Friday, June 01, 2007

Laguna Madre

As best I recall, I began fishing the Laguna Madre when I was six, going out with my father and maternal grandfather in the latter's v-hull Invader. We fished out of Port Mansfield and mostly threw popping corks with a two-hook rig off of a three-way swivel underneath. The upper hook was a lead head jig with a Tout tail, the lower was a treble hook holding a live shrimp. Mostly, we caught speckled trout. I remember having to get up in the wee hours, sleeping on the way so that we could be on the water at daylight, and getting to steer the boat on the way in. I also remember the waves seeming much higher and more scary than they could have been in that shallow bay.

The Laguna Madre is a long shallow bay that runs behind Padre Island off the southern part of Texas. It is a hypersaline environment and generally runs shallow, from six feet or so to thousands of acres of flats a foot deep or not much more.

After my grandfather passed away, there was something of a hiatus in my saltwater fishing, just occassional trips, until I spent the summer with an aunt and uncle in Brownsville, Texas. That summer we fished every weekend. The CCA had been at its good works and trotlines were banned. In addition, redfish were a gamefish and no longer subject to commercial fishing. Consequently, redfish numbers were on the increase and the fishing was pretty good. My uncle had a sixteen foot Ski Barge, capable of drifting shallow and running pretty shallow as well. We caught a lot of reds, although proportionally my biggest fish that summer was a 27 1/2 inch trout, probably seven pounds or so. Instead of popping corks and live bait, we threw dark red Kelly Wigglers on 1/4 oz jigheads, for the most part. If the grass wasn't too heavy, we might cast 1/4 oz gold Johnson Sprites. Just at dawn, before the wind came up, we'd throw Zara Spooks or other topwater plugs. The strike from a 24 inch redfish on a topwater makes a largemouth bass look shy and retiring.

Since that summer, I've been fortunate to be able to spend at least a few days fishing with my father and/or uncle in the lower Laguna pretty much every year. It is a fecund body of water and each trip brings a surprise for every few days on the water. Last October brought twenty pound jack crevalle under diving pelicans, mixed in with redfish. A few years before, we ran into mangrove snapper, coming up to chase plugs cast for trout. One fall brought a couple of schools of pompano messing around the surface, allowing me to catch one on a flyrod. Another time, we saw a pod of porpoises herd some reds into a ball and then tear into them, flipping hapless redfish two feet long out of the water to stun them. More recently, five feet of tarpon rolled off our stern, a heart-stopping thrill. Between all that, we drift and cast, trying to catch reds (redfish)-

and trout (spotted seatrout)-

So, very recently I was able to spend a few days out on the bay with my dad. The weather was a bit difficult, rainstorms, wind, and low light, all of which cut down on fly fishing and sight casting opportunities. Nonetheless, we caught some fish, particularly getting into the redfish, and had the sort of good time you can really only have spending hours outdoors in the company of someone with whom much similar time has passed.

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