Red-Hot Reds

by Mike Schlimgen

Grabbed my 8wt and some saltwater flies and headed out for the coast with my fishing partner, Jim Darnell. It had been so long since I had fished the bays that I jokingly asked him, "The redfish are the ones with the spots on the tails, right?" Funny thing is, the first redfish I caught had no spots anywhere! The first one either of us had ever seen. Must be kinda rare.

We launched the mother ship, an 18' Kenner, into Corpus Christi bay at first light with our kayaks onboard. As we approached the shallow marshland, we anchored the boat and lowered the kayaks overboard for our paddle. It was seven in the morning and already the water was hot and the rising sun promised another scorcher. We lathered up with sunscreen and loaded up with water bottles for our version of a water safari.

Wetland sights and sounds surrounded us as we made our way over a sand bar and into a backwater bay. Mullet were going airborne, pelicans and blue herons were feeding, and redfish tails began to appear. The fish were close, and big, and my hands began to tremble . . . sort of a fisherman's version of buck fever. After some considerable effort, a small, weedless crab imitation was tied onto my tippet and hurled into the feeding frenzy. Swirl, slurp, and the fight was on. These fish are strong, but I was in no hurry, so after several minutes of stripping drag, and praying for strong knots, a bronze beauty was lifted from the bayou. As mentioned earlier, this pesky pescado was unspotted, an aquatic anomaly.

Poppers are my favorite way to fish. There is something about sight casting to fish and witnessing the flared gills, open mouth, and explosive strike that excites the senses. With a sense of adventure, I tied on a shrimpy looking topwater popper and let the breeze blow me into a grass lined canal where the sounds of redfish chasing bait could be heard. As the kayak came around the corner of the canal two big redfish scooted past me on their way into the open bay. I figured that was the end of that adventure so I slipped over the side of the kayak to stretch my legs. Standing there, in 15 inches of water, my eyes caught sight of something moving out of the grass and toward my boat. My heart began to pound as a very large redfish closed in toward me. I silently reached for my rod and stripped out 12 yards of line, did a backward roll cast to lay the line out behind me, and floated the popper on to the water about two feet in front of the redfish. The fish stopped, turned, and drifted directly under the popper. A twitch of the popper and she raised her head, opened her mouth, and inhaled the "shrimp".

A shrimp with teeth was new to her, and she was not happy. A quick circle of the canal and then a frantic dash for open water left a mud swirl in the shallow water. The drag on my reel was groaning and the spool was spinning out of control. The line looped out of the reel and around the handle, locking up everything. For one anxious nano second, I watched helplessly as the rod doubled over and the line snapped. The redfish did a little victory lap at the mouth of the canal, and with the shake of her head, vanished out of sight. There I was, standing ankle deep in mud, with mixed emotions . . . grateful for the experience and a little sad that the big one got away.

Not to worry, there were more to come. We fished eight hours on Monday and five hours on Tuesday, and left them biting. Just before paddling out on Tuesday afternoon, Jim saw a school of at least forty big redfish pushing a wake of water in front of them as they herded their way into the bay. Oh well, we will have to wait till next time to play with them.

Pointers

This is not glamorous fishing . . . it is hot and hard. It would probably be a good idea to wait for a few weeks before blazing a trail for the coast.

Lighthouse Trails, on the causeway between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas would be an excellent choice for your first trip. Another good location would be Wilson's Cut on Mustang Island. Paddle down the cut toward Shamrock and turn north into the flats as soon as possible. A third possibility would be near the old airport (now an RV park) between Aransas and Ingleside. There is a kayak launching site there.

Be patient and watch the birds, and the bait. They will tell you what is happening below the surface of the water. Be a good student and you will be rewarded with fighting fish and great memories.

Note: Mike Schlimgen is a familiar face on waters both near and far. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of fishing and of the many places he likes to sped his time doing so.

Go back