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A New Beginning

January 1st, 2018

Cruzfish2017 A New Beginning

Mike Johnson, Juan and Addie Cruz after a good day with Capt. Dillman.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

can’t tell you how many times lately I have heard the phrase: “ I will be glad when this year is over.” For all of us that live on the coast of Texas, this is so true. South Texas coastal residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Here on the Upper Coast, the destruction left by the flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey is still daunting. What has become a normal routine is still not “normal” for a lot of us that reside on the coast of Texas.

What is normal? The first two weeks of January is the annual Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. In its 63rd year, the show begins January 5, 2018 and runs through January 14. It is the largest indoor show of its type on the Gulf Coast. It features something for everyone that attends. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. While you are there, please stop by and say hello!

Maintain Your Ride

January/February is the time to get your boat ready for the upcoming season. Before one knows it, springtime on the Upper Coast will be here. You should perform all your required maintenance on the boat and engine. If it needs to go to a repair facility, don’t hesitate. They get busy and the earlier you get it in, the better chance it will be ready by March. If you are mechanically inclined, order all your parts now. They can become scarce during high demand times.

Hot Cold Fishing

On the fishing scene, the trout population is really good. However, there is a noted decrease in the overall size. TP&W has deemed the trout fishery is good and recommended no changes in the current bag limits this coming year.

The catches of redfish have been “off the chart.” Redfish have been plentiful throughout our bay system, along with sheepshead and black drum.

This January/February, fishing should continue to be good, before and after cold fronts. The Northwest reaches and the West side of Galveston Bay will offer your best opportunity for speckled trout and redfish. As the sun rises and sets, this side of the bay receives the most sunlight. The water remains a tad bit warmer than other areas of the bay, thus holding the fish. Also, during passages of cold fronts, the adjacent water is deeper and offers protection to the fish. Eagle Point up to the Seabrook Flats, Sylvan Beach, Tabbs, Burnett and Scott Bays will be the places to fish. West Galveston Bay will also see its fair share of fish.

Live shrimp this time of year will be in short supply. Few, if any bait camps will have some, much less even be open. You can always call Eagle Point Fishing Camp to check on their bait supply. Usually, they hold live shrimp all year. Hopefully we will have a “mild” winter, and avoid a major freeze!

Out in the cold

January 1st, 2017

winter marsh redfish Out in the cold

Capt. Steve Soule with a 37-inch winter marsh red caught on a MirrOlure She Pup.

By Capt. Steve Soule |

Winter weather has arrived on the upper Texas coast and so comes the arrival of some very different fishing. Colder air, colder water, reduced number of prey species and a different range of comfort zones dictate the location and feeding patterns of redfish and trout during the cooler months.

Finding patterns that hold through winter will increase your fishing percentages, and of the long list of factors involved, I’ve consistently found a few that truly make a difference.

mullet baitfish 300x166 Out in the cold

Mullet are largely on the menu for winter redfish and trout.

Winter Food Sources

First and foremost, in finding predatory fish in cold water is understanding the primary food sources that they feed upon. Most of the shrimp have either left the bays or will spend the majority of the winter buried in the mud. Crabs similarly disappear from the shallows, moving to deeper waters and also burying themselves in the mud. Many of the small species of bait fish will remain, though they won’t stay in water as shallow as they do in warmer months.

There are numerous species of marine worms and other small creatures that remain in the bay, though we rarely see them other than when found inside the bellies of the fish we catch. So, the primary food sources for predatory fish are the remaining small baitfish, such as mullet, mud minnows and others that hang around the shallows.

Finding fish during winter is isn’t always easy, but understanding the food sources makes a huge difference. Mullet or other bait fish species that frequently swim at or near the surface and jump, are easy targets and help anglers in locating fish. This isn’t uncommon during warming trends. When water temperatures are colder or trending down, baitfish tend to stay closer to the bay bottom and move towards deeper, warmer water, making them much more difficult to locate. Much like every other season, native guides and even seasonal natives can shed some light on the location of the food sources and of course, the predators are usually close by. What I mean by native guides is birds.

