Skinny Water Adventures
Port Mansfield Fishing Reports 2007
In short, all is well in the Lower Laguna Madre. Labor Day is finally over (!), everything is improving, and we will see the overall crowd change from summer fun-seekers to a more experienced level of fishermen. Yes...the quality of life on the water just improved with a mere stoke of the calendar!
As far as fishing goes, big redfish are still commanding the most attention. They are beginning to school much better and we have seen several big groups lately in the shallows. Day before yesterday we jumped a group of what looked like 1000 of them, all over-sized. It's awesome to see such a show of force on the flats...looked like something out of Jurassic Park. Today we walked into several large schools of them milling about in waist deep water. The whole water column shook and the bottom vibrated from them drumming all around you. Awesome to say the least. The tailing action is getting more consistent also, and that's always a blast. Several mornings have been spooky with no wind, so good approaches are required. Mid afternoons have been very productive when the winds pick up. For example, on the 8th with the Ron Gipson group, results were weak until about 2:30, then we probably caught fifty or so in an hour....all tails in waist deep water. Fun stuff.
Trout are improving also. Still many small fish out there, but we are starting to see some better fish while we are running shallow. It won't be long before it's a topwater/Corky hunt all day for big fish. Can't wait.
Here's a little video showing some of the fun we've been having down here. No time to post all of the pictures & other clips, so this will have to do for now. Hope you enjoy it.
(caution - you might want to turn down the volume after about 15 seconds...it gets loud and I don't have the software to fix it )
August 12th 2007
Condition have moderated greatly from a most thunderous July. The winds, rains and seas are thankfully back to normal; fish are using the flats again, and life is good in the far reaches of the Laguna Madre. As always, we've had some great people, great times, and most recently, some great catches to top it all off.
Redfish are starting to do more of what we expect them to do during August. We are seeing more and bigger groups of them early in the mornings, cruising head to head and pushing large amounts of water. Several groups have been working the extreme shallows and are starting to tail much more consistently. Walking into them has been a blast...being patient and stealthing into position to make that perfect shot with a lure, then watching the slick surface erupt with violence. After the morning shallow session winds down, things have been very consistent in your typical "bail-off" spots.
Plastic tails near the bottom on 1/8th oz. jig heads are still the highest percentage presentations during mid-day, but topwaters have also been doing a good job when the afternoon winds pick up and fish get aggressive again. Best tails have been Brown Lure mullets in plum & white, plus Norton Bull minnows in Mardi-gras. (However, some folks have been cheating and using 'Gulps'. They certainly work, but are about a half-a-step above throwing croaker and basically amount to a designer piece of cut bait.) Best topwaters have been chartreuse Skitterwalks during moderate winds and Shedogs when conditions get choppy or very off-colored. After the summer crowds leave about 1-2PM, we see slicks start to form again in areas where boat traffic has pushed them...mostly about waist deep or so in murkier water. We are catching our better, bigger fish during these times.
As far as trout go, it's still mostly dink city for now. Bigger fish are still available, but it takes a dedicated grind to make that effort happen. We are absolutely inundated with juvenile fish from about 10 to 15 inches, and in fact, it's hard to get away from them. Despite the hype, that suggest that recruitment is good and we have all of the elements necessary to produce an excellent mid-range trout population again. All we need to do is back off of the 'harvest' for a while. When you have 50 miles of water averaging only 2 feet deep, it's easy to see that humans with a rod & reel can make a difference. That difference will happen starting September 1st when we go to a 5 trout, 5 fish possession limit. Most everybody we talk to is excited about having a better chance at catching better fish more consistently in the future. Hey, it's about what you catch, not about what you kill any more. If you need a bunch of food, trust me, HEB is way cheaper. We look forward to walking into schools of 3 to 5 pound trout again and watching them bust topwaters with reckless abandon. The bigger fish of eight pounds and better are certainly still here, and indeed, there will even be more of them in the future. Hopefully the new 5 fish limit will send the unconscious, tourist-type meat haulers somewhere else. We don't need them, and in being honest with all of us, wherever you are, you don't need them either.
Anyway, the flood recover has us in better shape than ever. J.D. has been running herd on the contractors and has personally transformed the place into a whole new deal. All new tile floors and many other upgrades are making the place a bit too comfortable for some of you potlickers. In short, J.D. did a great job as usual.
