It’s hard to believe the sheer joy that fishing in Laguna Madre can bring until you’ve experienced it first-hand. This 130-mile-long shallow lagoon, is a real angling treasure in Southern Texas. The Laguna Madre is peacefully nestled behind the protective arms of San Padre Island, away from the turbulent waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, it offers easy access to the deep seas, catering to every kind of angler.
Novice anglers and seasoned pros alike can feel the call of the wild here. You can venture from the fish-filled waters of Baffin Bay to the vibrant South Bay. From Riviera Beach up north or South Padre Island further south. The choice is all yours.
We’ve put together this guide to make sure you’re well-prepared for your Laguna Madre fishing adventure. We’ll talk about everything that makes this spot a jewel in Texas’s angling crown. From top species to techniques, seasonality, and more… there’s plenty to unravel. Let’s get started.
Top Laguna Madre Fish Species
There are few places with a more diverse range of inshore and nearshore fish species than the Laguna Madre. Bull Redfish mingle with Snook, Jack Crevalle, and Tarpon. Alongside these monsters, you’ll find Flounder, Tripletail, and Speckled Trout. That’s without mentioning Red Snapper and adrenaline-pumping hunts for Sharks. Here are the stars of the show:
Laguna Madre can easily be named the heartland of the celebrated Redfish (also known as Red Drum). These bruisers patrol the sheltered seagrass beds, structure, drop-offs, and shallow flats, showing off their survival spirit and pure strength. Of course, the thrill of hooking one isn’t only about their stubborn fights. Their size and beauty – particularly their distinctive spotted tail – are sights to behold.
Reds are a joy to catch, but patience – paired with good bait – can turn the tide in your favor. Sight fishing is a well-practiced local strategy, thanks to the area’s almost transparent shallow waters. It’s also a good idea to time your trip during Redfish feeding times, which typically happens at the crack of dawn or dusk, as well as under the cover of darkness.
Fondly referred to as the “Houdinis of the Laguna Madre,” Snook are residents of shadowy mangrove forests and rocky crevices. These elusive fish get out of their hideaways from late spring to early fall, challenging even the most seasoned anglers.
Snook are known for their aggressive strikes and stealth, so you need to approach them with a good strategy and, naturally, a lot of patience. As ambush predators, Snook lie waiting under cover before attacking their prey. Keep an eye on the tide schedules, too. Outgoing tides are great for enticing them to take your live bait, particularly around the mouths of creeks and rivers.
If we were to give a title to Flounder, they would be the ultimate chameleons of Laguna Madre’s waters. They’re masters of camouflage, blending into the sandy bottoms. Plus, you’ll always recognize them by the unusual placement of both eyes on one side of their body. And if that’s not enough, these chameleons are actually delicious!
Once again, Flounder fishing in Laguna Madre is a game of patience and precision. Perhaps the best time to practice your hunting skills is during their annual migration to the Gulf, when they congregate in large numbers near passes and inlets. When it comes to technique, nothing beats a good old Flounder gigging trip. It’s practically a way of life here!
We’re not done with elusive fish yet. Tripletail is among the most prized catches in Laguna Madre. These fish are known for their crafty nature, often mimicking floating debris to fool their prey – and anglers alike! Tripletail bite best around buoys, pilings, and other structures, where they camouflage themselves just like Flounder.
When the weather is warm enough, these fish tend to surface near buoys and pilings. If you’re lucky to fish in these conditions, consider a sight fishing adventure for Tripletail. Be on the lookout for what may appear as a leaf or floating debris, since it can actually be your target!
What’s more synonymous with Texas offshore fishing than Red Snapper? Whenever the season opens, anglers from all over the state – and beyond – head to reefs, oil rigs, and shipwrecks to get their limits of Reds. These species are heavily regulated, so make sure to check the current rules with TPWD ahead of time.
Heavy tackle is the name of the game when it comes to Laguna Madre Red Snapper fishing. Since Reds prefer deeper waters, get ready to cope with the depth and prepare for some exciting battles!
Laguna Madre fishing can be even more adrenaline-fueled if you head out for Sharks. These waters are home to several species, especially during the summer months, including Bull, Blacktip, and Hammerhead Sharks.
Perhaps the best part about hunting for these creatures is that you can find them at the end of your line even if you’re casting from a beach. Be ready for sudden, aggressive pull when a Shark takes your bait. And make sure to release your catch back into the water.
How to Go Fishing in Laguna Madre
Now that you know what species to catch, it’s time to discuss the strategy you’ll apply. Fishing in Laguna Madre is as much about the approach as it is about the excitement. Even if you’ve mastered just a few techniques, you can still turn a simple fishing trip into an awesome adventure.
In general, the best piece of advice is to head out with a local guide. For instance, Laguna Madre anglers know how to cast with live shrimp or mullet near structures and grassy flats when targeting Reds. They’ll also switch to topwater lures for Snook. The right tackle can make all the difference. But let’s discuss each Laguna Madre fishing technique in more detail:
Laguna Madre Flats Fishing
First and foremost, the area is widely known for its extensive shallow waters and lush seagrass flats. This angling arena is often no more than waist-deep, inviting Redfish and Speckled Trout enthusiasts to try sight casting. In essence, you visually track your target, and once you’ve spotted it, you cast your lure to the fish.
When flats fishing, locals advise putting on polarized glasses to avoid the sun overhead. Look towards the “Land Cut,” a remote 25-mile stretch, the Lower Laguna Madre, and the flats around the South Bay area.
