Mid-Coast Bays: January 2024

Mid-Coast Bays: January 2024
Marina Marshall got into a good trout bite with Bass Assassins’ Lit’l P&V.

Out with the old and in with the new! Ready or not, the New Year is at our door. It's hard for me to believe; not only is this the beginning of a new year but it also marks my twenty-second year of guiding full time here in the Port O’Connor/Seadrift area. Looking back, I have witnessed many changes in our middle coast fisheries. Closed flounder seasons, shutting down oystering in many bays due to commercial overharvest, and reduced bag limits of several species of game fish, to name some of the more noteworthy.

Now, if you want to point a finger, Mother Nature herself is by no means innocent in the decline of some of our popular game fish species. However, I would say that an equal, if not greater impact, on our fisheries has been greatly increased fishing pressure over the past fifteen years. Texas Parks and Wildlife has had to stay on their toes for sure, and while most of their regulatory measures have been effective, there are some that could still use some work. It has been reported that we could soon be seeing a reduction in the speckled trout bag limit from five to three fish per day. As a guide, I support this, as I believe a reduced limit could help our trout thrive and grow larger in the years to come.

There are other changes that are happening right now in the way we will be fishing, due to the onset of winter weather. The thick seagrass that typically grows in the back-lakes during the warmer months has thinned out considerably, making some areas much easier to fish. The cooler water temperatures have also made for some gin-clear water conditions. If the wind blows there will be plenty of off-colored water to choose from but it's the calm days between fronts that will have me searching for some murky water.

 If you have ever fished in or around very clear water, you soon realize that while it's pretty to look at it's not the best for fishing. While we all know some of the different types of structures that we like to fish around, sand pockets, guts on shorelines and oyster reefs, but are you aware that off-colored water surrounded by clear water is also considered good structure in wintertime? Fish will use murky water as camouflage during feeding, making it easier to ambush their next meal. Off-colored water is most often created by wind-driven water currents during winter, but remember that strong tidal currents will also create dirty water on calm days. Look for water draining from back-lakes or other areas along deeper ledges and shoreline guts.

With colder water temperatures, don’t be surprised if the fish seem reluctant to accept your offerings. Colder water temperatures slows their metabolism, causing them to feed with less aggression, and unwilling to expend as much energy to capture prey as in warmer months. If your favorite lure isn’t drawing strikes, try a slower sinking bait or one that suspends lower in the water column on colder days, such as the Paul Brown Corky Fat Boy or Soft-Dine made by MirrOlure. The Fat Boy can be adjusted by bending the tail slightly downward to help it hover lower in the water column. Likewise, bending the tail upward will help the bait to rise in the water column with only a slight upward twitch of the rod tip. Think of a pilot adjusting the ailerons of an airplane; that’s what bending the tail of a Corky does. These baits don’t take much effort on the fisherman’s part to make them appear like an injured baitfish.

Waterloo’s highly-sensitive HP Lite is a great rod for working these types of slow-sinking and suspending baits. Light twitches of the wrist during a slow and steady retrieve are all that is needed to make them appear lifelike.

Not to be confusing, but there will also be days when the slow-sinkers will not work as well as a fast-action twitchbait. On days when I cannot entice a good bite with slow presentations, I will opt for a lure that attracts reaction strikes. My go-to in this situation is Bass Assassin’s scented Lit’l P&V. Its erratic action on a light jighead has to be seen to be believed. I like the Salt and Pepper Silver Phantom with Chartreuse Tail and Chicken on a Chain in clearer water, and Plum with White Tail in darker water conditions.

I wish everyone a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous New Year. May all your fishing days be productive and remember to keep only the ones you will eat fresh and let the others swim for another day.