Texas Summer Surf Fishing Slam
Once the Gulf waters lapping against the dry sand on Texas beaches turn deep green and warm above 70 degrees, anglers get itchy to “go pluggin’” in the surf. In fact, probing the beachfront waters with metal and plastic artificial lures is a Texas tradition that dates back to the introduction of artificial lures into the saltwater fishing realm. And, since the ideal conditions for surf fishing in this manner are highly seasonal, this angling pursuit continues to have an aura of adventure about it.
For the most part, fishermen peppering plugs along the beachfront are seeking speckled trout. However, by using a variety of lures and retrieves, fishermen probing the beachfront guts can often string pompano and Spanish mackerel as well, filling out a Texas Surf Slam. Anglers tackling this trifecta will not just add to the uniqueness of their experience, but to the diversity of their table fare as well, as all three of these species offer excellent, yet distinctly different fillets.
Without a doubt, speckled trout are the main attraction in the summer surf for Texas fishermen. Once the water turns "green to the beach," anglers from Sabine to South Padre flock to the beachfront seeking specks.
As has been said countless times, many of these anxious anglers cast beyond the fish in the early morning hours. During the lowlight period, the majority of speckled trout will be cruising and feeding the in first gut. Depending on the particular stretch of beach, the first gut may be as close as 5 feet from dry sand. Always begin by probing this first drop in depth. Casts should be made at several angles - crossing the gut, quartering the gut and parallel to the beach and bars. When there is ample water over the first bar, fish will be feeding on top of the bar or just off the edge - in the wash of breaking waves.
In the hours bracketing sunrise, topwater plugs can be quite effective in the surf. Models such as the MirrOlure Top Dog, Bomber Badonk-A-Donk, and Heddon Super Spook are among the best models. Paddletail soft-plastics (generally in dark colors) and the venerable spoon - Johnson Sprite for example - are also good choices this time of day.
As the water warms and the sun rises, the fish will back into progressively deeper water. Anglers who find fish in the first gut early can generally follow these fish into the second and third guts as the day wears on. It is helpful to find areas that have breaks or channels intersecting the bars. Fish use these as a means to move between bars as well as primary feeding areas.
Although the topwater bite can continue until later in the day, once the fish have backed into the deeper guts it is usually best to switch over to subsurface offerings. Spoons, again, will produce many fish. But, this is also a time to use two other traditional Texas surf fishing favorites - the 52 Series MirrOlure and the "tout" tail.
The 52 Series MirrOlure is virtually the face of speckled trout fishing in the surf. Over the years, countless anglers have hooked countless specks on this sinking twitchbait. Colors such as 11, 18, 26 and 28 have long been favored by Lone Star State surf pluggers. However, although this baits can produce tremendous results in the right hands, some skill is necessary in order to get maximum benefits from these baits. Unlike a spoon, this is not a "cast-and-reel" lure. The 52 Series has virtually no inherent action other than a tight wiggle. So, anglers need to impart action with a twitch-and-pause retrieve. Mastering this retrieve technique and learning to "count down" the lure's sink rate will tremendously improve your beachfront catches of speckled trout.
When specks are sulking on the bottom, a 3/8 ounce jig head paired with an old school style tout is hard to beat. The tout's narrow body allows it to sink quickly to the bottom and stay there. This is critical when a long shore current or rolling surf is prevalent.
The cleaner and warmer the water gets, the more species will begin cruising the beachfront. One of the frequent visitors to the Texas summer surf is the speedy Spanish mackerel. This downsized cousin of the king mackerel is an ideal light tackle target. They are usually fairly aggressive when attacking artificial lures, give a spirited fight and, depending on your tastes, can add to your tally of fillets.
Spanish mackerel tend to hunt the beachfront waters in roving packs. Once they find a food source - such as a school of baitfish - they will surround and attack. Anglers stumbling into one of these feeding frenzies can quickly catch a limit of Spanish macks on just about any type of lure. However, as a rule, Spanish mackerel will move often hit lures that are either shiny or colorful and moving fast. For this reason, spoons and brightly colored jigs are good choices. Spanish mackerel will hit plugs. But, because of their razor sharp teeth, they are safer to handle when caught on single hook baits - especially when wade fishing.
One interesting aspect of Spanish mackerel in the surf is they often become more active later in the day. This makes them a perfect compliment to speckled trout, as they are often just beginning to feed heavily right about the time the trout bite starts to wane.
The most overlooked member of the Texas Surf Slam club - and arguably the tastiest - is the Florida pompano. Pompano aren't an overpowering fish, but they offer a spirited fight, are tropical-looking in appearance and are excellent table fare. They are also present in the summer surf all along the Texas coast, particularly when clean water makes its way to the shore.
The main reason more pompano aren't taken by beachfront fishermen has to do with lure selection. The typically speckled trout arsenal of 3.5 to 5-inch baits is oversized for pompano. While these lures will result in incidental catches of other surf species, fishermen hoping to hook pompano should downsize considerably. Among the top artificial offerings are 2-inch swimbaits and DOA Tiny Terroreyz. Small silver spoons will also produce good results, so long as the water clarity allows.
Like speckled trout and Spanish mackerel, pompano spend the majority of their time feeding in the guts that parallel the beachfront. For the most part, this close cousin of the permit looks for food on or near the bottom. So, anglers should make an effort to keep their lures in the lower portion of the water column as much as possible.
GLASS MINNOWS CHANGE THINGS
In general, fish feeding in the surf are opportunistic - taking advantage of whatever easy meal comes their way. However, later in the summer when hundreds of thousands of glass minnows pour out of the passes and into the beachfront waters, things change. When hordes of glass minnows are present, everything from pompano to tarpon will be targeting these diminutive baitfish almost exclusively. During this time, anglers are best served to downsize their offerings and present glass minnow mimicking lures to feeding fish. Small spoons and jigs work well. Perhaps the best glass minnow imitation on the market at the moment is the MirrOlure MirrOminnow (19MR). This 3 1/4-inch suspending plug is extremely productive whenever glass minnows are present.
WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE?
Although speckled trout, Spanish mackerel and pompano are the "top three" summer surf fishing targets, there are plenty of other species that make a summer sojourn along the beachfront. Ladyfish, jack crevalle, a wide variety of sharks, redfish, bluefish and flounder will be present in beachfront waters up and down the Texas coast from now through September. Further south, snook will also be cruising the beachfront. And, at times when an extremely clean tide laps at the beach, fish such as tarpon and kingfish will also hazard within casting distance of surf pluggers.