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.
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.
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!