Late Summer Slam on the Lower Laguna Madre
Many anglers are unaware South Texas has the only viable snook population in the United States outside of South Florida. Combined with excellent populations of speckled trout and redfish, snook offer anglers in South Texas' Lower Laguna Madre an opportunity for a unique angling experience. Visiting anglers looking to add some sense of achievement to their visit often attempt to catch a South Texas Slam, which consists of a snook, speckled trout and redfish in a single session. Once all three are caught, a tarpon can be added to make the slam `grand.'
Although they have greatly increased in population in recent years, snook are still the most challenging of this South Texas trifecta. The reasons are simple. One, there is a fishable number of snook, but they are still relatively less abundant than speckled trout or redfish. Secondly, snook are notorious 'period feeders,' meaning they feed during the lowlight periods of morning and evening and/or during periods of good water movement. So, timing is critical for successful snook fishing.
During September and October, anglers have several options when it comes to choosing snook fishing grounds. There are always some snook in the local ports - Brownsville and Port Isabel - although during late summer and early fall, there are better options.
The jetties lining the Brazos Santiago Pass will still be holding lots of linesiders. This fish can be tempted with artificials such as DOA Shrimp, DOA Terroreyz or Egret Wedgetails, as well as natural baits such as finger mullet and live shrimp.
September and October are also two of the better months for shallow water snook fishing. Topwater baits like Heddon Super Spook Jrs are excellent for tempting snook in South Bay and over the flats in the southern portion of the Lower Laguna.
During the first part of September, the majority of specks in the Lower Laguna will still be in a summer pattern. This means they'll be hanging out along the channel edges and over the deeper flats. As the water begins to cool toward the end of the month, they'll gradually begin to transition back onto the shallow flats. During October, there will be plenty of specks in knee-deep water.
When found over deep flats, slow-rolling soft-plastics like DOA Paddletails or Egret Wedgetails, or working DOA Shrimp beneath popping corks are two of the better options for artificial lure fishermen. Live shrimp will also account for a lot of fish, whether free-lined or worked under a cork. As they move shallow, specks will be more inclined to swipe at topwater plugs and soft-plastic jerkbaits like the DOA 4-inch jerkbait.
Of course, as everyone knows, late summer through fall is prime time for redfish. During September and October, South Texas fishermen will be able to choose between chasing bull reds along the jetties and beachfront or pursuing herds of slot-size fish over the shallow flats in the bay.
When pursuing bull reds, some fishermen opt to pin a big live bait - either mullet or shrimp - to the bottom and wait for a school to pass by. Others choose to chase down roving schools - the South Padre surf is clear enough to allow these fish to be easily sighted - and toss artificial lures to them. Heavily weighted, fast sinking jigs and swimbaits are the best choices for casting to cruising schools of beachfront bulls.
In the bay, reds will be ganged up on most of the shallow flats. The majority of these fish will be found up north around Gas Well Flats and Three Islands at the beginning of September. From there, they will slowly meander south toward the Brazos Santiago Pass. From mid-September through October, vast schools of reds will be found all over the southern end of the Lower Laguna. These fish are easily tempted by small topwaters, weedless spoons and soft-plastics.
Anglers taking a tarpon in addition to a snook, redfish and speckled trout can legitimately proclaim their slam as grand. Although Silver Kings will hang around South Padre Island until the first few cold fronts of the year sweep through, September and October are generally the final two months of tarpon season in South Texas. But, the season usually finishes with a flair, as some of the biggest tarpon are taken during these two months each year.
The biggest concentration of tarpon will be found in the Brazos Santiago Pass and in front of Boca Chica Beach near the south jetty. Natural baits such as mullet, hardheads, pilchards, ladyfish, jumbo shrimp and crab will tempt tarpon when free-lined in these areas. Big topwater plugs, swimbaits and bucktail jigs like the 1/2 ounce Blakemore Bucktail Roadrunner will also draw plenty of attention.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
With the exception of tarpon, all of these species are available fishable numbers 12 months a year. However, what makes September and October prime months for attempting a slam is the fact they are all located within a relatively short distance of one another. During this time of year, all four species can be reliably targeted within a 2 mile radius of the Brazos Santiago Pass, allowing anglers to spend more time fishing and less time boat riding.