Thanks to Rick Bailey with Saylor Marine, I'll have my big boat back Tuesday with a brand new motor. Yamaha is taking care of it in a big way, so we look forward getting back into the normal saddle again. Seriously, I've run a lot of different hulls, but for what I'm doing, that 25' Flats Master is hands down the best performing platform I've ever had under me. It's doing it all with range, comfort & economy, so we're excited. Tricia took a little time off to get the kids ready for school again, and she's excited (demanding) that I won't be stealing her boat any more. Funny how possessive we get with things like boats, but I do understand.
O.K., the crowds have been stupid on weekends, but still no where near what the mid & upper coast areas experience. The last big 'bimini-top hoorah' will be Labor Day weekend, and then Port Mansfield will return to its normal 'hard core fishermen only' crowd. We can't wait for things to get back to serious fishing instead of just fun fishing. We will start to see our big trout get aggressive again and prepare for the last seasonal peak spawn. That means they will present themselves and eat more consistently, and hopefully eat topwaters at that. Our big bruiser redfish will be fun on the flats, working towards their peak activity thru November. Yeah, it's already time to start thinking about Fall. It will be on us before we know it.
Below are a few recent pictures of some good times and great memories. Whatever you're doing on a daily basis, here's hoping you're living as large as we are. Good fishing to 'ya!
July 23th 2007
Just a quickie update here. It's still all about redfish for now. The trout are numerous but mostly running small to undersized, so we're letting these bruiser reds pick up the slack until things change. Topwaters are still working well, especially She Dogs when you find a big group of competitive fish that will aggressively fight over it. The shear power of these guys has been providing a lot of fun. For "bottom grubbers", the surface blow-ups have been stupendous. Between topwater times, dark tails near the bottom are pulling up some great fish. It's all about the hook set. During off times, the bite is often extremely subtle and you might feel just the smallest "tick" or perhaps your line moves sideways. Reel down to the weight, and if it's there, just ease back on the rod for a nice surprise.
It will be big trout time soon enough, but for now, we'll take the best nature has to offer and have a great time doing it. Hope you are out there having fun as well, and remember, it's still summer so be patient with the family boater types.
July 18th 2007
O.K. A little rain-out time here, (somebody please kill a chicken and make it stop!) so here's a bit more of an update. Last week we fished with a bunch of Cabela's folks, several from the Texas Sporting Journal Magazine, and a few select and time-honored sportswriters. The purpose was to try and gain more exposure concerning Mansfield's East Cut, who everybody should know by now is rapidly silting in. Terry Neal, president of our Chamber of Commerce, organized the event and several local guides participated. Although fishing conditions were tough all went well and we all had a great time. (by the way, a big thanks to Sue of the Chamber for taking on the food responsibilities and to the Sunset House for picking up the accommodations.)
The Cabela's people were awesome...all of them, and the TSJ Folks were great hosts and gracious guests. Sportswriters are sportswriters and we love them all, and some of them actually got out in the sun, and others even actually got into the water. We were particularly impressed with Bob Hood of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, who among other claims to fame, is "Uncle Bob" of Catfish Gold Magazine. The guy is the real deal and works out of his truck documenting hunting/fishing adventures with a laptop. That is a cool job. Also, Kudos to David Sikes of the Corpus Christi Caller for his recent article, and to Shannon Tompkins of the Houston Chronicle for being such an entertaining good sport. (He wrote an article about how much he doesn't like wadefishing, but he got in there and did it anyway.) At any rate, we hope that increased exposure about the life blood of such a unique system will help.
Last week we also fished 24 Lady's from the Texas Lady Anglers. What a hoot these girls are, and they will fish hard and you can bet they will have fun doing it. It was organized by Capt Ernest Cisneros, and Tricia & I were the 2 other boats for a dedicated snook trip. Yes, some good snook were caught! (However, please don't contact us about snook trips. That's Capt. Ernest's deal, not ours, and he is also very selective about who he takes.) Thanks to Ernest and the girls for yet another great adventure.
