Cold Weather Fishing Can Get HOT in an Instant

Cold Weather Fishing Can Get HOT in an Instant
No matter the weather, redfish will remain the top target this winter on Sabine.

Each and every year I get the opportunity to meet fishermen from all over the state, many of whom have dreams just like all of us about catching a huge fish. Seasoned saltwater veterans know this time of the year is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the folks looking for instant gratification. Temperatures and foul weather make wintertime fishing as much of a waiting game as anything; waiting on tides and feeding periods to align so the show can begin. Many fishermen new to the sport have heard the stories about how fantastic the big trout fishing can be in the dead of winter but few of them actually know how to go about making it happen. For those of you wanting to get in on the cold weather action, here are a couple of things to consider.

If you are in the mood to do some fishing this month for perhaps that fish of a lifetime, you definitely need a double helping of patience. It is no secret that the lion’s share of big trout are caught by wade fishermen, this is a given in the big fish equation. The unknowns for most anglers are where to be fishing and when do they need to be there.

On Sabine Lake we have some areas that are especially conducive to holding big fish; they all have shell in common. Areas of the lake that have either clam or oyster shell are prime places to start the hunt for a big fish. Any decent concentration of shell will be a gathering place for baitfish and will also qualify as a good piece of game fish holding structure. Small patches of shell on or near shallow flats will not only hold bait, they will also hold warmth. Much like bass in the springtime, speckled trout will be more active in warmer and shallower water.

During the fall and winter months big trout become sluggish and less aggressive than normal due to cooler water temperatures…until it comes time to eat. Big trout will move up on shallow flats or shell reefs and seek out a “full meal deal” and then retreat into deeper water until it comes time to feed again. Fishermen who can pattern movements like these major feeding periods can really cash in on some extraordinary fishing. And, this is where patience plays a huge role in the program.

Wintertime fishing for big trout is a game of stamina, endurance and patience. By logging many unfulfilling hours, casting big topwaters or sub-surface mullet imitations, an angler can begin to interpret a pattern. For example, if you fish in the morning for a couple of days straight and have little or no success and then change to the afternoon where you enjoy terrific fishing, you have discovered a key element of a pattern. On good fishing days it is wise to check out all the conditions and try to duplicate them next time out. Tides, temps, and water conditions are extremely important factors to be considered, and these all play big roles in successful winter fishing.

One thing that I’ve found while looking back on some successful days was the presence of moving water, incoming or outgoing tides were always helpful in catching fish while slack water conditions made it tough. It seems that if you could find a day when the time between the tide changes was short that the fishing on average was better, especially when the tides were changing from outgoing to incoming. Put all these factors together with the presence of mullet or shad and you have yourself a great shot at some super fishing.

One huge word of caution to all anglers of all skill levels is to be extremely careful during your time on the water in the winter months because the cold water and air temperatures can make for dangerous situations. The threat of hypothermia is real and if you are not careful it can be life threatening. I have a very good friend who narrowly escaped such a fate when his boat swamped in high seas; he was lucky after being in the water for over an hour that another fisherman happened to see him and pulled him out. Had he been in the water much longer he would have been in serious trouble, quite possibly fatal.

The number one rule during any trip on the water is the use of a personal floatation device, don’t get in a boat without one. And, I also suggest wearing it.

Also, be sure you tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, this helps out considerably when the cavalry needs to be summoned for whatever reason. A little bit of preparation mixed with common sense will go a long way towards keeping you safe and getting you home.

In the coming weeks it will be imperative that you play the weather in order to improve your chances of having a quality day on the water. Pre-frontal conditions with a falling barometer is certainly the obvious choice for a successful day on the water and should be at the top of your list of when to go. The post-frontal warm up is also a great time to hit the water as fish become more active and begin to search for a meal. Concentrating on shallower flats and breaks near deep water is a tried and true method that produces on a consistent basis for both trout and redfish during the winter. Look for this pattern to hold up here on Sabine and Calcasieu as we head into the New Year.

I feel certain the redfish will be more predictable as the temps stay cool, but I am also always hopeful that the big trout will once again make an appearance. The overall health of the trout population is on the increase so I, like many other anglers, remain hopeful that we will start to see some better-quality fish on a more consistent basis.

Wintertime fishing is by no means easy or predictable, but the rewards are well worth the effort. This trend toward chasing trophy fish can be a tough and grueling exercise that has captivated many really good fishermen from all over the state. Any and all destinations along the Texas coast will have their share of hardcore anglers out there chasing after the big one this month and Sabine will be no different. Hopefully the big fish taken during this month will be respected enough to be released to fight another day, only time will tell. Until the weather and the months change the winter fishing program will be the best bet in town, try it out and see what the fuss is all about. I promise you this; if you are at the right spot when it all comes together you just may have one of those career days that helps you forget about the cold and makes a memory that will last a lifetime.