Another year has come and gone, leaving me to wonder where the days all disappeared to. And, as always, the New Year has arrived in the dead of winter. Funny how some years summer and fall seem to linger forever, and then this year winter arrived before fall even got off to a good start. Lucky for us, the fish didn’t seem to mind and settled right into their winter haunts and wintertime patterns.
Typically this time of the year, I spend a majority of my fishing days scouring the flats in hopes to land a trophy trout. Even though the cold weather can test the will of an angler it can be very rewarding and makes it worthwhile to grind out the bitter long days on the water. However, if you are not into wintertime trout fishing, or any type of fishing in the cold, there is one thing an angler should do before the warm weather arrives again. I strongly urge every kayaker to visit their favorite marsh during winter.
There are various reasons for encouraging that you visit your favorite marsh fishing area during winter. First off, it’s easier to make a long paddle without baking sun and exhaustive heat and humidity. It’s actually quite pleasant, assuming you have picked a favorable wind day. Another great reason to make a wintertime paddle is the opportunity to learn the lay of the land. Lower than average tides and generally clear water provide the chance to observe fish-attracting structure that you cannot see in other seasons. Take notes. The final reason would be that fishing can be nothing short of awesome the second or third day after a front pushes through.
First and foremost though, remember that duck season is open until January 27th, so please give them space if you happen to run across a group hunting. We have the marsh for nine months of the year and the least we could do is show them courtesy during waterfowl season. Most hunts are typically concluded by 10:00 AM, so you can always sleep in and let it warm up before hitting the water.
I always anxiously await the right winter day to head to the marsh. I prefer to wait for a strong cold front to blow through and then wait two days for everything to settle. One of the reasons is because it will usually be a blue bird sky – perfect for paddling during cooler air temps. Another reason is because the north wind will have blown a great deal of water off the flats, leaving “the lay of the land” exposed. When the water is low in these situations, it will reveal the patches of oyster shell that are scattered across the flats, sunken logs and other debris, and also the guts and depressions where water will flow at normal tide levels.
Getting to observe these characteristics will give you a better understanding of where fish stage during normal conditions. I am sure that we all have randomly caught fish out in the middle of nowhere with seemingly no rhyme or reason but odds are there was something out there for them to be hanging around. It is also good to get a mental picture of everything so that when you come back, you know the proper places to focus on instead of fishing the area blindly.
Along with the water getting pushed out by the north wind, I have heard people say that redfish also leave the marsh during the winter. In my experience, though, that’s just not the case. From what I have seen, redfish will stay in the marsh as long as there is enough water for them to get around and forage to sustain them, and it’s not freezing cold. That being said, once they are forced to leave, the bayous and channels feeding the marsh flats should be full of fish.
My favorite way to approach this scenario is to throw a 1/4 oz jighead with a Norton Sand Eel Jr. or a Chickenboy Bubba Clucker. I like to slow it down and fish an area thoroughly before moving forward. I particularly like to focus on the bends of the channels and sloughs because this is where the deeper water is. When fish are forced out of the shallows and the temperature drops, they will seek the warmer temperatures of deeper water.
I also like to focus on fishing during a falling tide and, the later in the day the better. With the water being shallower than normal, water remaining on the flats will tend to warm up quicker. Thus, when the tide falls, it will pull the warm water off the flats and into the channel. This warmer water will tend to get bait and fish moving a little and they will be more prone to bite. Also with the warmer water being pulled out, redfish are not the only fish that want to take advantage of this. I have caught several nice flounder fishing these areas and some really big trout can be caught as well.These are just a few reasons of why I always try to make a trip out to my favorite marsh areas during winter. Not only can you catch a few fish, but it will also provide opportunity to see and understand the bottom structure of the marsh ponds and flats that fish will relate to in warmer seasons. In closing I want to wish everyone a safe and happy New Year. If you are not already doing this, make a New Year’s resolution to wear a PFD all the time, every time you venture out to fish from your kayak!