As far as fishing goes, we are still catching them despite heavy thunderstorms and summer's other typical challenges. Reds have been doing particularly well with topwaters working early. Later in the day you can still catch a few up top, but as usual, best results are going deeper with a plastic tail. We are catching ours about shin deep early, then easing off to about waist deep as things heat up and the wind kicks in. Most have been over scattered grass pockets fairly close to the ICW
Many (many) small trout are in the system and it's hard to get away from them. That tells us that recruitment is good for the future. Bigger trout have been difficult, which may suggest 2 things. One is that it's summer, and 2 is that we have probably taken a lot out. ("Hey McBride...where have all of the big trout gone?" Well, personally, I think a lot of them are in little plastic baggies in San Antonio.)
Aside from a few isolated areas of stained water from rain run-off, the system overall is in good shape. No brown tide that we know of, but the floating grass can be horrible if not impossible in places. The single hooked topwaters are helping out a lot in that department.
We'll try to get some videos posted as soon as we can. We literally have dozens of great and entertaining moments captured. Some will make you laugh and some will make you cry, but regardless, they will make you feel like you are here. It's all good, just need more chair time to get them done.
One more item. The 33rd annual Port Mansfield Tournament is scheduled for July 27th & 28th. There are now two separate categories, live and artificial. The Billfish division this year will be all catch & release. It promised to be a great event, so for more information go to www.portmansfield.us ( the real Chamber of Commerce website.)
Will finish pictures below asap...In the meantime...we're fishing. (Soooo...what have you been doing?)
July 15th 2007
pictures below finally finished! (well, almost)
Fishing is trying to rebound from the recent deluge, but still requires some effort to be successful. We have had some great sessions for sure, but in between the glorious days there has been some work involved, even for the bait guys. There is a lot of floating grass where fish have been, it's hot, and it's crowded on the weekends. However, use your head, work hard, cast and they will come. A strong trout bite is still a challenge, but heavy reds are picking up the explosive slack. We have a lot of great trips scheduled and will try to keep the pictures going, but please bare with the delay.
I blew my powerhead yesterday, but many cudos to Rick Bailey with Saylor Marine in Pharr for taking care of it. I called yesterday afternoon and already have another boat under me. It's just the way Saylor Marine works. If something needs to happen, Rick will make sure it does. Can't say enough.
July 11th 2007
Finally a day off. A lot of stuff going on down here, especially with people & boats. We've been extremely busy taking care of some great folks and have been having a great time doing it. While still no comparison to upper coast crowds, things are a little busier than the fish would like to have it, especially up shallow. We have been catching most of our better fish thigh to waist deep or so and in off-colored water. Mid-day winds tend to help until it finally gets blown out by early afternoon. Tails still rule, but we have had some sporadically good topwater bites early. Both Skitterwaks and SuperSpook Jr's have produced, plus Shedogs later in the chop.
As far as the recent rains, Mary & J.D.s place next door (where many of our clients stay) got eight inches of water in it during one freak afternoon cell. First time in nearly 20 years. What a mess, and it did push the fish around a bit. Below is some of what we've been doing. It's all good, but heavy emphasis on our redfish for now. Several great videos to put up when we get a chance, but in the meantime we're fishing. How about you?
June 10th 2007
A lot of things have happened since the last report. (Go figure, it's been almost a month again). Our water levels rose over one foot above a normal high, we had a lot of rain & run-off, the water temps rose, the winds did howl, and the masses arrived in full force. Besides the normal summer crowds, the weekly tournament thing has cranked up and will continue. Expect a lot of traffic on the weekends, and expect a lot of people who don't understand crossing situations or that it's not nice to run through people. Overall, fishing was poor to pitiful for about 10 days. You might think that higher water would push fish shallow, but most of the better fish scattered and bailed deep. South was generally better than north, but in either case, water over waist deep was the most consistent. We didn't take a lot of pictures while wading deep. The good news is that everything has changed again and fishing has returned to "good."
Tide levels have dropped almost a foot in the past two days and the winds have moderated from a good direction. Water conditions are great except for floating grass in many areas. As an example of what's happening, yesterday we had 27 men from CP&L on a customer appreciation trip. It was slow early for most of us although we all managed to stay busy on smaller fish. When most of the boats left in the pm it happened. Capt. Tricia made a prediction and it worked. Her people, along with Capt. Ernest Cisneros and Capt. Eddie Arenas, walked into the mother lode of good reds. I was on the way also but was about 30 minutes late...thinking the boat traffic was still going to be extreme. It's a typical pattern. The tide drops, the wind picks up, people leave, and fish get concentrated in murky water bail off spots. Look for fishing to get even better as the overall water levels should steadily fall out thru the end of July. The time for tailing reds, sightcasting, and larger trout shallow early and deeper later is near upon us. Can't wait.
