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
Facebook: Capt. Sally Black and Capt. Sally’s Reel Fun Charters
Twitter: CaptainSally

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