Fishing the Lower Texas Coast
The Lower Texas Coast is a region on the state’s Gulf of Mexico coastline that stretches nearly 150 miles from the Rio Grande River, near the US/Mexican border, northward to Corpus Christi. Consisting of mostly shallow, clear, hypersaline bays covered with seagrass, the Lower Texas Coast boasts a great variety of species of inshore saltwater gamefish. While speckled trout and redfish are the dominant target species, Lower Coast anglers also fish for snook, tarpon, mangrove snapper and a host of other species on a regular basis.
Two main features of the Lower Texas Coast include two long lagoon regions known as the Lower and Upper Laguna Madre. The lagoon regions together stretch for nearly the entire Lower Texas Coast and are very similar with miles of shallow grass flats and clear water. The twin estuaries are separated by the Land Cut, an area of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GICW), that has divided them since the GICW was completed in 1949.
Traveling the Lower Texas Coast from Mexico to Corpus Christi
The inshore waters of the Lower Texas Coast begin near the Mexican border with a small saltwater bay known as South Bay. South Bay is extremely shallow and home to speckled trout, redfish, flounder, black drum, snook and juvenile tarpon. It is separated from the Lower Laguna Madre by the Brownsville ship channel, which connects the Gulf of Mexico to the inland waters via the Brazos Santiago Pass at the southern tip of South Padre Island.
The Lower Laguna Madre begins near the town of Port Isabel on the mainland and South Padre Island to the east. The lagoon then stretches northward past long stretches of ranchland, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and the towns of Laguna Vista, Arroyo City and Port Mansfield. The eastern shores of the Lower Laguna Madre are largely uninhabited, with the exception of the 6 mile developed stretch at the southern tip of South Padre Island (SPI). To the north, the remaining 20-something miles of South Padre Island are undeveloped up to the Mansfield Cut, where a break in the barrier islands separates South Padre Island from Padre Island.
North of the Lower Laguna Madre is the area known as the Land Cut. The 25 mile section of water is very remote and generally serves as the midpoint of the overall Lower Texas Coast. Depending on where anglers fish the Land Cut, the trip to the region is about 50 miles south by water from the JFK Causeway in Corpus Christi or less if traveling north by water from Port Mansfield.
While the fishing can be epic around the Land Cut, there is little else to be found there. Stilt-houses and cabins (without grid power or running water) dot the shores of the Land Cut giving it a distinctive feel. Though it is remote and a long boat ride from the coastal towns of the region, the Land Cut often provides outstanding spring and early summer speckled trout action, as well as good fishing for black drum, redfish (red drum) and flounder.
Continuing north from the Land Cut, the Upper Laguna Madre runs north to Corpus Christi. Before reaching Corpus Christi, anglers traveling by boat will find Baffin Bay along the western shoreline of the Upper Laguna. Baffin Bay is by far the biggest offshoot bay of the entire Lower Texas Coast and a unique location of the region. Baffin Bay is primarily known for two things – producing trophy speckled trout and its prehistoric worm colonies (worm rocks), which are only found in these waters and are one of the most distinctive features in the region.
Gearing Up for the Lower Texas Coast
Because of the shallow water, anglers typically use lighter lures and more spinning gear along the Lower Texas Coast as compared with inshore anglers elsewhere in the Lone Star State. Typically, 7-foot medium-light to medium action rods paired with a 2500 or 3000 class spinning reel are standard issue gear for bay fishing (larger tackle can be used when fishing for big snook or tarpon). Light-jig heads such as 1/16- or 1/8-ounce models are good matches for soft-plastic paddletails, grubs and jerkbaits. Weedless worm hooks are also commonly used when working over grass flats. Weedless gold spoons, artificial shrimp and walk-the-dog style topwater plugs are also good choices.
Throughout the year, speckled trout and snook are caught on soft-plastic shad tails and jerkbaits in the 3.5- to 5-inch range. Regional fish are also commonly caught on artificial shrimp fished beneath a popping cork and on slow-sinking plugs. Redfish often favor weedless gold spoons and a variety of soft-plastic shad tails and jerkbaits. Flounder often prefer a smaller soft-plastic jig, such as a grub or small shad tail.
The beachfront provides good year round angling opportunities for anglers on the Lower Texas Coast, with surf and jetty fishing as good options for targeting fish. The beachfront waters yield fish year around, but speckled trout are particularly good in summer and early fall. Redfish are more common from summer into early winter, and black drum are typically found during winter and spring seasons. Pompano are found typically in the summer months and winter season. Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and various other species are also common catches in the summer months. Tarpon and snook are common catches around the jetties on the lower half of the Lower Coast during summer and fall.
Topwater plugs are good choices for a variety of species in the surf during the summer months. However, silver spoons and sinking plugs are good choices for seasoned surf casters targeting speckled trout, redfish, snook, Spanish mackerel and jacks. Soft-plastic shad tails on ¼-, ¾-, or ½-ounce jig heads also work well. Small grubs, jigs and spoons work well for pompano. Swimbaits, bucktail jigs and sinking plugs are good choices for tarpon and snook.
Getting on The Water
Anglers traveling to the Lower Texas Coast will find plenty of boat ramps, kayak launches and walk-and-wade access throughout the region. However, the Corpus Christi area certainly offers the most shore access, kayak launch points and the best walk-up/drive-up access in the Lower Coast region. Still, nearly many areas along the Lower Coast offer access points for shore fishing or wading, as well as docks and fishing piers. The Lower Texas Coast is one of the state’s best fisheries and can provide a range of angling experiences for anglers of all levels. From redfish and speckled trout to fighting fish like snook and tarpon, the region offers a range of great fishing experiences and a great reason for spending more time on the water in Texas.