May 16th 2007
Update. The below report was actually written on the12th and conditions have definitely changed. For one, the tide has dropped out about a foot, which means much down here. Floating grass is heavy in several places - lot's of water intake screens getting plugged in the afternoon. Many fish have definitely moved deeper, but some of the bigger reds are staying so shallow all day you can't get to them, and if you can, it takes a stealth-master to catch them. Topwater bite has been virtually non-existent for us for a couple of days now, and it's been all tails on 1/8th oz. heads. Lot's of little shrimp in the system.
!!!!!!!!! The Griffon and Shallow Sport Tournaments are happening this weekend. Expect 100 or so boats going out of the Island with a 7AM shotgun start. Expect 80 or perhaps even more tournament boats coming out of Port....many of which will depart well before sun-up. What you think you have been fishing this week will have a slightly different appearance starting Thursday. It's going to be full-on nuts in the water, so please manage your expectations accordingly and be as patient, polite as possible. The town will be totally packed with lots of frolicking going on, and a band will be at El Jefe's Friday night and I think another one at Pelicans on Saturday night. This promises to be one of the most crowded weekends Port Mansfield will see this year..., so good luck everybody and remember to play nice with the other children.
May 13th 2007
O.K.....so we suck as far as keeping this little website updated. Sorry folks, it's just very hard, if not impossible, to do it all. Suffice it to say that we have been very busy. It's all good though, and what certainly hasn't sucked lately has been the fishing.
In no particular order, below are a just few example of what's been going on down here in the Lower Laguna. Most of the previous pictures below have been completed as well, along with a few new videos coming up for your office viewing pleasure. (Videos).
Recent patterns: Fish are showing up in most of the traditional places. Deeper grass beds have a lot of small trout on them, but keep casting as there are some good ones in there with them. That scenario is mostly tails on 1/8th oz jig heads. Most of our bigger trout are still coming shallow though and the topwater bite is increasing. Superspook Jr.s when it's calm and Skitterwalks/Shedogs when things get choppier. Single hooks on topwaters still rule...grass or no grass. We are still finding a lot of our bigger trout with the reds in off colored water. Water levels are still high and the floating grass situation is generally not bad. The high water has fish scattered though. There have been some reds way up in the sand but most are smaller fish. Redfish are on the flats one day and then gone the next. Some larger pods of larger fish are showing up more often, but boat traffic can be quick to push them down. We haven't seen much tailing yet..., some yes, but that will continue to get better during the next few months. Up north has been spotty , but when it's - on it's on. The shorelines have had a lot of bait on them and water clarity is good. Same down south, but the boat traffic down there can get stupid with many bait people now launching out of the State Park in the Arroyo. The East Cut proper is starting to hold better concentrations of fish, with both good trout and reds patrolling the edges when the current is moving. Hopefully we'll see more of them come thru the cut this year and fan out across the bay. What IS in the bay right now is a bunch of sting rays...big ones too. Y'all be careful. As of yet, we have not seen the traditional influx of big trout up north coming through the Land Cut, although the upper end of the Land Cut seems to be on fire. They'll be here soon though.
Other News: The dredge work continues at the mouth of the Harbor. It has moved closer to the "Y" and good progress has been made. It's amazing how clean the Harbor water suddenly became. Please be careful going out as the buoys are just a small indication of where the piping lays. DO NOT cut through to the right of the barge going south. Stay well north of the barge itself. Down south, the seismograph activity is still prohibitive. Many airboats still working the 'sticks' and now they are even working on the weekends. Gaswell flats to Airport Cove is covered up with flags, and now they are supposedly moving into North Cullen and eventually the Rattle Snake area. The noise and irritation is there, but they are actually trying to be as polite as they can.
