by Capt. Chris Martin
December 10, 2015
Because tide and water conditions can sometimes be simply ideal this month, it’s not completely uncommon for anglers to experience several beautiful days of rewarding Texas coastal fishing in December. In fact, a lot of coastal anglers specifically plan to spend time out on the water this month because of their previously scheduled time-off from work which happens to coincide with December’s holiday season. But, probably all of us have come to realize at some point in our fishing lifetime that predetermined vacation time means that we’re only going to be able to be out on the water on particular days of the year – days that might just be prior to, during, or immediately following the passage of the latest wintertime frontal system. Being productive during any of these three stages of a passing frontal system means you will need to know what you can expect to be facing in each situation. Only then will you be able to plan for the worst, and (hopefully) experience the best.
If asked, many coastal anglers will admit that they have had exceptional catches just ahead of strengthening frontal passages. However, fishing in the face of a substantial approaching front often means facing very strong southerly winds that are being sucked-in off of the Gulf of Mexico just ahead of the front. These southerly winds often gust unpredictably, so it is always good to be able to position yourself against a protected shoreline in the hours leading up to the arrival of the front. Whenever fishing during this period, anglers should always attempt to know ahead of time exactly what time of the day the front is expected to roll through their area. That way they can plan accordingly and can be off the water in time for the actual passage of the approaching storm.
A lot of anglers will choose not to be out in the elements during the actual passage of a frontal system. There’s any of a number reasons why some don’t like to fish in such conditions, but safety is probably the number one reason on everyone’s list. Strong fronts this month can sometimes present nothing less than treacherous conditions during the course of their passing. To this day, we still hear of people losing their boats, as well as their lives in some instances, as they attempt to make their way home across the open bay during the onslaught of one of these approaching frontal systems. Very little about this particular situation is comfortable or safe, not even for many of the more skilled boating captains. If it’s at all possible, anglers should simply avoid fishing this phase of a frontal passage altogether.
Historically, it has been found to be quite effective for anglers to wait until the front has passed completely before pursuing any more fishing. Do the fish even seem interested immediately following a strong front? The only way to answer that is, “Yes, of course.” The fish are probably always interested, but just not like they are once everything has had a chance to settle down a bit following the passing of a front. Many old salts prefer fishing the second and third days following a frontal passage – with the third day afterwards being categorically their absolute favorite day. Waiting this long following the passage of the front allows strong winds associated with the passing of the front to greatly subside and will most often give the sky plenty of time to clear from its previous frontal overcast conditions.
Barometric pressure and water temperature exhibit significant changes during the passing of wintertime frontal systems that tell the trout to look for places that offer protection from danger and cover from weather. So, when beginning to search for trout after a front has already passed, always look toward leeward shorelines that hold deep green water. Anglers have also recognized some really nice post-frontal trout catches by concentrating their efforts in some of the natural fish passes that are found between open-bay reefs and islands, and in some of the back lake areas where cuts and passes can be found that consist of water depths between four and eight feet. These areas tend to hold great water conditions in the calming period that follows the passing of a front, and the structure of the bay bottom at these places tends to mostly be mud and silt which is another prime objective of the trout during times of colder weather – mud is capable of absorbing impressive amounts of warmth from the sunlight and, thus, is able to hold that warmth much, much longer than sand or shell.
Anglers should also look for post-frontal trout and red fish in some of the slightly deeper guts that tend to weave into and out of some of the small coves that are situated just adjacent to the vast openness of main bay systems, as such coves can often be spectacular target areas for post-frontal trout in December. But, just as soon as the morning sun begins to warm the shallows of these coves, move out of the cove and on to the surrounding area flats that are mostly comprised of grass and mud. Use a slower than usual retrieve, especially on a deep presentation, regardless of your chosen lure. Anglers may also like to use very lightweight jig heads in December, as well as the rest of the cold-water months, so as to be able to prevent snags while fishing over shell or grass while retrieving slower than usual. Until next time, tight lines to all!