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A Cut Above s I’ve stated repeatedly over the past several years, March begins a period when fishing on the Lower Laguna Madre begins to pick up. The rise in action is due in large part to the beginning of the spring tides, which push warmer, fresh water into the bay from the Gulf. The fresh water pumps nutrients into the bay, warms Laguna water by a few degrees, and serves as a cue to predatory species such as trout, redfish and flounder to begin feeding more actively. Both expert and rank-and-file anglers take their cues from Mother Nature and the turning of the calendar and start plotting on maps and GPS locators where they hope to intercept fish. It should come as no surprise that passes where Gulf water flows into Lower Laguna Madre are very popular choices. On Lower Laguna Madre there are currently two such passes: Brazos Santiago, the southernmost pass in Texas, and the famed East Cut just—well—East of Port Mansfield. The East Cut connects Lower Laguna Madre to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mansfield Jetties. It cuts Padre Island into North and South and is a gateway to excellent offshore and beachfront fishing. It is also a noted location for catching fine bags of trout, redfish and flounder. On a very good day an angler can make the 8 minute run from Port Mansfield and find enough spots to fish for all three without moving elsewhere. So…where does a fisherman begin? The simplest strategy is the run into the cut past channel Marker 17 and fish where the shallows fall into the first drop-off. The water falls from ankle-and-shin deep to waist deep water, and then into the deeper water beyond. Speckled trout will cruise along the first drop and feed on bait that holds there.

Fish soft plastics in light patterns with chartreuse tails pinned on a ¼ ounce jighead. Use a rise and fall retrieve near the bottom and keep constant contact with the bait. Soft baits such as the Gulp! Croaker or Logic Lures Wiggly Jiggly are great choices, especially if flounder are lurking. Some anglers have more confidence in shrimp tails such as the Gulp! 3” Shrimp or a DOA Shrimp, but East Cut fish seem to have a preference for baitfish. If there is an overcast or murky water situation, move to dark colors such as smoke, rootbeer and purple. Also try a small suspending plug like Bomber Saltwater Grade’s Badonk-adonk SS minnow or Mirrolure’s 18MR or 22MR or Catch 2000. All of these plugs range from 2-¾ to 3-½ inches in length, effectively mimicing the smaller forage such as scaled sardines and small mullet found in the East Cut. Popular color patterns are 69 in the Badonk-a-donk and the classic 18 (green back/white belly) in the Mirrolure. Let the plugs sink about 2 feet into the water column, and start a classic twitch-twitchpause technique. Experiment with slowing down and speeding up your cadence until the fish tell you what they want. The East Cut is lined with a series of back bays. The sand bars that separate these small bays to the Cut are usually submerged with 2 to 6 inches of water, but a deeper connecting gut will also be present. There are two ways to locate these guts. First, you can look for a vivid white stripe that breaks up the darker bottom. Second, there is always an eddy formed as water pushes out of the back bay and into the Cut via this channel. Either feature will tip you off to its location. Fish use these guts as egress to and from these bays. Wadefishermen can intercept the fish by wading up to the edge of the gut and casting lures and bait into them. Some guts are very narrow, so it may serve to cast lengthwise. These areas especially shine during an outgoing tide. Water and bait is pushed off

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the bay flats and funneled through the gut and out into the channel. Predators will hold down current and pick off meals as they flow by. Wade to the point where the gut meats the channel and cast across the eddy and swim your bait back. They rarely make the full return to your rod tip (a bit of caution is in order: looks can be deceiving because the white bottom of the guts appear to be sand, but are actually soft silt; if you step into one, you could sink to your knees , or worse fall and fill your waders). Don’t eschew the back of the gut. Captain Richard Bailey (956-369-5090) advises that predators will also sit where the water flows into the gut from the flats. One of his biggest trout came from such an area. The bays themselves offer splendid opportunities for waders to stalk and cast to large trout and redfish. The bottoms are firm sand and mud, and trout and redfish spread out on them on a flood tide. Topwaters, weightless jerkbaits, and gold spoons with orange or red bucktails are good choices for this area. Bomber’s Who Dat spoon was made for such an application. Fly anglers will find area attractive because of the opportunity to lay a fly in front of a big mustard mouth or red. You may even locate black drum cruising around. The East Cut is a unique fishing area of Lower Laguna Madre. It offers a variety of different fishing opportunities in a limited area close to port. Not only is it a top destination in March, but you can save a pretty penny on gas. You win both ways!

the bank bite Location: Brazos Santiago Jetties Species: Sheepshead Techniques: Fish live or fresh shrimp on a #2 hook 4 feet under a popping cork and near the rocks. Set the hook when the cork sinks, or flops over sideways.

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Contact Calixto Gonzales at CGonzales@fishgame.com

March 2012  

THE Authority on Texas Fishing & Hunting Texas Fish & Game is the largest, oldest, and best outdoors resource of its kind in the nation. No...

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