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September 25, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Texas offers some of the best redfishing in the U.S.

In Spanish, the name means "lagoon mother" - and the name is appropriate. In addition to being home to its world-class redfish fishery, it is home to arguably some of the best spotted seatrout fishing anywhere. In fact, the region is considered one of the three places to go when targeting gator trout over 10 pounds (the other being Florida's Indian River and Louisiana's Calcasieu Lake).  The reason? It is an incredibly productive marine estuary. Researchers estimate that the hyper-saline (more salty than the ocean) grass flats hold on average 1,200 shrimp and other crustaceans per square yard. The well-protected nursery produces shrimp, crabs, mullet and a host of other forage species that help stoke the biological engine that is the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it is an important wintering ground for redhead ducks and other species of waterfowl. No major freshwater tributaries feed into the lagoon, and the only access to the ocean on the southern end is the so-called East or Mansfield Cut.

Different Strokes
We only caught a few small trout on our trip, but the redfishing was spectacular. And being a diehard redfish angler (and former guide), I noticed a couple of differences in the fishing - even though the terrain is very similar to what we fish in Florida. Most noticeable is that topwater lures produce all day long; in Florida, they are usually restricted to early morning or late afternoon, generally low-light scenarios. In Texas, they plug 'em sun up to sun down.

"We fish topwaters about 90 percent of the time," says Shuler. "Usually the only time we'll switch to a jig or soft plastic is after a big blow when there is a lot of floating seagrass. The grass gets snagged and makes them near impossible to fish. We'll also go subsurface if the wading isn't paying off and we have to fish deeper holes and cuts." But even then, Texas topwater aficionados prefer to time their casts, looking for open lanes between the floating grass before changing to subsurface baits.