American White Pelican

Winter Bird Signs

The birds that are good indicators are much different during winter than summer or fall. The gulls and terns that were such great indicators of migrating shrimp over the past few months are typically not the birds to follow or watch for during the cooler months. My focus changes to some larger birds and some that only arrive after significant cooling. Both species of pelicans, brown and white, are voracious fish eaters and will often gang up when they locate large schools of mullet or other baitfish. And if you find large concentrations of bait in winter, odds are good that you will find predators as well. My favorite migratory bird to watch during winter is the Loon. This bird at a distance may look like the common cormorant, but when you get a little closer, its not hard to tell that they are much larger and have a large white patch on their chest. They also make a very distinct crying sound. They are incredibly adept diving birds that can swim fast and stay under water for several minutes. Finding more than one in an area diving is a great indication of schools of baitfish and predators.

I’m always on alert for shore birds such as egrets, herons, and ibis, though you won’t typically see them along the banks feeding unless we have a good warming trend going.

Winter is BIG trout time. Capt. Steve Soule caught this 27-inch trout on a Corky Fat Boy.

Temperature and Tide Factors

Most fish and marine animals spend their lives following just a few things; food, comfort and safety from predators. Temperature plays a huge role in the location and movement of both bait and predatory fish during winter. Temperature effects the food species and their movements, which in turn effects the movements of their predators. Much like us, if it’s cold, they seek warmth, which is why they inhabit certain areas during cooler weather, yet their range can spread widely when water warms. A great basic rule to understand is that if water temperatures are falling, fish will tend to mover to deeper water and as water temperatures warm, they will return to shallows.

Adding to that, this is driven by air temperature which takes time to impact the water. If temperatures are relatively stable, or the changes in temperature are not dramatic, the fish won’t feel the need to move as much as they will during more notable changes in temperature. There is an added important note, and one that we can feel and use to our advantage. As the air temperatures increase above the water temperatures, shallow water will warm fastest. As soon as this process begins, baitfish will begin to move to shallow, muddy and darker bottom areas.

Another important pattern to remember is that tides will still move fish, and can also adjust the temperature of the water in specific areas. If the air is notably warmer than the water, outgoing tides will carry warmer water out to deeper areas. In colder conditions, the opposite is often the case; incoming tides can wash more stable water temperatures into the shallows.

During the passage of winter fronts, especially those that have north or northwest winds, tides will fall sharply. The extreme low tides of winter tend to concentrate fish into very specific areas. In the marshes, the fish will fall into deeper creeks and bayous. In open water, guts, channels and soft mud near the edges of shallows will be the places to look.

Once you’ve found the fish, keep in mind that they are primarily feeding on other small fish, so use lures that imitate mullet or other bait species. Note the temperatures and the direction they are trending, either up or down. Knowing this will help determine the speed of retrieves when fishing. Like any other time when fishing, it may take some experimenting to determine exactly where the fish are and what type of presentation will work best. The good news is that once you find fish in the winter, they are typically concentrated in good numbers. Also noteworthy, if you find bigger fish, you often won’t find the smaller fish mixed in, and vice versa.

Braving the elements in winter is often rewarded with spectacular catches. Dress appropriately, take your safety and that of any passengers seriously. Dress in layers that can be removed or added as temperatures change, and get out and catch a few fish.

Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

January 5th, 2016

soulewintertrout Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

Capt. Steve Soule with a 9.25lb winter trout.

By Capt. Steve Soule

It’s that time of the year; the air is colder, rains are frequent and there just isn’t enough daylight in a 24 hour period. Winter weather seems to sap my energy, but there are still a few motivating fishing patterns to wake me back up.

