Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Secrets to Wintertime Fishing Part II

In the winter months, the rules change dramatically for shallow water anglers. Water temperatures can swing wildly. Be flexible and thoughtful with your approach, being in tune with water temperatures and wind. Shallow water warms up the fastest but also cools off the fastest, so plan your day for the warmest water. Cold incoming tides or a cold north wind can cool off your favorite place and evacuate fish. Shallow water temperatures above 60 degrees will draw fish to enter, and the warmer the water gets, the better chance for feeding fish. So, between now and Spring (which can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned…), here are a few more secrets to fishing success in the winter months:

Pick your days! Fishing “between the fronts” offers blue bird days with light winds, clear skies and clear water. Fish that have been laid up in deeper water during a cold norther blow will eventually emerge onto the flats in search of a little food. Target those warmer, less windy days a few days after a front has blown through to find more feeding fish in shallow water. Spoil islands, like the ones found lining the Intracoastal Canal, absorb the sunshine and warm the water around them. These are some of the most productive places to fish in the winter. Here, the combination of warmer water disseminating from the spoil islands and the close proximity to the deep water of the Intracoastal provide a great place for predators to hang out in comfort and safety.

Find bait. No bait, no fish. Move on. The reason there is no bait is the same reason there are no predators. The water temperature isn’t right or you are too far from deep, protected water. Clue in if you are fishing and you don’t see bait in the water. Keep searching.

Avoid any area that has a lot of current, either wind-blown or tidal. This is one of the only times of the year that non-moving water works in an anglers favor. Warm, consistent temperatures are what feeding fish are seeking and any cold, incoming flow can turn a sun-warmed 68 degree flat into an unsustainable 57 degrees in a hurry.

Oyster shells exposed at night can get really cold. During the day, this cold emanates into the water around them and could make that water unfishable. If you like to fish flats that have lots of oyster reefs, keep this in mind.

As the air and water temperatures drop, sharpen up your casting skills and move slow. When the water is cold, the fish move slowly. They are conserving all of their energy. When they feed, they move slowly. Predators are unwilling to expend a lot of energy while feeding in these colder conditions. An accurate cast will catch more fish. Don’t expect a predator to pursue a fly or lure three feet or more. They will not do it. Put it in the proximity of their mouth and they will make the strike. When you do drop the fly or lure into a fish’s “dinner plate zone”, move it slow. Hop it up and down, puff it on the bottom, and wait for it to be detected. Give the fish some time to meander over and pick up the prey, then, slowly set the hook. Cold water, clear water and light winds demand finesse in presentation and accuracy, whether you are fly fishing or lure casting.

On calm days, you may have to cast beyond the target so as not to spook your fish, and then bring the lure into the “zone”. Make the “magic transect”, where the lure is presented to the fish perpendicular to his face. No bait in the natural world would come up from behind or chase a predator. The more natural the presentation, the more fish you will catch. This premise certainly holds true all year, however.

So, don’t give up on fishing just because it’s not summer! The winter can be some of the best shallow water fishing of the entire year! Follow the rules and be thoughtful about your fishing and you will find and catch lots of feeding fish! Rockport water levels have been very low and the shorelines of the Superflats, Mud Island and Allyn’s Bight have been loaded up with reds. Great big, giant, trophy trout are hanging out in their usual wintertime places along the spoil islands of Estes Flats and Redfish Bay, up tight to the shorelines. Baffin Bay shorelines have been also been chuck full of redfish on sunny afternoons. The fall and early winter of 2010 will go down in history as some of the best sight casting of all times. This winter is really shaping up for some dynamic action, and, as long as we don’t get a lot of extended cold weather (like last year), you can bet it’s going to stay that way.

Duck hunting is off the charts in Baffin Bay and my pup Kelly has been getting lots of great work with our clients. She’s only two, but has all the talent a good lab needs. We are looking forward to the re-opening of the dove season on Christmas Day as the Riviera area is completely inundated with dove right now. You can see by the tone of my article, I don’t think I’ve been this fired up about fishing and hunting EVER!

Don’t let this bounty pass you by. Duck season opens back up on December 11, Dove season opens up on December 25th, and they both close mid-January. Try and put some of it on your schedule, as well as some world-class sight casting for reds and trout!