April 18th 2007
Been on the water most days this year except for blow-outs, and when nature cooperates, many of the catches have been outstanding. All indications are that it's going to be another great year. The past few days going into the new moon were awesome. Many (many) big upper slot to oversized reds for everybody (knee deep water & less on tails & super spook jrs.,) plus some 7, 8, and even legit 9 pound trout in the mix. Good stuff. Many pictures & videos to post from the past month & 1/2. Will get to as many as we can today, but it's our only day off in a while (and for a while) and many other chores await. Here's a little rundown of what some of the patterns have been.
Better fish have been way shallow, numbers and dinks deeper. Darker tails still consistent, but the topwater bite has been increasingly better. The little Corky Jr. has also been doing a good job as on spooky, shallow fish. Lot's of small forage out there. By shallow, we're talking shin deep & less. There are a few patches of what appears to be brown tide floating around. Here today, there tomorrow, gone the next. If the cell count stays down we are fine. As of now most of the water is in excellent condition; no floating grass, clean, etc. However, your better fish are in the nasty stuff (and usually are). Boat traffic is increasing but weekdays are still mostly quiet. That will change as soon as the live bait crowd fires up.
We're just trying to quietly go about our business so you might not hear/see much, but below are a few recent pics & vids to remind all that there's more to life than what goes on at the office..
February 28th 2007
Great past couple of days again. Yesterday it was hunt, peck & grind until about 2pm then it kicked off hard. The action shifted from a morning bite to an afternoon one coinciding with wind and a moonrise. Capt. Tricia's group kept 26 trout, many in the 3 to 4 lb range, but also had some 5's & 6's. Mostly all tails.
07:30 - Working on these pics and videos as we speak , but also getting ready to leave for the Holder Show and dealing with article deadlines. Rather go back to fishing.
Still on!, will update with pics & videos when we can...gonna be a couple of days though. We've had a passel full of chunky 3-4# trout the past few days, plus 2-28's, 2-29's & a good sprinkling of 25"s & 26's. The reds are angry and big, up to 34" and 14#. Good stuff. Still mostly dark tails near the bottom over waist deep grass. With the predicted weather we might see a good topwater bite the next couple of days. We're excited...hope you are too.
O.K., it's on. Many pictures & videos to show, but will just have to get to them when we can. Off today, but fishing every day till the Holder Show so we're a tad busy as usual. We've also been busy tearing stuff up. Blew my lower unit, then Tricia blew her TRP lower unit, then I blew my motor. Yes, life is grand in the fast fish lane. My new boat will be here today, courtesy of Saylor Marine in Pharr. Details later, but let's just say it's a serious upgrade. Some of you will enjoy that, so maybe I won't hear anymore whining about my little gray ghost jeep of a work boat. We are also welcoming some other new sponsors to help make the whole experience what it should be. We only use the best of the best of what works, so we are humbled to be able to work with these fine folks.
Back to fishing. This past week has been excellent. We've had two trout over 9 lbs, another 29.5", and many (many) in the 4 to 6# class. The reds have simply been stupid. Sun and warming temps put the fish where they should be, and when temps and levels drop, they are where they should be then as well. Tails have mostly ruled, especially the little Brown lure eel in darker colors, but Bass Assassins in red shad kicked some butt too. However, skilled Corky work has done equally as well. No topwater bite for the past few days, but that's a timing thing right now and it's all fixing to explode. More details later, but it's shaping up to be a tremendous late Feb. and March. The girths on these fish are impressive. Good stuff. Can't stand it. Gotta go. Videos & detailed pics as soon as.
Next few days schedule: Patrick Hannan group (2 days), FTU (2 days), Scott Stavinoah (2 boats 2 days), Bruce Cranfill ( 2 boats 2 days), John Barber (2 days), Holder show March 1,2,3.
Everything is picking up here in the Laguna and it is all starting to look more like a February is supposed to look. However, I have NEVER seen such poor performance from the weather prognosticators. It's been embarrassing, much less dangerous, to launch lately according to predictions. The forecasts have been consistently off by 180 degrees on wind direction, 20mph on velocity, and over 15F on temperature. We'd be better off if they'd just say "The weather today will be partly crazy with an occasional tortilla". THAT I can deal with.
Anyway, it's all good here with some solid fish coming out to play. We had a good topwater bite with Mark Keator's group during the moderating conditions on Feb. 4th. . Nothing huge, but solid, fun fish. Thigh deep water over scattered dark grass beds, semi-hard bottom. Mark also did well with a plum/chartreuse tail Corky.
