Fly Fishing South Padre Island, Texas – The Fish
Redfish is king in this region. Expect to catch fish mostly in the 5 to 10 pound range. You will likely see a few bigger fish, and with luck hook a 15 pounder. These are not the low IQ fish seen in other areas. The water is clear and these fish require stealth and accurate casting.
If you are a good caster expect to hook 3 to 10 redfish per day. You may find the mother lode in the form of a “herd” of 200 or more fish, all happily tailing, and push those catch numbers to 20.
We love to wade those hard bottom flats for reds, but you will also do plenty of fishing from flats skiffs. The guides pride themselves in their skiff handling fish spotting abilities.
Also known as “specks”, these fish are prevalent and the smaller fish are cooperative. Here the real trophy is a trout 30 inches or larger, with the big “sows” as hard to hook as a permit. They like bigger flies than the redfish or smaller trout, so it is a good idea to have two rods rigged, one with a big mouthful of bulky streamer.
The guides are nuts about snook and over the past ten years this fish has been increasing steadily in numbers. From blind casting in the ship channel to sight fishing on the flats, these fish are revered. Five to ten pound fish are the norm, but bigger fish are not uncommon. A great combination is to fish snook early and then head for the flats for reds and trout as the sun gets higher.
Like the snook, tarpon have increased in numbers due in part to better fishery management. These guys are found in the deeper water, and a great experience is cruising the gulf-side beach in a 4-wheel drive, running and gunning as the tarpon attack bait near the shore. This is mostly a September/October experience, coinciding with the seas are super calm. Most are smaller babies (less than 70 pounds) but the big boys are around. A 200 pounder was landed off the jetties.
Ladyfish are around in good numbers and are great fun on light rods. Ladyfish, tarpon, and bonefish are all similar life forms and the ladyfish can’t seem to decide whether to act like a tarpon or a bonefish. You might hook a nice 3 pound fish that jumps and cartwheels like a tarpon, or the fish might just as easily use ½ of your backing in a long screaming run.
Sheepshead are plentiful but extremely difficult to take. These guys are perhaps the smartest fish on the flats and they have excellent vision. Use permit techniques, but with a size 8 fly, to take these 2 to 10 pound fish.
Like the tarpon, Jack Crevalle cruise the beach and are also available in early morning deep Laguna water. Watch for swirls and bait crashing. If you have never hooked a big jack you are in for a treat. Count on about 45 minutes of fight for a 20 pound fish. A 12 weight is not too big for the biggest jacks.
Add to the list mangrove snapper, flounder, and pompano to round out the interest. And while you are at it…don’t forget king mackerel and Spanish mackerel that cruise the beaches in the early fall.
And then there is the “big ugly”…the black drum. In the fall months these guys come onto the flats in large numbers and tail just like redfish, but they can approach or exceed 20 pounds….and they like size 6 squimps…you get the picture.
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