Finding trout and redfish when the water goes cold
There has always been a rule of thumb for seasonal fishing. You should fish deep in mid-summer and winter, and fish shallow in the fall and spring. While I certainly do not disagree with that, there have been some modifications to that rule for winter fishing around the Galveston Bay Complex.
Several decades ago, anglers could pretty much rely upon the scenario that if you want to catch fish during the winter, fish in deeper waters. One reason is that the winters were colder and more prolonged than they are today. Still, fish tend to follow that pattern around the Galveston Bay Complex except in at least one area and that is West Galveston Bay.
West Bay, as we call it, is a relatively shallow bay with few deep holes when compared to other bays such as upper Galveston or East Bays. West Bay is well-known for its cold weather fishing and in fact, tends to turn off during the warmer months.
Slow sinking lures retrieved at a slow pace produce the fish.
This small bay system that spans between the Galveston Causeway and San Luis Pass is one of the top spots to catch trophy trout during the winter and early spring. Reds also are plentiful that time of year and when looking at the average depth it is surprising that it is so productive during the cold months.
Harry Landers, a retired and once popular fishing guide out of Jamaica Beach, told me that West Bay was a well-kept secret for winter fishing. He felt the same way about Chocolate Bay, a shallow bay system that adjoins Lower West Bay to the north.
Landers caught many trophy-sized trout during his hey-day and placed many happy guests into trout that would go to the taxidermist rather than the kitchen.
Landers knew West Bay and Chocolate Bay like the back of his hand and shared a few of his secrets, many of which are common knowledge among fishing guides today.
While Offatts Bayou and its famous Blue Hole caught the attention of anglers during the winter, Landers was out fishing the shallower waters of West Bay. Wade fishing, he felt, was the most productive way of fishing the shallow waters.
No doubt when freezes took place, Offatts was the place to fish. Once the water started warming, trout would venture out of the deep water looking for bait.
Mud bottoms during the afternoon tide, either incoming or outgoing, hold the warmest water and attract the small finfish and crustaceans. In turn, predator fish such as specks and reds will be nearby looking for a winter’s meal.
Shell bottoms also are popular especially in deeper waters.
During periods of afternoon incoming tides, large sow trout can be found roaming the shorelines, especially grassy areas for bait. Wade fishing is much preferred for trying to entice an older and wiser fish to bite, as boats make noise and noise easily spooks trout.
Another of the popular choices is narrow channels for reds. While West Bay has a limited number of those channels, offshoots from the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) are plentiful. Carancahua and Green’s Lakes, along with several man-made canals just north of the ICW, offer excellent action on reds during outgoing winter tides.
Winter fishing styles apply to all of the areas mentioned and probably the biggest of the techniques is a very slow retrieve of the lure. Slow sinking lures retrieved at a slow pace produce the fish.
While there will be some good fishing in deeper waters this winter, try shallow and go for the glory that is a trophy trout.