There is no doubt that winter trout fishing can be some of the best all year and the fish will be at their heaviest for any given length. When it’s cloudy and old man winter has his grips sternly upon the upper Texas Coast, this is what comes to mind first…well, right behind chilling on the couch. Yes, it takes some extra motivation to want to get out there and grind for a winter time trophy, but the months from November through February present some of the best big trout fishing of the year. This isn’t your typical fair weather fishing, so there is some preparation required.

Plan your fishing wisely

Weather can change in an instant and you need to plan well and prepare even better. I don’t usually plan to fish more that just a handful of spots in a day, and when big trout are the target, the number of spots may shrink to only one or two. Make sure you know that where you intend to fish will be safe in the wind if you fish close to a frontal passage. I’ve got too many stories about close calls and pulled anchors to relate while trying to get this right.

Be prepared for the weather that you will encounter. I’m not going to say there is a weather man that I trust, but when fishing, I take the worst possible scenario as the most likely, especially if it’s a tournament day. I don’t drift fish much when fishing for big trout so I always have my Simms waders in the boat or on me. Layering clothing is the best way to go. Start with a very thin thermal layer, then add a fleece layer on very cold days, topped off with lightweight waders. This gives you great moisture wicking, warmth and protection from wind and water.

ALWAYS wear a belt over your waders! It sounds simple, but it can save your life if you take water into your waders. Another obvious sounding plan is to wear a wade or waterproof jacket over the outside of your waders. If it rains or you get too deep, this will keep you dry and warm.

Now that you are geared up and ready, pick your favorite big trout weapons and look for some very important clues when deciding where to fish. Notice how I didn’t say look for boats or waders. There is a huge amount of water around the Texas bays and more than enough spots to go around. Numerous shorelines and shell reefs will hold fish during the winter months. Knowing which ones to fish will come with experience.

Key factors to consider

It takes more than just shell to create a productive area. The combination of shell, soft mud, the presence of baitfish and reasonably good tide flow will almost always pay off. But when temps are very low, finding baitfish may not always be easy to accomplish. Let the winter natives guide you. There are two birds that I have counted on for years to help me locate concentrations of baitfish. First is the loon, a bird that spends most of the year well north of Texas, often north of the Canadian border. They are amazing divers that can swim rapidly under water and stay below the surface   for several minutes while chasing down small fish. The second bird is the white pelican. Big and obvious, whether crashing the water from above or just swimming, they are a voracious mullet eater and shouldn’t be ignored.

catch2000 Winter Woes or Wows: Winter Trout Fishing

MirrOlure Catch 2000 in HP and CH.

Choose your weapons

It doesn’t matter if you prefer soft plastic, topwater or suspending baits, all can be effective. My personal preferences would be a selection of surface baits and slow sinking mullet imitations. Its an age old argument about which is more effective and the best answer that I can provide is that the lure you have most confidence in will be the effective one most days. I personally have caught more big trout on mullet imitations, both surface or sub surface, but I can say with 100% certainty that this is because that is what I have tied on more days than not.

Regardless of your choice, tie a lure on and bring your patience. Big trout are not like small trout. They are at a totally different stage of their lives and simply don’t feel the need to eat voraciously every day. Think of it like this; at seven pounds, a trout is at or near the age most of us would be retired from a working career. They are much more into the simple life of relaxing and staying safe. They would much prefer to eat a single large meal, and take two days or rest, than to get up early and chase down small meals all day. It may take ten casts and it may take a thousand casts, but if you are in the right place you will eventually find them when it is feeding time.


Daniel Popovich with an upper slot redfish.

The other fish species of winter, and one that requires much less patience, is the redfish. If you are not a person who wants to spend solitary days standing in mud up to your ankles, casting repeatedly for one bite, give winter redfish a shot. I won’t say everyday, but on most days, redfish are cooperative fish. Where a trout over seven pounds is an older fish who likes to relax, the redfish in that same size range is just a teenager, who still has a voracious appetite.

