It’s during winter when we start seeing an increase in the frequency of frontal passages from the north. This increase in cold fronts means there will also be varying water levels, water clarity, and wind direction. To top things off, it’s going to be cold when you’re out there fishing in all of this. But, don’t worry, the trout will be cold, too.
Structure, Baitfish, and the Elements
When a February storm drops air and water temps, the fish look for a warm place to rest. They’ll be looking for places where the bay floor consists primarily of thick mud mixed with grass or shell. The mud soaks up the day’s heat and then releases it throughout the night and day. It’s because of this that the fish will stay close to the mud bottom during extreme cold. The other prime wintertime structure is shell. It offers protection and cover for small baitfish, so it’s a great place for the trout to search for a quick meal. If you notice bait activity atop a shell bottom, you can anticipate trout being in the same area.
Because there’s not always a lot of days between fronts, you don’t always get to wait for a pleasant day. Instead, you are sometimes forced to endure a significant amount of wind change while fishing. This also means there’s not always clear water to fish in when you’re out there. But, this shouldn’t dampen your hopes at success. You can experience an epic day of fishing on a muddy shoreline even right after a front has passed.
When you’re fishing just after a cold front, look for a shoreline that’s protected from the strong north wind. You may find bait there because the strong south wind ahead of yesterday’s front pushed baitfish tight against northern shorelines. That strong south wind will have also muddied the water of this north shoreline, but don’t let that bother you. Where there’s baitfish, there’s almost certain to be game fish.
Position your boat in waist-deep water, and start your wade session there. Begin by casting into more shallow water toward the bank. You might want to throw a heavy top water bait, because you’ll probably be facing a sniff north wind. As you make your way toward the shallow water, make note of any troughs or slight undulations. As you walk these guts, turn to either side and cast your bait into the deepest part of the trough. Water temperature varies by depth, so just inches can mean a couple degrees difference in warmth to a big trout. Explore all the areas of the water column until you find what you came for.
If you can get to the secluded back lakes on Matagorda Island after a strong front, you should do so. These lakes don’t have a lot of wintertime boat traffic, which means they haven’t been fished by many people. It will be quiet, and you may feel alone, but that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it can be rather welcomed whenever you’re hunting for a trophy trout in cold water. Enjoy the solitude, and accept the chance to brag a bit at the cleaning table later in the day.
When fishing the back lakes, you might want to experiment with artificial baits both above and below the surface. You should toss top water baits only when conditions are ideal for doing so. Periods of cloud cover over shallow mud and grass, with a bit of wind and off-colored water, is generally good. If you find clear water in the lakes, present your favorite plastics, especially your suspending baits.
When it comes to lure colors for wintertime speckled trout, stick primarily to the dark colors with bright accents. Colors like pumpkinseed, plum, and black, all with chartreuse accents, typically produce good results. There’s one exception to the dark-color rule that you should allow yourself to make, and that’s a pink slow-sinker. It may sound silly, but that color remains quite productive every winter. Some people like using it in the spring and fall because of its effectiveness in cooler water conditions.
If it’s wintertime redfish you’re looking for, focus on the same basic structural elements – shell, mud, and baitfish. Look for redfish in some of the more shallow waters. They are hardier than trout, especially in harsh conditions, so they can handle some extremely shallow water. In the end, however, you’ll find all of the fish moving slower in February, so be patient and keep grinding.