Mid-Coast Bays: February 2022

Mid-Coast Bays: February 2022
Gabe Caldwell put on quite a show during his first-ever wade fishing trip.

February is the one month of the year I would rather do anything than fish. I say this because the older I get the less I want to be the guy running around beating his chest and saying, “It wasn’t all that bad out there.” I’m well past that stage in my life. But don’t get me wrong, if the weather is mild I will be the first guy to the boat ramp. When Old Man Winter gives us a break there’s no place I’d rather be than the reefs in San Antonio and Mesquite bays.

Before setting up a wade on a reef you need to make sure there is bait present. During colder periods when the water temp falls into the low-50s or high-40s the bait will be subsurface. When this occurs, look for swirls, ripples, flashes, or any other kind of sign that there is bait present. Pelicans in the area or on the water are another good indication that bait is available.

Once you have established you have bait in the area you will need to wade the reef very slowly and concentrate on the drop-offs or any cuts through the reef with water running through. February trout can usually be found where the shell meets the mud.

Another very critical aspect to remember, and I always mention it when discussing reef fishing, you and your buddies need to plant your feet as soon as somebody gets a strike or has a fish on. If everyone holds back you should be able to stand in one spot and continue catching until the fish sense something is wrong and move off. If this happens, you should begin fanning your casts and moving slowly down the reef until you catch up with them or encounter another group of fish.

Should Old Man Winter show his ugly side you will find me targeting deeper areas until the sun warms the water on the flats. Areas we target often are the sloughs that feed the backwaters of Matagorda Island. They are not all especially deep but they provide enough of a thermocline that can attract plenty of redfish and trout on cold days, not to mention all the mullet from the surrounding area that congregate there for the same reason as the gamefish species. It’s not uncommon to foul hook mullet while fishing these deeper areas during drops in the temperatures, which confirms that you are in the right spot.

Another tip for this cold weather/cold water fishing, if you haven’t already done so, is to spool your reels with braid. When using braid you will feel everything your lure is doing down near the bottom and you will feel any little tap that a cold-water trout or redfish will make while sucking down your Bass Assassin or Corky. I prefer 30-pound braid because that’s what I’m used to. A lot of  fishermen go with 20-pound; it boils down to personal preference – they both work very well. The best braid I have used, and still use, is 30-pound Pitch Black by Fins. Jimmy at Waterloo Outfitters in Victoria spooled my reels with it and told me it wouldn’t fade like other braids. And guess what…it doesn’t fade.

The next tool we need to discuss is what lure you will be throwing. Anyone that has fished with me or discussed the topic with me is already aware that my favorite lure is the Bass Assassin 4” Sea Shad in whatever color matches the water conditions. I rig these on the 1/16-ounce Bass Assassin Screw-Lock Jighead. Some of you may be shaking your head wondering why such a light jighead if he’s targeting deeper water?

The answer is that by “deeper water” I am talking anywhere from four- to ten-foot depths. Using the lighter jighead allows the lure to sink slower through the water column, and “strike zone” if you will. So we are not talking about fishing the Victoria Barge Canal or the edges of the ICW. That’s something altogether different. As far as colors, I try to stick with just a couple. My go-to Purple Chicken and Magic Grass usually get the job done.

In closing, let’s all pray that we do not have another hard freeze like we had in February 2021. Our fishery has still not fully recovered from the hit we took last year and there is no telling what our fishery would be like with another setback such as that.

Fish hard, fish smart!