The same lures will still apply when fishing for redfish and the topwater action can be nothing short of amazing in the winter. The usual list of redfish lures work well year round. At the top of the winter list for me would have to be surface lures. Nearly anytime that you can find active mullet in shallow areas with mud and shell, this is my first choice. When they won’t eat off the surface, feed them a slow sinking hard bait like a MirrOlure® Catch 2000. If you aren’t comfortable or confident using finesse baits, the trusty Johnson Sprite spoon or swimming tail soft plastics will still get the job done well.

Though winter has it’s down side with weather and temperatures that aren’t always pleasant, the upside is that fish tend to be much more concentrated in areas and when you find them, fishing can be off-the-charts good. Stay warm and hooked up!

Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

December 30th, 2014

mikedepol Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

Mike DePol with the last redfish before the storm!

Fishing the tides key to successful Galveston Bay winter fishing

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Stepping outside with my cup of coffee, I was greeted by a deep chill in the air with the passage of a cold front. I hurried back inside the house to finish dressing, layering my clothing. I grabbed my wind and water resistant jacket, before I left on my way to the boat ramp.

As I launched my boat, my customers emerged from their truck, dressed more like Eskimos than fisherman. We chuckled at each other saying “It’s kind of cold.” I told them, “You think it’s cold now, wait for the ride across the bay!”

The five-mile boat ride was quite brutal. Once we got there, we spent the next few minutes rigging our rods and reels with some soft plastic lures.

saltwaterassasin Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

Bass Assassin 5″ morning glory/limetreuse tail Saltwater Shad

“The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig.”

The next hour and a half provided little for our effort. With only a couple of speckled trout in the box, my customers gave me that, you got us out here for this? look. I looked at them and promised, “It’s fixing to get right,” as the tide began to move. I suggested that we move about a half mile away to a flat that has produced for me in the past during the winter. As I slowly idled into the area, I gave them a grin as a tint of off colored water appeared, along with a couple of Loons swimming and diving. The next four hours we caught fish. When it was all done our cooler was full of speckled trout and a few redfish. We also caught and released just as many!

Ros Polumbo with a nice drum taken from Greens Lake.

Ros Polumbo with a nice drum taken from Greens Lake.

This scenario can be played out during January/February in West Bay. First, you need to dress for the weather. Layers of clothing provide the best warmth, in my opinion. The best part of layering is if you get too hot, you can always remove some. Furthermore, a good wind and water resistant jacket is a necessity. Stocking hats or even a full face mask are always useful to help keep you warm. Once your body gets cold, it’s hard to get warm again without heading to the dock and calling it a day.

The winter area of West Bay that I mentioned earlier is what I call the triangle. Meacom’s Cut to Green’s Cut, then between North and South Deer Islands. During this time of year fish congregate in this area. It has a mixture of sand and shell, with depths ranging from three to six feet. The key to fishing this area is tidal movement. I usually do the best with an incoming tide. This area becomes crystal clear with cooler water temperatures. As the tide begins to move, streaks of off colored water will appear. This provides cover for the fish to ambush whatever unsuspecting bait that is there. You might only see one or two mullet flicker on the water surface. If you see a bird known as a “Loon” in the area, it’s a good bet baitfish are there. Drift fishing is the best way to cover the area and located the fish.

Artificial lures this time of year work the best. Soft plastics or even swim type imitation mullet baits are best. I mostly use soft plastic type baits. The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig. I find that a reel with a retrieve of 5:1 helps when trying to slow your presentation of the bait. Keeping your lure in the “strike zone” just a little longer is the key to having a successful day. My favorite color is black with a chartreuse tail.

Just because it is cold, does not mean you can’t have a great day on the water. Dressing properly and fishing the tides is the key to a great day on the water. Fishing a couple days after the passage of a cold front can yield you a box full of fish! Don’t forget to like Coastal Charter Club on Facebook.