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April 20, 2011

Top Texas Trout

To trout fishermen, the Texas coast means 300 miles of trophy water.

texas trout tips

Midcoast | Matagorda Bay to Baffin Bay

Capt. Sally Moffett laughs when I ask her about her favorite spots. "Where do I start?" she says. "Allyn's Bight for its deepwater grass during the spawning season, Mud Island shoreline for its shallow water and the tons of bait it holds and its quick access for fish to deep water and drainages, and the expansive flats system of Estes Flats between the Intracoastal Canal and Traylor Island. There are just so many, and they each offer us a different type of fishing style."

Moffett is one of the most accomplished guides on the coast for kayaking - her preferred method of stalking trophy trout.

"You can just get up on the fish so much more quietly," she says.

The fishing midcoast is a mix of the upper and lower coasts. One day you can find yourself poling the flats with Moffett, the next deep-dropping around the jetties, and the next fishing around submerged oyster reefs. The midcoast, as she says, "offers a bit of everything."

In the warm months of summer, working a MirrOlure She Pup or Heddon Spook Jr. over grass, sand pockets and gravel will always turn up a few fish. When you're working the flats, presentation and stealth are key. Stealth is critical, and presentation can be tricky. It depends upon the fish, especially with topwaters. Sometimes fish want the fast side-to-side motion of a walking dog; other days they want an erratic stop-and-go retrieve; and other days dead-sticking, where you simply stop the retrieve and let the lure sit, following with a quick, short tap. You have to find what the fish want.

When you're fishing the flats with soft-plastics, it's best to just "tick" the tops of the grass along the edges of some type of structure. When working the downwind edges of either grass pockets or oyster reefs, try to work the edge from shallow to deep. Trout, stereotypical ambushers, will lie in wait for a baitfish to blow over.

Lower Coast | Laguna Madre

As the front stalls, I'm in Gladys' Hole, on the north end of the famed King Ranch shoreline. Beside me, somewhere through the fog and sleet, is Capt. Mitch Richmond. The north wind has broken the truce it had with the south, and Richmond is shouting over the coming tempest.

"I really like the King Ranch shoreline and Gladys'," I hear him yelling. "But in the summer and fall, the potholes and grass flats of the Saucers and Targets are highly productive."

"Structure," he says, "can be anything as simple as a change from turtle to shoal grass."

The fish lie in ambush on the downwind side. In the Lower Laguna Madre, a change of a half-inch or less is considered structure.

"We stage our approach to the wind, unlike on the upper coast, where they rely on currents," he says. "It's almost essential. When there's no wind, we look for the lighter shades of gravel and sand in the grass flats and work the edges. We also look for raised shorelines and drainages where fish will often lie in wait."

South Texas is big, like its trout. And the travel south is well worth it. The area's remoteness gives anglers a taste of what it used to be like back in the old times. In the Lower Laguna Madre, you can fish for days without seeing another boat - not the case in Galveston or along the rest of the coast.

As Richmond and I cast through the growing north wind, the bite slows and we work our way back to the boat, shuffling to spook the odd stingray so we don't get stuck, as the saying goes. But even as we wade back and even though I know we'll be on the water tomorrow, my contagion grows deeper. There's just something about addiction to the Texas coast and its trout that can't be cured.