Mid-Coast Bays: January 2023

Mid-Coast Bays: January 2023
The six-week pause on flounder harvest ended December 15th.

In general, I would say December fishing in the POC/Seadrift region was about as good as it gets. Granted, we had to deal with some cold fronts that brought enough rain to fill ditches and flood pastures, but these are minor inconveniences compared with the “shot in the arm” timely rainfall and runoff contribute to the health of our estuaries. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts, though. December’s cold fronts were just a precursor of what will be happening in the month of January.

Finger-numbing cold and blustery winds will keep most fair weather anglers off the water in January. But for any suffering cabin fever or stressed from a busy holiday season, getting out on the bay can be just what the doctor ordered, no matter what the weather might be.

Colder water temperatures during winter brings many seasonal changes to the ecosystem. Even the tiniest of microorganisms that inhabit our normally warmer waters are greatly diminished, often creating exceptional water clarity. And while high winds from cold fronts can sometimes make even deeper water somewhat off-colored, our protected back lakes will remain relatively clear except during the windiest of days. While I have to admit I am enamored of gin-clear water, it brings its own set of challenges. One of which is selecting lure colors that will draw strikes.

Fishermen are captivated by the vast array of lure colors, but less can definitely be more this time of year. Most of the forage species that gamefish thrive on actually have little natural coloration, a feature that allows them to blend into their surroundings and avoid predation. As an example; juvenile shrimp are almost completely translucent. So, to be successful when fishing winter-clear water, I believe anglers should avoid the bright colors, opting instead for more natural shades. The Bass Assassin 3.5-inch Die Dapper in Crystal Shad and Houdini are two that I find very effective. The Die Dapper is also impregnated with BANG fish attractant making them harder for fish to resist.

When fishing in colder weather it is imperative to SLOW DOWN. Work the area you are fishing slowly and carefully. Make multiple long casts in a fan pattern and retrieve your offering slowly, allowing your bait to touch bottom occasionally. Fish are coldblooded and can become rather sluggish when the water temperatures drop. Getting it right in their face is often necessary to draw a strike…which is the main reason I recommend the low and slow, fancast presentation.  

I am not going to get into the argument of mono versus braided fishing line because I honestly believe they each have their place in various situations. However, I will say that winter is probably the season when the no-stretch aspect of braid offers a distinct advantage. Trout, especially, are known to make very short, subtle strikes in cold conditions. So, as much as I love my mono in warmer seasons, braid offers this advantage during winter.        

Locations I will be fishing will be dependent on the wind. No surprise that San Antonio Bay reefs will be go-to spots on calm days. Lately the reefs have been producing good numbers of trout, mostly of decent size, but I have to admit it is not uncommon to hit reefs where we find only undersized trout, and lots of them. When you come across this scenario it is best to leave these small guys alone and move to a different reef if your goal for the day is a few slot-sized keepers. These smaller trout are eager to eat and tend to inhale your offerings, making it difficult to remove the hook without injuring them.

I expect to see good numbers of redfish continuing to hold in back lakes throughout the month. All of these lakes are relatively shallow but the majority can be navigated safely with shallow running boats during average tide conditions. However – when a strong norther blows through – the tide can drop dramatically and extreme caution is advised. If ever in doubt, it is highly advisable to take a deeper, safer route.

I want to wish all of you a healthy and prosperous new year. I believe we can all agree that the last few years have been trying to say the least. I think a good rule to follow is to treat people you encounter at the dock and on the water the way you would want to be treated. Let’s all set a goal to make at least one person feel good daily.

Happy New Year!