Wading the Lower Laguna Madre
Most people, when they think about wading in the saltwater, usually think twice. Then they decide to stay in the boat or not go in the water at all unless itís along the beach in about ankle deep water. However, their fears are not with out good reason. After all there are things in there that can stick you, cut you, bite you, or sting you. Wow, why do I even go in! Well itís hard to say, but I will try and explain.
Flip Pallot from the TV show Walkers Cay Chronicles was once quoted as saying " why would a man buy a $30,000 dollar boat to go fishing and then jump out of it? It just doesnít make since". Well there are times when itís the best way to fish, especially, but not limited to fly-fishing. Fly fishing is more site casting that just blind casting and hoping for a bite.( Although a fly fisherman should not rule out this tactic) Sometimes itís the only way to get to fish at all. But in general we Fly- Casters like to wait until we see a fish before we make our presentation to them. Being IN the water and low profile, allows us to sneak up on our quarry and get into casting distance in order to get the best presentation of our offering.
I have caught numerous fish, as Iím sure a lot of other people have, at such close range that all I really needed was a short cane pole to make my presentation with. Thatís called stealth, no high-sided boat to spook the fish or hull slap (noise). Of all the trophy trout that Iíve caught on the fly, only a few have been caught fishing out of the boat. Now I know that it can be done, itís just easier when youíre in the water.
Another aspect of wading is the fact that youíre in the water with your quarry and in his domain. I love fighting fish in the water and being able to watch the fish at close range. One on one, in the water with a fish on the end of your line. You can tell a lot about your quarry like this.
However there are some elements that you need to be aware while wading. If your using a lure that has multiple hooks on it, you must be extra careful about letting the fish get too close to you while heís still green. I have had a hook in me and one in the fish and it isnít fun trying to land yourself and the fish at the same time. Itís also hard to stand on one foot on soft bottom and land a fish that has the hook in it and the other in your leg. So I try to use lures that have only one hook in it.
Stingrays are something else to be concerned about, but if youíre careful they really arenít much bother. Most people that get "HIT" by a stingray have been careless. A stingray will not attack you. It merely is just trying to let you know that you are standing on him. His gills are on the bottom of his body and he canít breathe. So long as you do the stingray shuffle, most all of them will be glad to get out of your way and let you have the right of way. He doesnít want to be stepped on any more than you want to step on him. He also needs for you to pin him down to the bottom before he CAN swing his tail around and stick you.
The shuffle is just exactly that. Drag your toe across the bottom and on up to the next place you intend to put your foot down and youíll never be HIT but a ray. So just be slow about walking and youíll be all right. Also never back up either because you canít drag your heal while walking backwards. Stingrays like to follow in your mud trail and feed on the little shrimp and such that you have just kicked up off the bottom. You may look around and find one following you.
If youíre not in the stingrays then you probably are not in the fish either. They are sometimes good indicator of there being redfish and trout in the area. Most everyone has seen schools of one or more redfish and or trout on the back of a stingray. A stingray is like a good bird dog, flushing bait up off the bottom while they themselves are trying to feed on that same bait, A lot of it escapes only to be eaten by a red or a trout that is following right on his back.
Oysters are another concern. They are very sharp and can inflict a nasty cut. Make sure you have a good pair of wading boots or at least high top tennis shoes. They also help in kicking those rays out of the way. Fishing around oysters is a good bet because a lot of small baitfish use those same oysters for food and cover from predators.
Places to wade the Lower Laguna are numerous, and Iíll try to explain how to find them. Most all of the shorelines as well as the front side of the spoil islands or any other island can be waded successfully. Our prevailing winds (south east) wash the front side of these places and therefore wash most all of the soft silt away leaving the hard sand there for our benefit. On the other hand the backside, or the down wind side of these places can be very boggy and tough to walk in. I suggest a kayak for these places.
When your looking for places to wade, keep a few things in mind. Look for light colored sandy bottom, they are going to be your best footing spots. Grassy places can be good too, but you must check them to see if the bottom is wadeable. Most of the bay is walkable where there is grass growing as it helps to support your footing while standing on it. Areas that have a lot of potholes will usually be soft. Youíll find these areas on the back side of islands as well.
The Intercoastal Water Way (ICW) is another good spot to wade. It is used by a lot of fish as a highway up and down the bay as they chase their food (shrimp and mullet) along the edge. This is a good place to find trout, reds and, and flounder. Most of the ICW is wader friendly but you just have to try spots to find the right ones. Some of it is soft, but looking for the lighter sandy edges will be your best bet.
Walking and site casting is one form of wading, but there are other ways as well. Standing in one spot and casting to fish passing by is another good way to catch fish wading. For this method to be productive you must stand in an area that has a good current flow passing by you. This is what will bring the fish to you so you donít have to chase them. Most all of the islands I mentioned before are good spots for this kind of fishing, but I will look for deeper water close to where I want to stand. The deeper the water, the more chance of the current bringing fish to you and thus increasing your chances. A good time to fish this way is in the spring when the spring tides are at their full swing.
The sand flats on the east side of the bay are a great place to fish when the tides are strong. The sand flats run from South Padre Island all the way up to the North cut above Port Mansfieild They are very hard and easily walked. They also hold a lot of fish. The one mistake people make though is they tend to walk down wind (which is the easiest way to cast) but actually they are walking with that current I was talking about. If youíre in a bunch of fish this is great. But if your looking for fish, then you need to walk up wind and up current till you get into the fish, or at least cross current. This will greatly increase your odds. Then you can start back down wind once youíre into some fish.
Wading also allows you to use what we call finesse baits. Meaning you can work them a lot slower than baits you use from the boat trying to cover a lot of territory. Baits such as flies, Bass Assassins, Corkies, and other slow sinking baits work extremely well wading. You are able to cover a lot more of the bottom and water column using these kinds of baits. Most of the time a fish when feeding will chase most anything to eat, but when they are not on a feed then you need to finesse them with a slower presentation and youíll greatly increase your success WADING.
Skipper Ray is a freelance writer and fishing guide in South Padre Island, Texas
where he owns and operate Island Outfitters. Call: 956-943-2798 or Email
Fishing Articles by Skipper Ray
Blind Casting the Flats
Catching and Handling Numbers of Trout
Fishing Guides Perspective
Effective Blind Casting on the Fly
Line Management Techniques
Lures of Choice for the Fall Season
More Tec Tips - King Mackerel
New Trout Techniques
Ready at the Rod
Spring is in the Air
Tech Tips - "Donít Give Up"
Tech Tips - Itís a Drag
The Ladies Have More Fun
The Chosen One
The "Ibis" Built by Newwater Boatworks
The Old Gold Spoon
Time to Fish Free
It's Red Fishing Time in South Padre
Trout Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre
Trout on Topwater Flies
Wading the Lower Laguna Madre