WOODS, WINGS & WATER: Extreme low tides congregate fish over deep shell
Nippy, wet weather is normally the forecast this time of year. Gray skies and low tides provide a dreary backdrop.
Now, the good news: Spring break is only six weeks away. In the meantime, fish are biting up and down the coast.
It may take you leaving your fishing comfort zone, but winter fishing can be productive.
By now, you have read countless times about how dark, soggy bay floors hold the warmest winter waters. It's true. One degree of difference is often the only variable in an area holding schools of fish.
Look for bait. It probably is scarce, as frigid waters turn baitfish lethargic; however, if you see one mullet flip, give the area a chance.
"Sometimes, all I see are a handful of mullet all day," said guide James Plaag, of Galveston. "Trout don't need a whole lot of mullet this time of year - they may only eat a few times a week."
Matagorda anglers enjoyed a solid week of drifting over deep shell. Guide Charlie Paradoski said his charters took full limits of trout three consecutive days before the cold front.
"We made long drifts and caught most of the fish around late morning," said Paradoski. "When the sun came out, it seemed like the fish bit better."
Paradoski said one day, specks wanted Chicken on a Chain Bass Assassins, and the next day, they wanted woodpecker (red/white).
"Tides were the lowest of the year, and there was not much water on the shorelines, so I believe all of those fish fell to the deeper water," he said.
Trout and redfish are readily available in guts and bayous up and down the coast. Some of the lowest tides of the year occur during the next 30 days, so you can eliminate lots of water. Concentrate on the areas that fall from waist to chest deep during the summer - those same areas are probably shin to waist deep now.
"We went looking for redfish this week with the low tides and found trout," said Palacios guide Ray Sexton. "Most of the time, when it is cold, redfish are the mainstay, but trout were everywhere."
Find points of sloughs and bayous and anchor within casting distance. These points normally hold the deepest water as outgoing and incoming tidal flow provide depressions. Live shrimp under a popping cork works every time, but plastics like Gulps, Tidal Surges, Gamblers, Bass Assassins and Norton Bull Minnows work as well.
Sand trout are another winter option that requires minimal skills. Channels and bayous with ardent tidal flow to and from the Gulf holds plenty of sandies. Carolina-rigged fresh shrimp and squid get plenty of pulls.
A great winter fish that rarely gets rave reviews is the sheepshead. Most sheepies hang just below the surface and dine on crustaceans and organisms clinging against the rocks. Live shrimp under a popping cork is the most effective bait, and once you get past its motley mug, the sheepshead's white meat pleases the palate.
Winter low tides reveal reefs, flats and other structures you never knew were there. Take advantage of the free look and mark all of these fish magnets, then hit 'em again when tides return this spring.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).