On December 7th, Capt. Aubrey Black and I were both awarded a certificate by the City of Corpus Christi’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as we both completed an extensive Wildlife Guide Certification Program. We learned a lot about all of the different species of fish, birds and plants, as well as the history of our area, business practices, customer service and so much more. It was a fantastic program and I am very proud that we were chosen to be two of the inaugural class of 13 outdoors enthusiasts! It is the first program of its kind anywhere, and we are both hoping to help the visitors to our area appreciate just what a great outdoors experience it is!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Secrets to Wintertime Fishing Part 1

Saltwater Angler Magazine – On-Line Edition
November 10, 2010

For shallow water anglers, one of the best times of the year is in full swing right now. November and December give us moderate temperatures, some cool nights and mornings along with really hungry fish. Duck hunting has been fantastic and looks to be good for the rest of the session, especially here in Baffin Bay. Many new migratory birds are showing up daily and the sunrises and sunsets are especially beautiful.

Fly fishing and sightcasting has been very productive both in Rockport and in Baffin Bay the past couple of weeks. The water levels have been very, very low, which makes for some fantastic fishing, as the back lakes and some flats are virtually empty. All of the major shorelines have good concentrations of both redfish and trout. Find sand strips and grass, potholes and protected waters up close and you’ll have fish to cast at.

Rockport, like the old friend that it is, has been consistently serving up nice pods of tailing fish on moving waters and lots and lots of singles and doubles cruising around. Although there are no shortages of good fish to cast at, the real challenge has been to spot them quickly and cast at them before they spook off. The water there is just beautiful in the flats and on major shorelines, and I poled a large majority of them this past week.

Since fishing Baffin Bay and the surrounding areas in the past year or so, the stark differences in fish behavior really became evident. Fishing both bay systems has offered some fresh perspective on several topics which has been very interesting and insightful.

For the same reason the trout are bigger in Baffin Bay, so are the redfish. And, the fact that Baffin and this area are so far away from any water inflows, like the Packery Channel and the East Cut in Port Mansfield, there is no tide movement. Sure, water levels change slightly from time to time, but there is no dramatic, daily water movement in Baffin Bay. So, redfish and trout tend to stay around and just eat, without lots of nomadic movement looking for the best water conditions or food. It’s all right there and pretty consistent.

For a tidal and water level fisherman like me, this was a big change. Fishing the tide and water level movement in Rockport means everything. In Baffin Bay, it means nothing. So, finding feeding fish in Baffin is a little bit more structure-based with wind as the only means of “tide” (current). Water clarity in Baffin Bay and the surrounding areas can be as clear as Rockport, or slightly off-colored. It really doesn’t matter because the fish are just bigger in Baffin and they can be seen pretty easily in the shallow water. Everyone fishes the shallow water in Rockport, almost no one fishes the shallow water in Baffin. The fish are perfectly comfortable there, not run over by boats, not pressured on a daily basis. Consequently, they are just plain dumb. And when they are in the shallow water, they are most probably actively looking for food.

Whether Rockport or Baffin, the same water temperature rules apply for late fall fishing. Find the warmest, most protected water and avoid cold water inflows to find consistent, feeding fish.

Begin your fishing somewhere in the mid-morning, after the shallow water has had a little time to absorb the heat of the sun. Fish shorelines, spoil islands or flats protected from the wind, with darker grass or muddy bottoms, or even slightly off-colored water and deeper potholes. Dark grass and mud and the tiny, floating particulates of the off-colored water absorb the heat of the sun faster, making these the places that the fish will seek out first.

Fish shallow areas close to deeper water, such as the Intracoastal Waterway. Along the Texas Coast, the Intracoastal can be the “bomb shelter” where fish drop into when water temperatures fall dramatically. Fish do go deep when the water gets cold, that’s how they survive. It might be 57 degrees at the bottom of the Intracoastal, but it’s a consistent 57 degrees. A shallow flat can drop quickly into the danger zone for fish survival after the sun goes down and cold night temperatures set in.

Fly casters throw dark crab patterns on the sand, or the old standby, a white and chartreuse or red and white clouser . Move up a size, so instead of throwing a size 6 fly, try a size 4 or 2. When fish do eat in the winter, they tend to eat bigger baits for more “bang for their buck”. Lure chunkers toss weightless or near-weightless soft plastics on no-wind days for a super quiet presentation. Other lures that work great in the winter are the Corky Fatboy, Corky Devil, Baby -1 crank bait, Chattertube, Catch 2000 and the Cotton Cordell Brokenback. All of these lures are made to sink slowly and/or to be moved slowly. Don’t rush them, they are supposed to suspend and wiggle just enough to look natural in the cold water environment.

Shallow water anglers in-the-know are out on the water every day that the conditions allow. Consider the secrets to finding feeding fish and you’ll be amazed at the quality of angling that can be done in the wintertime!

See you on the water!

Capt. Sally Black
Website: www.CaptainSally.com
Email: Sally@CaptainSally.com
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