. We got there and it was game on from the get go. Mullet were jumping all over the place. We slipped out of the boat and waded to the lower end of the reef where the outgoing tide had piled up lots of mullet. The trout were right there with them.
“If we don’t catch them here, it’s just not going to happen,” West said.
On his first cast with a gold and black Corky he set the hook on about a 4-pound trout that came completely out of the water.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” he yelled.
We fished the lower end of that reef and caught limits of trout to 7 pounds. It’s was one of those days when we were at the right place at the right time.
Some of the best fishing on East Bay can be found along the south shoreline. It attracts a lot of baitfish and with them are trout and reds.
“I like to start out early, right at daylight, and fish about 15 yards off the shoreline for trout,” West said. “When wading this shore line, you want to cover lots of water. When you catch a trout, slow down and fish the entire area. Where you catch one trout there will usually be more. Another thing I’ll do is set up at the mouth of a bayou feeding into the bay on a falling tide. That’s when I’ll fish an Assassin on bottom. This is when we’ll catch reds, trout and flounder. The key is to fish the deeper water coming out of the bayou. As long as the tide is moving there will usually be baitfish and shrimp moving with the current, and that attracts the bigger fish.”
Sabine Lake is located on the Texas/Louisiana border. This is one of the very best bays to catch redfish on. But it’s also well known for producing good numbers of trout. What Sabine Lake is not known for is wading, but truth be known it’s worth a shot. I’ve been fishing on Sabine Lake for over 30 years, and can say for sure that wade fishing along the Louisiana shoreline is better than most anglers are aware of.
One very good area is from Blue Buck Point and south towards the Causeway Bridge. About 100 yards south of Blue Buck point are two shell reefs. They typically hold good numbers of trout on an outgoing tide. Best lures for fishing the reefs will be Super Spook Jr.’s and swim baits like a Yum Money Minnow. Color is not usually an issue. The main thing is to use a lure that creates a disturbance in the water. This is one of my favorite shorelines on Sabine. What I like to do is wade about 5 yards off the bank while fishing a spinnerbait for reds. Quite often I’ll come up on a waking red that is actively feeding and will jump all over a spinnerbait.
The Louisiana shoreline on the south end of the lake is perfect for wading. About a mile up from Blue Buck Point is Garrison Ridge. That’s a big cove that attracts a lot of bait on a high tide. This is a very good area to bump jigs along bottom and catch reds, trout and flounder.
On the far eastern edge of Sabine Lake, along the Louisiana shoreline, is Johnsons Bayou. That’s where you can wade the shoreline and catch both reds and trout. This is where some of the heaviest trout on the lake have been caught. Topwater lures are great, but so are wakers and soft plastics.
If you have any questions on where and how to wade fish along the Texas coast send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website at luckystrikeguide.com.