Laguna Madre Fly Fishing
When there’s flats fishing, there’s fly fishing. The Laguna Madre fly fishing experience is defined by exceptional serenity. Whatever target you have in mind, be it Redfish showing off their tailing in the shallows or Tarpon with their acrobatic leaps, it’s all worth it.
Laguna Madre Bottom Fishing
Bottom fishing in Laguna Madre is an honored tradition that’s reserved for those with their eyes set on Flounder, Snapper, and certain Sharks. This technique is pretty straightforward. You drop your bait to the ocean floor near a promising structure and wait for the fish to take it. When they do, you battle back-and-forth, and fight to bring the fish to the surface.
Feel free to head out a bit further into the Gulf from South Padre Island. Here, the seafloor is home to various artificial reefs and wrecks – perfect spots for Red Snapper.
Laguna Madre Wade Fishing
Wade fishing can be a pretty immersive experience, especially in Laguna Madre. You’ll be working the shallow, calm waters in the company of nothing else than you, the water, and the fish you want to catch.
With every step, you might come closer to a potential trophy, be it Specks or Reds. These creatures bite best around Holly Beach, Laguna Vista, and Bird Island Basin.
Laguna Madre Kayak Fishing
Kayak fishing is a perfect mix of serenity and adventure. This method allows you to head to the less crowded spots of Laguna Madre, gliding over the water surface in search of whatever’s biting. Plus, you can reach the nooks and crannies that aren’t easily accessible by large boats.
Explore the seagrass beds and mangroves of Arroyo City, the shallows of the “Boat Hole” near Port Mansfield, or anything else in between. Alternatively, you can go kayak fishing in the mix of salt and freshwater in the Arroyo Colorado.
Laguna Madre Charter Fishing
Nothing beats a day with a Laguna Madre fishing charter. You can book a suitable guide along the entire area, from Corpus Christi to South Padre Island. Port Mansfield and South Padre Island are among the most popular spots thanks to their access to various fishing grounds.
If you’re after convenience, learning, and increased chances of success, charter fishing provides a full-package fishing experience. Fish like the locals, with the locals, while focusing on the fun part!
Top Laguna Madre Fishing Spots
From Baffin Bay to the South Bay, you’re in for an adventure when you come fishing the Laguna Madre. Here’s a quick list of spots from Riviera Beach in the north all the way to South Padre Island that you can consider:
- Baffin Bay. Known for its big trophy catches, this bay is a Redfish paradise. The spot’s deep rock formations and underwater structures create a perfect habitat not only for Bull Reds, but also for Speckled Trout and Flounder.
- Bird Island Basin. Perfect for windsurfing and wade fishing, it’s a favorite among locals. This spot is known for its clear, shallow waters and constant breezy conditions, making it a windsurfing and wade fishing haven.
- Arroyo City. Nestled along the Arroyo Colorado River, this quiet fishing village offers excellent angling opportunities for Snook, Trout, and Redfish, with its mix of salt and freshwater.
- Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re a nature enthusiast, consider heading to this sanctuary of wildlife. Explore its estuaries and tidal flats that teem with Flounder, Red Drum, and Speckled Trout, all while admiring migratory birds and the occasional ocelots.
- South Bay. Locals call this bay an untouched natural haven for spotting rare fish species. It’s the southernmost bay in Texas, perfect for kayak fishing for Mangrove Snapper and Black Drum, among others.
- Riviera Beach. The sandy shores and friendly vibes of Riviera Beach make this spot a perfect destination for a family fishing adventure. It perfectly blends beach fishing and pier fishing, with Trout, Flounder, and even Sharks as potential catches.
- Yarborough Pass. This is a pretty remote area which you can only access by boat. Yarborough Pass offers solitude and an abundance of Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder.
- South Padre Island. This destination is praised by anglers throughout the country for its Tarpon and Snook fishing. As well as that, SPI offers ample offshore action for King Mackerel and Red Snapper.
When to Go Fishing Laguna Madre
Every Laguna Madre fishing season has its own unique charm. However, if you have to choose, come in the fall. This is when the lagoon truly shines. Aggressive Redfish start their annual migration, along with Snook, which also bite well in late spring. Summer is mostly reserved for the mighty Red Snapper, and crowds can cause unnecessary fishing pressure.
Fishing doesn’t stop in winter, though, especially if you’re after Trout. These fish bite actively despite the cooler temperatures. However, make sure to tailor your trip around early morning or late evening hours, as it’s when many species are most active.
Laguna Madre Fishing Rules & Regulations
While the state is pretty generous with its size and bag limits, Texans take their fishing regulations seriously. Make sure to consult with your guide in advance regarding the open and closed seasons of each fish.
In addition to that, all anglers aged 17 and over need a valid Texas fishing license – residents and out-of-staters alike. This applies to everyone, whether you’re casting from shore or fishing with a charter.
Note that there are protected areas, such as the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. There are specific guidelines that you need to follow, here, designed to protect the local ecosystem and natural resources.
Fishing in Laguna Madre FAQs
Laguna Madre Fishing: Y’All Won’t Believe!
Fishing in Laguna Madre transcends generations. Some fishing tournaments are almost a century old, which speaks volumes. The secrets of the local waters are now in your hands. Book a trip and enjoy the serene beauty of the lagoon yourself, one cast at a time.
Have you ever been fishing in Laguna Madre? Which part of the lagoon do you prefer? What’s your favorite target? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world’s waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.