Use the boat to find fish, climb out to catch them


By BOB HOOD

PORT MANSFIELD, Texas — Mike McBride jokes about some people’s comments on his tactics for catching redfish and speckled trout in coastal bays.

“One guy said he couldn’t understand why anyone would climb out of a perfectly good boat to get into the water to catch fish,” he said.

McBride and Tricia Buchen are well-known for their wade fishing expertise in the Lower Laguna Madre area, where their guide service, Skinny Water Adventures, focuses on redfish and speckled trout in shallow water.

“The key is finding the fish, not just a few fish here and there but schools of fish,” McBride said as he guided his boat across waters only inches deep near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge shoreline, south of Port Mansfield.

“Look for mud boils,” McBride said. “When you see a boil only every now and then those are just single fish roaming around, but if you see a number of mud boils popping up all around you that means there is a school of fish in the area.”

Mud boils are created by redfish and trout as they hurriedly leave a sandy spot when a boat approaches. McBride says wearing polarized sunglasses is a must for sighting the fish or the boils of mud they leave behind.

“Sunglasses with amber or vermilion lenses are the best, but any polarized sunglasses will work,” he said.

McBride chose the area near the wildlife refuge because he knew the water would be much clearer than water to the north. The sea grass beds and clear sand flats provide excellent habitat and feeding grounds for reds and specks.

McBride and Buchen stayed in contact by cellphone as they searched for mud boils. Suddenly we spotted several in a flat where McBride had caught several big reds and specks a few days earlier. He quickly stopped his boat and “anchored” it with an electronically operated arm that he lowered into the sand.

Within minutes, McBride, Raymond Faulknor and I were out of the boat and in waist-deep water, our rods rigged with dark red soft plastic lures tipped with chartreuse tails on lead-head jigs.

Many bay fishing guides use live shrimp or mullet, but McBride and Buchen use artificial lures. Shrimp cost nearly $22 per quart, and McBride said he believes he can catch more fish on artificial lures than other anglers can catch on live bait. He likes top-water She Dogs and Skitter Walk or soft plastic Sea Devils and Devil Eyes.

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