Window of opportunity, or just a peephole?

Window of opportunity, or just a peephole?
Waterloo’s new Phantom will debut at the Houston Fishing Show.

How many times have you had it happen to you? Grueling hours of fishing; changing baits, changing tactics, changing everything but your underwear; and then it finally happens. The fish finally decide to cooperate and all is right with the world again. The period of euphoria that follows, however long it lasts, wipes away all memory of boring hours spent probing acres of empty water.

It’s the opportunity we all seek but only a few find on a consistent basis. Those few fishermen who routinely find these brief periods of glorious rampage feeding activity, the kind average guys can only dream of, rapidly achieve legendary status in the fishing community. The “underground” of the fishing world buzzes with the stories of these fishermen. Exploits surrounding sessions when every cast was met with a bone-jarring strike circulate at the boat shows and each time the story is told the stringer always gets bigger. Every coastal angler dreams of fishing trips like these but most don’t understand what it takes to achieve these results.

If you ever get a chance to talk to the really good fishermen along the Texas coast you will find that most of them are very detail oriented and they keep some sort of records. The records consist of all the obvious things like tides, temps, weather, bottom structure, presence of bait, and other pertinent details. The records offer up valuable information that can help anglers find a consistent fish-catching pattern.

During the winter months, the type of feeding activity we’re talking about typically does not last very long. The factors and variables tend to align for brief period of time and that’s when memories are made. These small windows of opportunity are quite often the key to being successful during the tough stretches in January, February, and March. Many anglers fish all day in hopes of finding fish while others make shorter trips based on the patterns from past years and through careful study of weather patterns and other local conditions. Nine times out of ten, the guy with the most complete fishing logs and understanding of how to define and apply productive patterns will catch more and bigger fish.

On Sabine and Calcasieu, seasonal patterns tend to hold true year over year much the same as they do farther down the coast. Warmer water on incoming tides late in the day are a favorite of many. The combination of these factors can be extraordinary, especially when you know you can count on the bite being consistent. The afternoon incoming pattern works well and is probably the favorite but, what happens when you don’t have these conditions?

The outgoing tide can also deliver warm water onto productive flats, provided you have some marsh areas nearby. Water from the back lakes and marshes heats up during the day and is usually protected from wind, so it holds heat for longer periods of time. On the outgoing tide, this warmer water rushes out onto the flats and bars carrying with it bait fish and other food that speckled trout, redfish, and flounder thrive on. These sudden temperature changes coupled with tidal movement will often kickstart a feeding spree, and if you happen to be there when it happens you may well end up the subject of the next great fish story.

I have been on the fortunate end of career days using both the incoming and outgoing tides during the winter months and these trips help erase the thoughts of the bad days which we all inevitably suffer. All you can do as a fisherman is to put the most odds in your favor and put your time in on the water. As unpredictable as the winter can be it’s awful nice to know that there is the possibility of predicting when and where the fish will bite.

Looking at the month of March the first thing that comes to mind is run off from the lakes to the north and what kind of effect it will have on Sabine and Calcasieu. As it stands right now all the water levels on the inland lakes are several feet below full pool level, which means the potential for big runoff events from spring rains are low. The stable water levels and low runoff should allow for Sabine Lake to both clear up and get salty, which would be a welcome change. The flurry of speckled trout activity during December and January gave some hope to local anglers that Sabine may be ready to bounce back and begin recovering from a couple of devastating years. Hopefully the conditions will be favorable and it won’t take too long for Sabine to get back to something close to normal. 

March is a great month full of opportunities and promise; it ushers in the warmer months and really gets folks excited as they come out of the winter doldrums. One event that everyone will look forward to this month is the annual Houston Fishing Show held at the George R Brown Convention Center. All the latest gear, guides, and boats will be on display for everyone to see. I always look forward to this show as it’s the best gathering of fishing people and fishing stuff in Texas – bar none!

There will be all kinds of stuff on display and many new items worth looking at. One that I’m particularly looking forward to seeing is the new Phantom Series rods from Waterloo. These rods will feature new cosmetic touches, components, and actions sure to appeal to every fisherman. Jimmy Burns and his crew at Waterloo are always on top of the game and this year will certainly be no different. If you get a chance to get by the show you won’t regret it, it’s a great time for Texas anglers.

The coming weeks will be full of potential, some good and some bad. The opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime will certainly be there as will the chance to run into some nasty weather and conditions. Mentioning the month of March and not stressing the fact that the weather can turn on a dime would be foolish. Many folks will make their first trip of the year this month, so the potential for boat trouble is high, especially after sitting dormant through the winter. Have your boat checked before you head out and by all means keep that personal floatation device handy. It could make the difference between life and death in an ugly situation. Enjoy your time on the water and be safe.