Fabulous Fishing and Hunting: the South Texas Two-Step
Lower Laguna Madre redfish, offshore snapper and white-winged dove cast-and-blast adventure
Updated: September 27, 2016
Left: Twin Laguna Madre redfish for SF publisher Dave Morel (left) and Penn brand manager Mike Rice. Right: Morel uses a Benelli shotgun with a SilencerCo suppressor to down some white-winged doves near Brownsville.Matt Love / lovecreative.net, Chris Woodward
Extreme south Texas, near the Mexican border, can be quite untamed — literally. Executive editor Chris Woodward, publisher Dave Morel, and Penn brand manager Mike Rice found that out in early September, when they joined LeeRoy Gonzales of LG Outfitters in Arroyo City for three days of offshore and inshore fishing and two afternoons of white-winged dove hunting. Gonzales specializes in putting together unique fishing and hunting opportunities, using a network of regional pros.
In the Gulf, we jigged, trolled and bottomfished for snapper, grouper, dolphin, blackfin tuna and kingfish. In the shallow water, we targeted redfish and trout — of course — but we also hit select spots for snook. Snook can be successfully targeted under certain conditions in south Texas, near freshwater outfalls and in the Brownsville ship channel. But our trip, unfortunately, didn’t produce those conditions.
On the dove field, we were joined by Chad Rhea, with Benelli, and SilencerCo‘s Darren Jones. Here are a handful of images from that cast-and-blast experience. Be sure to read the full-length feature article coming up in the March issue of Sport Fishing.
Every great trip starts with a great home base. Gonzales set us up at the Arroyo Lodge, run by fly-fishing specialist Ray Box. The lodge backs up to the Arroyo Colorado, a dredged riverlike channel that leads from Harlingen to the lower Laguna Madre.Dave Morel
On our first fishing day, we headed offshore aboard the 68-foot Viking Wet N Wild — with owner Murray Meggison and captain/mate Travis Flanagan (956-207-6391) — to troll up blackfin tuna and kingfish around the shrimp boats and later pause to bottomfish over structure, first in more than 200-plus feet of water, and eventually more shallow. Rice had brought Penn Slammer III reels in multiple sizes, spooled with SpiderWire, on stout Carnage boat rods and Rampage jigging sticks. Here, Rice (far right) and angler Spud Woodward (far left) haul hard to reel up a red snapper and a yellowedge grouper.Chris Woodward
We caught this red snapper in federal waters beyond nine miles from shore, so it had to be released. Snapper caught in state waters may be kept, but they must be at least 15 inches long; anglers can keep four per day.Chris Woodward
Rice’s yellowedge grouper felt the effects of barotrauma as it rose to the surface. In federal waters, these deepwater groupers can be kept year-round under a four-fish bag limit (within the grouper aggregate).Chris Woodward
In some spots, the amberjack schooled so thickly that they easily outcompeted the snapper and grouper.Chris Woodward
After a full day of offshore fishing, we returned to the lodge where our host, Ray Box, had started grilling supper at his outdoor kitchen.Matt Love / lovecreative.net
Lower Laguna Madre
Just after first light on our second day, Capt. Jaime Lopez poled his super-skinny sled boat — a NewWater Ibis — over an impressive expanse of lower Laguna Madre grass and sand flats, in search of redfish.Chris Woodward
Rice uses one of the lighter Slammer III spinning reel outfits to cast toward the low, dry south Texas coast, lining the east side of the lower Laguna Madre. This unusual water body is a hyper-saline coastal lagoon with an average depth of 2-3 feet, though in many locations, the depth is measured in inches.Chris Woodward
This redfish fell for a seductive, chrome/chartreuse Sebile Stick Shadd fished near the surface. Our early bites came on baits fished in the top few inches of the water column. Later, we switched to deeper lures and soft plastics.Chris Woodward
Morel, left, and Rice show off a brace of Lower Laguna Madre redfish that fell victim to Sebile plugs, like the Magic Swimmer (right). The reds also readily hit topwater baits.Matt Love / lovecreative.net
Texas anglers love to wade. They can work over an area more thoroughly, and the presentation is quiet. Our crew — including Brooke Quarles (pictured here), fishing with Capt. Daniel Juarez — caught good numbers of trout each day on soft- and hard-artificial baits, but the monster gator speck eluded us.Darren Jones
Our afternoon was spent at the dove fields about 30 to 40 minutes south of Arroyo City. As we approached one field of sunflowers, the birds got up in such great numbers, it took our breath away. In this photo, white-winged doves fly over the sunflowers. We also saw and shot Eurasian collared doves and mourning doves.Matt Love / lovecreative.net
Editors note: Texas offers a special white-winged dove hunt in early September for 27 counties of the state. This year, the dates were Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3-4, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10-11. It is legal to keep 15 doves a day during the special season; no more than two of which can be mourning doves and two can be white-tips. The larger Eurasian collared doves are considered an invasive species, so they are not protected by bag limits. On our opening day, Sept. 3, our crew of seven hunters shot 257 doves, which included well more than 152 Eurasians. The white-winged doves flew late in the day, and we could easily distinguish them because of the dark-to-light contrast between their bodies and wings.
Rice scans the skies for white-winged or Eurasian doves in range of his shotgun. He’s standing amid rows of sunflowers planted in a field near the Mexican border specifically to attract doves.Matt Love / lovecreative.net
Morel locks onto a dove using a Benelli shotgun and a SilencerCo suppressor. The suppressor greatly muffles the loud crack of the gun.Chris Woodward
Benelli’s Chad Rhea holds a Texas white-winged dove he shot on opening day of the special dove season.Matt Love / lovecreative.net
Noshing on Nilgai
Our host and outfitter LeeRoy Gonzales grills nilgai sausage off the gate of his pickup truck. Nilgai, the largest species of Asian antelope, was introduced to ranches in south Texas years ago. Now they thrive in huntable herds. The late-afternoon snack paired well with a few icy beers after the dove hunt.Chris Woodward
Rain or Shine
Just before our second afternoon of dove hunting, rain soaked the dry ground and turned the dirt into sticky, boot-sucking mud. But the birds still flew.Chris Woodward
After shooting this new, lighter-than-air Benelli Ethos 28 gauge, I decided it really needs to be my next shotgun.Chris Woodward