Cold Days in the Marsh

Cold Days in the Marsh

If someone was to ask me to create the most ideal scenario for sight-casting redfish it would consist of three things – clear water, plenty of sunshine, and hungry fish. With this combination it would be hard not to have a fun day. I also get asked frequently when is my favorite time of the year to be in the marsh. The obvious answer is in the fall but a close second is the month of February. A majority of people are surprised by that answer and rightfully so; February has been labeled as a cold and dreary month and is therefore often overlooked. I happen to find it an exceptional month but with only one catch, you have to be ready to brave the cold. The elements are something every angler has to deal with but once you are prepared for them properly, you can fish properly. February does have its share of bad weather but there are plenty of days across the month where conditions are near perfect.

When it comes to the ideal sight-casting scenario mentioned above, clear water is usually easy to find. The wind patterns are often favorable and the incoming tides following northers bring plenty of clean, green water to the marshes. I have also come to find that February typically has either the worst weather or near perfect, so pick your days carefully. Anglers can find days with all sun and no clouds, which is exactly what you want in winter to maximize sight-casting opportunity. Besides being able to see the fish, they will also tend to move to the shallows to warm up and quite often feed very aggressively. This makes for a perfect scenario and hopefully a fun day.

One of the easiest tasks this month is finding fish that are hungry and willing to cooperate. Most fish I find in the marsh flats during winter seem to never pass up an easy meal. Their typical diet of shad and shrimp are long gone and they are only left with a few options. Even though it is still winter, this is a good time to find schooling fish. Mullet seems to be their main course and as quick as mullet can be redfish adapt by hunting in packs like wolves. Numerous times I have seen a dozen or more crashing shorelines while gorging on mudminnows. Needless to say, they are not too picky.

Out of every factor that can contribute to great fishing, my personal favorite is minimum fishing pressure. Let’s face it, your average fair-weather angler isn’t much a player this time of year. Along with that, with all the cold days they’ve endured recently in deer and duck blinds, few hunters are ready to volunteer for another potentially cold day on the water…which in my book makes it all the better.

Once you finally make it out to the marsh, my lure presentation doesn’t change too much but there are a few tweaks to be made. Since the reds will be feeding mostly on finfish I like to keep a Keitech swimbait tied on. I have also become quite fond of throwing shallow-running crankbaits during colder months. You can fish the shallow-runners at any tempo, even a slow presentation puts off enough flash and vibration to entice strikes in cold water. Another of my favorites, especially during a warming trend, is the She Dog. I know a topwater is not typical for winter days but there is still something about it that will drive a hungry redfish crazy. Trust me on this.

I recall a February day last year when a cold front had moved through the day before. I had to work that night but was going to be off the next day, so naturally, I brought my boat to work. I stayed late because I wanted to get on the water right after sunrise. While sitting by the coffee pot, I explained to the guys at work why I was staying over and one guy exclaimed that I was out of my mind. It was a balmy 37° and I had high expectations despite his remark. I left work, scooped up my buddy Chad, and we headed to the lake.

Needless to say we were the only ones at the boat ramp, but the wind was almost nil and the sun was shining. We took off and decided to swing into a little pond that has been very reliable for me over the years on cold, low-tide days. To our great delight there were more than a few fish in there. We proceeded through this pond and kept going further back. It almost seemed as though the further back we went the more fish we found. We ended up fishing until mid-afternoon and landed fifty-four reds, every one of them by sight-casting. On top of that, when we got back to the ramp ours was still the only rig in the parking lot. We’d had the best day of wintertime marsh fishing I have yet to experience and we had it all to ourselves.   

So, with all the above being said, February can be a great month. The hardest part about it is putting the cold behind you. If you are willing to brave it and be prepared properly, it can make for some of the finest fishing an angler can have. Find the right day with the sun shining, bundle up, and hit the marsh!


 
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