Mid-Coast Bays: December 2022

Mid-Coast Bays: December 2022
Dusty Wendt landing a topwater red.

The temperature outside is hanging in the mid-80s, a world of difference from yesterday. We are in that time of the year when fall and winter fight over what season it is.

We recently had a large group of wade fishermen from Oklahoma that fished three days with us – thirteen anglers on three boats. The first two days called for south wind at 15 to 20 with higher gusts. A front was predicted to arrive around 0300 the final morning.

Well, the front arrived right on time with 50 mph wind. But by the time we met our group the wind had diminished to around 15 mph. We guessed it would build back up into the high-20s around mid-morning.

We headed to the same protected back lake we had been fishing, hoping the water would still be fishable, and that the schools of redfish we had been working would still be there. As it turned out the wind had gotten up so much that we couldn’t keep our Saltwater Assassins in the strike zone long enough or effectively enough to entice strikes, casting into the north wind. Okay, so the next dilemma was whether to leave an area that has been producing quality fish, or do you change the way you are fishing the area?

One of our boats opted to look for fish in other areas. Me, being stubborn, and knowing the areas where you might find quality water along with quality fish, were growing fewer by the minute.

I was picking up my waders and relocating them as the other boat departed. I positioned two guys with instruction to work slowly toward the south shoreline of the lake we were in. I placed the other two some distance away with the same instruction. I split the distance, positioning myself midway between them.  Parking my Shallow Sport X3 and getting out to wade, I noticed pelicans working a color change near the south shoreline. Money! I thought to myself. Within a few minutes two of the guys were doubled-up and I had hooked a solid trout. The action only got better as the wind continued to build.

My group ended up landing twenty-five slot reds, a half-dozen flounder, and four trout – all from an area the size of a living room. All on Magic Grass 4” Sea Shads. The boat that left struggled to find nine slot reds and a flounder.

Fishing back lakes of Matagorda Island during winter requires using all your senses. I tell my clients to treat it like hunting, even though you normally cannot see your quarry. I would say luck was definitely a factor on the day described, although if we hadn’t believed the fish would still be in the area we may have left with the other boat.    

When water temperatures dip low enough baitfish become harder to spot on the surface. I rely heavily on birds at these times – pelicans, terns, gulls, ospreys, even shorebirds along the banks. Birds can see subtle flashes and swirls beneath the surface that we cannot. Learn to trust them!

My wintertime lure selection varies somewhat. I will still have my tried and true Bass Assassins 4” Sea Shad and 5” Saltwater Shad handy, along with my MirrOdine XLs and original slow-sink Corkys. Colors vary from day to day with water conditions. If you want to get really technical, give Jimmy Burns at Waterloo Pro Shop a call. He stocks the full line of Custom Corky colors.

Another huge factor in wintertime fishing is rod selection. You’re probably thinking; here comes another rod lecture, but trust me, you cannot catch what you can’t feel.

Our Oklahoma guys are prime examples. When they started with us fourteen years ago they were hardcore bass anglers and brought all their best bass rods. Great tackle for that type of fishing – not so much for shallow water wade fishing. The actions were completely wrong for the Bass Assassins we were throwing and the way we were presenting them. One by one I introduced them to my Waterloo HP Lites and they loved them. Long story short, they all now show up with their own Waterloos ordered on-line.

Last thing I want to mention is braided line. You need it – period! Yes, there is a learning curve and braid definitely has some peculiarities. But I will tell you that I have caught fish using braid that I would have never caught using monofilament. Braid allows you to feel even the tiniest tick when a cold-water trout picks up your lure.

Fish hard, fish smart!