Fishing the Resacas of South Texas

They no longer flow across the South Texas brush country. However, even though their connection to other water bodies no longer exists, these ancient rivers still support a myriad of life. In fact, these rivers-turned-lakes are home to some of the most diverse tropical plant, bird and fish life in the continental US.

Known locally as resacas, the ecosystems in question are old river beds which no longer flow to the Gulf, yet still hold water. Resacas of all sizes exist in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Some are barely 10 feet wide and 100 yards long. Others may stretch for miles, rivaling some of today's flowing rivers in size. Recent years have seen some manmade resacas crop up in the Valley, but the vast majority of these watery fingers date back to when the land of Texas was barely rising above sea level.

Regardless of their age, resacas offer anglers on the eastern side of the Rio Grande Valley a freshwater fishing option. In a region dominated by the Gulf of Mexico and Lower Laguna Madre, these slender freshwater fingers delight fishermen with panfish and bass - a nice change of pace from the standard fare of snook, seatrout and redfish. And, unlike their sometimes stubborn saltwater cousins, these freshwater fish are generally cooperative and readily take a fly.

Many of these resacas are private, requiring anglers gain landowner permission before fishing. However, several are public and offer good access for bank fishermen, as well as canoe and kayak anglers. Some of the most notable public resacas are in Bentsen State Park near Mission, Resaca de Los Fresnos in San Benito, and several others located in and around Bayview and Brownsville.

Public or private, virtually all of these winding freshwater bodies contain good numbers of bass, sunfish, Rio Grande perch, carp and gar. Though fish are numerous, few bass are over a couple of pounds and most panfish are in the six to eight-inch range. Therefore, anglers rarely need more than a 5-weight rod and usually can get away with a 4-weight. Rods should be rigged with a floating line and relatively short leader due to the often heavy cover lining and extending into the resacas.

Fly selection can be kept simple. Small poppers and woolly buggers will take practically anything that swims in a resaca. Fly rodders looking to tote a few additional patterns should add a few hoppers, San Juan worms and ant patterns to their box.

Since South Texas falls within a sub-tropical region, temperatures remain fair and fishing good all year around. However, during the hottest portions of the year - June through August - the fish can become finicky during daylight hours. Fall and spring present the most fishable hours for those working resacas.

Anglers hoping to explore the resacas of South Texas are well served to pick up a copy of the "Texas Atlas & Gazetteer" and Phil Shook's "Flyfisher's Guide To Texas." Information is also available by calling Larry Haines at The Shop in Port Isabel at 943-1785.

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