WOODS, WINGS, WATER: Big trout showing in Matagorda
While big trout enthusiasts are heading south to wade the famed Baffin Bay for the winter, here sits East Matagorda Bay, tranquil, serene and teeming with some of the heaviest gator trout Texas has to offer.
I know, I know, Baffin is one of a trio of trophy trout haunts in the whole USA, but lost in the mix, and the hype, is little ole' East Matty and her muddy bottoms littered with shell.
We still catch big trout here, and February is prime time with little to no fishing pressure.
It's not just a wading thing, either, heavy specks can be caught over miles of shell lumps, humps, toeheads and undulations found throughout the middle of the bay.
"The tides get low and all those big trout go to the middle of the bay," said guide Tommy Alexander. "The mullet go to the middle and the trout follow."
Biology proves trout two-feet long specks change their primary diets of shrimp and small shad to a more protein-enriched meal like a six-inch finger mullet. This proves even truer during winter months when lethargic fish are less likely to chase a quick baitfish. Cold-blooded animals, like gator trout, like to gulp a big mullet, lie up and live off its energy for three days before they have to hunt again. That's why proven, slow-moving, cold-water baits like MirrOlures, Corkies, Catch 5s and Catch 2000s dupe so many huge trout.
"There are miles of East Bay to drift in the winter, and the water usually is so clear you can see the bottom," said Alexander.
East Bay's deepest depths are a little over five feet at the highest of high tides. Since winter normally sees the lowest tides of the year, most traditional scattered shell drifting spots usually run just over three feet.
"You really have to find some streaky water to get fish to eat," said Alexander. "The water is beautiful, but too beautiful at times."
Since live bait is scarce during the winter, plan on tossing soft plastics or slow-sinking baits. I like using a lighter jig like a 1/16-ounce head so the bait floats and flutters after every twitch. H&H Flutterheads, introduced to me by guide James Plaag of Galveston, are also a strong choice on your favorite soft plastic.
Last week on the bright moon, trout to seven pounds were taken on Bass Assassins while drifting open shell. However, don't misunderstand me, the biggest of big trout catchers are waders. There is no substitute for stalking a shallow shoreline or reef with a mullet-imitation and a sensitive piece of graphite. Mud bottoms on the east end of the bay are my favorite winter hangouts. Brown Cedar Flats, Catch-All Basin and Bird Island have long held broad trout.
Shell adjacent to deep water, like the Chinquapin Reefs, are good choices, too. Never forget about wading mid-bay reefs like Long, Barefoot, Drull's, Half Moon and Three Beacon. Fish should hang on the outside edge of the reef, just over your waders.
Stay dry and make long casts, working the bait slow and methodically.
That's the winter way.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).