The Zack King/ Gatorbait crew. Well, I'll just let Zack yack about it. He's got a better keyboard than I do. Fun trip...great guys. Click these links and have a seat.
Johnny & the Starfish. Details on these hooters later.
Recovery has been slow in coming after the bad boy front back on Jan.15th. We cancelled 12 trips last week because we didn't feel like we had any real opportunity to offer. Water temps are generally still colder north of town than south, and many trout which bailed to the bomb shelters have not come back out of them yet. Reds are returning earlier, some in great numbers and showing up extremely shallow, but they are here one day and gone the next. Where you find large concentrations of bait, (if you can), you can bet conditions are right to hold what we are looking for. A lot of bait is still staying deep as well, so don't totally rely on surface observations.
The past three days we hosted the Charles Sandford group and six man 'Team Gucci Gadget". Fishing was chilly and tough, but we managed to tweak out what nature had to offer for the moment. Apart from many 16" to 18" trout on day two, we had a couple of over-sized reds, a 26.5" trout, and a couple going 23 to 24". Tricia again kicked everybody's butt by sticking to basics. She probably caught over 30 fish on day two...main technique was pulling a dark Brown Lure eel softly through the grass. Most fish were caught in thigh to waist deep water over grass beds in softer bottoms. The key was feeling a delicate pick-up, but more important was timing of the hook set. Let 'em eat a little...reel down to the weight and then simply ease back. The Bruce Lee thing is great in movies but not always the best punch on slow fish.
Bottom line is that we haven't seen the behemoth trout we've been expecting, but that should change soon with moderating temps and going into this next full moon. When these fish decide to pull back up, they should do it big...both large and small and in mass quantities. We have some good fishermen the next several days, so if the fish will play they will catch them. However, there is only one way to catch that trophy you are looking for. Launch early, stay late, rely on divine intervention, and then dance like nobody's looking.
Other News: Capt Ernest Cisneros reports serious seismic crew activity down south. Said about 12 airboats, all with triple fans, are all over the flats from 3 Islands and well into Cullen's. Work is scheduled for another month. Bamboo stakes and noise everywhere, so heads up.
The Port Mansfield dredge is in the water and expected to start cutting the mouth of the harbor soon. The plan is for work to continue east until funds run out. Initial disposal material is slated for the new site created next to the old levee. Be careful cutting across on the right side of the channel in low visibility conditions. The piping is marked but only at intervals.
We'll try to keep you posted, but we're going to be real busy into the next few weeks, so you might want to get out there and generate your own reports. Computer chairs are fine but a leaning post is better. Be safe, dress right, have fun, and be nice to the Winter Texans in Walleye boats. When you yell at them for being 'boat stupid' they will offer you a sandwich...but...they ARE trainable with a little courtesy.
Long time no update, so we'll try to do better for '07. In short, the weather has had us all pinned down for over a week now, but prior to that fishing was exceptional. When this stuff moderates we expect to see not only numbers of fish but realistic opportunities at life-time quality trout. We have already landed some over 8 lbs, and an honest 28" fish will weigh that and more. Shoulders are thick and their girths are impressive.
We measured water temps on the flats between 41 and 43F on Jan 18th. No sun and continuing N winds in the 40's - low 50's hasn't allowed for much warming to date. Everything bailed to the ditch and the 'bomb shelters' are full. However, this is actually what we have been waiting for. It will position large fish in more predictable areas, and they shouldn't stray too far until it's time to start staging for their first spawning session in March. All we need is a little relief, and it looks like we may get it going into this next weekend.
We did measure a few dead snook in the harbor, (the largest was 29" and exactly 7 lbs), but the impact was mostly on juvenile snook and ladyfish. There were a few dead mullet on the flats and some turtles fighting it in the ICW last week, but we escaped another major event. It was merely a taste of what could have been.
In summary, the next few weeks should see some of the most inspiring sessions on the water of the entire year. We fully intend on living it to the fullest. See ya there....
Also, for you aspiring trophy hunters, you might try reading "Making Your Own Luck" in the Jan-Feb issue of TIDE Magazine.
About Rates & Trip Info Your Captains Reports Videos Message Board
Guest Book Sponsors Contact Us Worthy Links
|May thru Dec 2006|
|2005 Reports - 2|
|2005 Reports - 1|