Mansfield Report: January 2023

Mansfield Report: January 2023
Preston Beck, also with a solid 25-incher, eighteen hours after the front arrived, not so balmy!

Greetings from Port Mansfield! First and foremost, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I’m anxious to see what 2023 has in store for us. I can honestly say I had one heck of a year in 2022; words alone cannot describe all the great people I met and the exciting things I was able to do. From fishing the Amazon to sight-casting snook here in the Laguna Madre with lures of my own design; it just doesn’t get much better. The best part is getting to do it all over again in the new year.  

I want to touch on a series of events that occurred in the latter part of 2022 and how analyzing weather patterns benefitted me and could also be of benefit to you. You will likely recall that we had one heck of a sustained cold front come in just before Thanksgiving. Water temperatures dropped from 83° to 49° over seven days and it remained cold and rainy for nearly two weeks. I fished that balmy day prior to the front and we had the time of our lives. My group landed more than a hundred fish, including some over-slot trout. At the time I thought these fish looked good, and they did, but it wasn’t until the next day that I noticed something I had not recognized (in an educational perspective) from years past.

The front roared in around 9:00pm on a Friday and the air and water temperatures plummeted. We also had rain and blustery north wind that barely fell below 30mph until 10:00am the next day. We waited until 1:00pm and decided to give it a try, even with 25mph wind and temperatures still falling.

As we arrived at our destination I noticed the water temperature had fallen to 62° from the previous day’s 83°. We could feel the chill on our legs despite the layering under our waders. It didn’t take long; no bites and no active bait; we decided to make a short move. Coming off plane I noticed a few active mullet and my water temperature gauge read 64°, only two degrees warmer but active bait on the surface gave us confidence.

Within minutes we began catching a few chunky, football-shaped trout. The bite was somewhat slow and light, but frequent enough to dial into a presentation that seemed reliable. We immediately noticed the sagging bellies of the fish we were catching – some even had mullet tails protruding from their throats – yet they were still taking our lures. My brain cells started firing up and I reflected on my prior article; the fish we were catching were in a frontal-induced gorging session, albeit probably toward the end.

The temperatures continued trickling lower and I had a trip booked three days later. The water temperature was 54° by that time and it took us almost eight hours to catch one nice trout. For the record, that bite felt like a single blade of turtle grass snagging the lure. The trout was pleasantly plump but nothing like the ones we had caught three days earlier; which got me to wondering how long a trout might go without eating after gorging as we had witnessed.

My guess is that it could depend how many days they might have lain inactive on bottom during the cold snap following the gorging session. Taking that into consideration I believe it could vary quite a bit. However, once that temperature starts to rise again, we all know they can become extremely aggressive in their feeding habits. Especially if all the right conditions fall into place – favorable amount of sun/warming, water level, lunar phase, presence of food, etc. This chain of events supports why so many anglers have such great days on warming trends during the winter months.

Sure, there are a lot of variables that can interfere and interrupt this theory, but there is also some relevancy to it. Most of us know this but, like me, sometimes it’s good to think it through and connect the dots as to the “why” factors of good fishing days. When I’m having an excellent day on the water I seldom look back a week or more to remind myself what occurred then that may have triggered an epic day. Just something to think about and hopefully learn from.

Until next time, stay safe out there and remember: Fresh is Better Than Frozen!