Historically, February has often been recorded as being one of the absolute coldest months of the year along our Texas coastline. As of this writing, however, we have been extremely fortunate in this regard, as we have not had much of a winter to speak of (yet) this year. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of cloudy days that are always presented to us just prior to a building frontal passage, but the frontal passages themselves have not been too severe so far. But even though we haven’t seen the degree of coldness that we might normally see by now, each of the fronts that have passed through our region have still given us the customary couple days of clear skies, motionless tides, and the typical air-clear water color that we’re all used to seeing once the temperature has dropped a bit immediately following the passage of a frontal system.
If you happen to be fishing a north shoreline just prior to an approaching front, or if you’re fishing along a south shoreline just after a front has passed, then chances are great that you’re going to be fishing in some extremely cloudy water. And if these places are the only places available to you, don’t be completely disappointed. We actually land some very attractive catches of trout and reds this time of the year in just such water. In fact, we sometimes purposely search for it. We do this because gin-clear water is sometimes just simply too clear. The fish can see very, very well in really clear water – they see everything better, like light, reflection, movement, etc. That’s why I sometimes prefer water that’s a bit off-colored this month. I sometimes feel like it gives me a better chance with the fish if they can’t see me coming at them as I’m wading and casting. But that’s just my opinion!
Ideally, I prefer to be fishing protected shorelines just before, or following a frontal passage. If those protected shorelines happen to contain muddy water, then I welcome that condition as well. If the wind isn’t too brisk and there’s some really calm water up in the shallows right next to the bank, I like to toss much smaller top water baits as tight as I can get them to the bank. I like to work these smaller surface walkers at alternating speeds and patterns until I find what the fish like. If I don’t receive any action while working the top water parallel to shore just a few yards off of the bank, then I’ll wade out to waist-deep water, turn around, and then start casting the lure directly to the shore, working my retrieve now perpendicular to the shoreline. If I don’t locate the bite on top in the shallow waters against the bank, I’ll stay in the waist-deep water and turn around to face deeper water. Then I’ll tie-on a plastic bait of choice and begin my search for trout and reds in a bit deeper water.
When it comes to determining what type of plastic bait I should be using in this month, I don’t have any special formula for doing so. I simply like to try offering something that’s going to closely resemble that which I have recently been finding at the cleaning table in the stomachs of the fish. Right now, we generally don’t find a lot (if any) shrimp in fish bellies, so I don’t like throwing plastic shrimp tails this month. What we do tend to find a lot of right now are small finfish, different species of worms, and the occasional small crab. It’s for this reason that I like using slender-tailed worm-type plastics, and also the paddle-tailed plastics that are intended to mimic small baitfish like shad and mullet.
When retrieving these plastic baits, I like to try a variation of a few different methods until I find what the fish are after that day. If I’m tossing the slender-tailed worms, I’ll work the bait primarily along the bottom, letting the bait completely settle to the bay floor before beginning my retrieve. I then will begin to slightly jerk the bait along the bottom in an attempt to create a small cloud of mud directly behind the bait. I sometimes vary the speed and the effort I put into the jerk along the bottom, making it sometimes abrupt, and sometimes subtle. But if I can’t find a bite on the bottom, it’s always a good idea to try some of the paddle tails in the middle portions of the water column.
To work the upper portion of the water column with a paddle-tail, begin a steady retrieve just as soon as you cast it and the lure hits the water. A lot of times this works great on fish that have been hitting your top water bait but haven’t been engulfing it. To work the same lure a bit lower in the water column, say just above the bay floor, a good idea is to cast the lure and count to “1” or “2” before starting to reel the lure back to you. As you reel, provide a slight, quick jerk with your rod tip every few seconds. This makes the bait dart from side-to-side underwater, and also provides for some really good action on the part of the paddle on the tail section of the lure. It’s always fun to experiment with new things, so try doing something different with one of your lures next time you’re out wading. You might just surprise yourself!
As a reminder, don’t forget about this year’s annual savings event at Bay Flats Lodge on San Antonio Bay, the 2013 Winter Fishing Special. It’s a time during the months of January, February, and March when you and your guests can fish at the Lodge and receive our standard fishing package at a tremendously discounted rate. Remember to practice CPR, “Catch, Photo, and Release”, whenever possible on trophy Trout and Reds…Guide Chris Martin, Port O’Connor/Seadrift region. www.BayFlatsLodge.com…1-888-677-4868