Fly Fishing the Texas Coast

Lower Coast Flats: South Padre Island/Port Isabel Area
  |  Gorp.com

This prolific fishery on the lower Laguna Madre near the border with Mexico is the northernmost range for snook on the Texas coast. Thanks in part to a series of mild winters, reduced size and bag limits, and favorable habitat, anglers have enjoyed a marked resurgence in snook fishing in these waters in recent seasons. The oyster reefs and mangrove shorelines of South Bay, the creek mouths, and the rocky shorelines along the Brownsville Ship Channel and Laguna Madre bridge structure provide prime habitat for snook and are easily accessible from area launch ramps.

In recent years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has reduced the daily bag limit on snook to one fish per day with a slot limit of 24 to 28 inches. However, the narrow range and fragile nature of this great gamefish in Texas waters has prompted most anglers to voluntarily release their catch.

In the Brownsville Ship Channel, flyfishers can cast for snook and snappers under and around oil service and grain-loading docks while mariachi music serenades them from anchored shrimp boats. At the next stop at South Bay, anglers can sightcast over secluded grass flats where the only sound is the soft rustle of wings as roseate spoonbills and reddish egrets flutter along the mangrove shorelines. And just a short run north to the Laguna Atascosa Refuge shoreline, anglers have a good chance of finding redfish cruising over light-sand bottoms.

In addition to snook, the grass flats and shorelines of the Lower Laguna Madre hold big numbers of redfish and seatrout. On these broad, open flats, anglers often find ladyfish and black drum on the prowl for food alongside the redfish and trout. The nearby jetties at Brazos Santiago Pass attract tarpon in the summer and early fall-15- to 35-pounders that can be found in the late afternoon rolling and chasing bait schools at the edges of the rocks.

Flyfishers have a chance to cast at big schools of redfish that hang around the open flats of the lower Laguna during the late summer months, as they begin staging for their migration out the nearby pass in the fall. Flyfishers casting to these schools that can number two hundred fish or more should use floating lines and flies that will sink rapidly, such as bendbacks or Clouser Deep Minnow patterns. Fish in these large schools are moving more quickly than it appears, and weighted flies will get down to their eye level rapidly, whereas heavily hackled flies will lie on the surface while a hundred redfish swim under them.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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