Winter weather makes for great trout fishing
It is great to be back, talking about what I love to do most, and that is fishing along the Texas coast.
It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone, and we still have the privilege and freedom to fish across thousands of acres of beautiful water in the Coastal Bend that are filled with all types of species of saltwater fish for only the cost of a fishing license, a saltwater stamp and a few boat launch fees - what a blessing.
The past several years, numerous guides, including myself, have written hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines and books about how to catch a trout from 20-30 plus inches in cold water temperatures. Only for a very few weeks of the year for the past 10 years has there been a chance to really practice what guides and other outdoor writers preach.
The past two months have been an exception. It has been a very long time since I have seen the water stay this cold. I can't remember the last winter in which water temperatures have been in the 40s in the early morning for this many days. Since the third week of November, I know we have had at least 20 days or more with water temperatures in the 40s.
Conditions have been perfect to use previously learned techniques to catch big, fat speckled trout. It is easier to pattern these fish when the water stays this cold for so long.
Since we have had very little runoff from recent rains, the Port Lavaca River, Garcitas Creek, the Barge Canal and numerous deep harbors have been producing big numbers of trout and redfish. Game fish and bait head to these areas especially when water temperatures hit the 40s. You know they are there; you just may have to fish all day until they feed.
Fishers have been drifting, trolling or using the trolling motor to bounce a variety of soft plastics in a variety of colors off the ledges or even in the middle of these channels. Because of the crowds, I have heard reports more than once of there being no place to park your trailer once your boat has been launched at many of these areas.
Me and a host of other fishermen along the coastal bend have been using wintertime techniques to bring in good numbers of trout, between 3 to 7 pounds, with most being released. Even though many days have been cold and nasty, I think there have been only a couple of weekends since the opening of deer season in which I have not been on the water.
For those who have been fortunate enough to pick their days, they have probably reaped the benefits. Reports of big trout being caught from Rockport to Baffin have been over the top. There is so much to talk about when it comes to cold-water fishing, but I want to narrow it down to my last four trips, since they were almost identical.
We weren't able to pick our days, but conditions were perfect for catching trout more than 20 inches on these trips.
We left our pier each morning at first light with the water temperature in the upper 40s.
Do not go fishing without a quality temperature gauge on your boat.
I knew the fish would be in the deep trenches and sloughs until the sun came out after glancing at my gauge. We headed across the bay to some of my favorite wintertime deep holes.
The water has been so clear each time that I could see the bottom at depths up to 8 feet.
It just so happened that each of these last four trips, the wind was supposed to pick up, so that would help muddy up the water. We picked up some quality trout in these deep holes throwing dark-colored Bass Assassins. We were using my trolling motor to cast our lure onto the deep change. We fished these areas till about mid-morning before we headed to the shorelines. Now, lets talk about last Saturday.
We were soon going to be fishing right in the middle of a fresh cold front.
Believe it or not, I was actually begging for at least 20 mph winds out of the north. We were going to be fishing on a south shoreline that would be hammered by a north wind. The wind would muddy up the gin clear water, and the bigger trout would not be so spooked.
It was now about 11:00 a.m. (last Saturday), the sun was out, and water temperatures that started at 48 degrees were now up to 51 degrees. The 18 inches of water that was covering soft mud and a ridge of shell had come alive with mullet.
Just an hour earlier, the water was gin clear and void of any life-form.
Once the wind started blowing and the water murked up, the bait came from nowhere.
This time of year, the wind is your friend.
We eased out of the boat and began to wade the shell ridge next to the soft mud that had nervous mullet jumping about every 30 seconds all around the target zone.
Mullet is the main diet of big trout during the winter.
Once you find the bait, you can find the fish.
The bigger trout had staged themselves in this spot and others like it on similar wades the past three weeks, and we were hoping this day would be no exception.
We all had tied on the best and most reliable cold water bait on the planet - now made by MirrOLure - Paul Brown's original Corky. This bait is soft, sinks very slowly and looks just like a mullet.
There is now a new Corky out called the Soft-dine. This is the smaller version and has been my go-to bait the past month. I have caught numerous trout from 3-7 pounds on this bait during these record cold weather days.
As we lined up on this ridge, it wasn't long before the fight was on.
The bigger fish were there.
Nothing excites me more as an angler than watching a 6-pound trout eat your lure right in front of you in knee-deep water. We caught lots of trout from 3 to 5 pounds on that wade while releasing most of them that were more than 23 inches.
This was wintertime fishing at its best.
The time is now to catch a big trout this winter.
Fishing this time of year for big trout is my passion.
What is yours?
Danny Goyen is an outdoor writer and speaker. He has been guiding on the Texas Coast for over 27 years.