Reports & Forecasts: February 2018

Lake Calcasieu Louisiana
Jeff and Mary Poe - Big Lake Guide Service - 337.598.3268

February can be intimidating. Cold water and often brutal air temperatures keep most fishermen at home. It's not exactly the month most folks think of for catching trout and redfish, but fishing can be phenomenal. We spend most of our time on shallower reefs in one to five feet of water when we're looking for trout. Big trout seem to acclimate to scattered oysters and soft mucky bottoms when water temperatures plummet. On the coldest days, with water temps in the forties, it may be best to abort the trout mission and move over to targeting redfish. Often, the same reefs that produce trout on slightly warmer days will hold a lot of redfish on the colder ones. The most obvious choices of locations for catching redfish in February are the weirs. Gulp! Swimming Mullet on quarter-ounce jigheads are usually all that's needed to entice plenty of bites, but dead shrimp works wonders on the coldest days. Boat traffic can be heavy on weekends, so the banks adjacent to the weirs often produce better on those days.

Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag
Silver King Adventures - - 409.935.7242

Cold weather results in good catching, Jim reports. “One day we had fish jumpin' out of the water in two foot depths, with water temps down around 50. We also had fish in twelve feet of water at the same time. We've been catching well lately on slow-sinking MirrOlure twitch baits, in colors with some pink on 'em, meaning pink/gold, chartreuse/pink and also on chartreuse/gold. We've caught quite a few fish in the five-pound class lately, not many bigger ones, though I did see a picture of a thirty-one incher caught on a topwater. We will focus more on wading in February; the fish will probably move shallow and stay there. One thing I like to do this time of year, when the fish are shallow, is throw a Bass Assassin Lil' Boss. I normally rig it on a light jighead, with the specific size depending on the depth of the water. Once the guys figure out what speed to reel it in to keep it off the bottom, the fish usually start yankin' their arms off. It's so easy to use, because it works great when reeled straight in at a steady speed.”

Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054

The best places to find fish in February will depend on the kind of weather we have, according to Jim. “If the weather stays cold most of the time, our fish will probably stay right where they are until sometime early in March. We're catching plenty in deep holes in the bayous and back country. When fishing this pattern, we catch most of our fish on soft plastics. The size of the jighead we use affects how many fish we catch. In general, I like to use the lightest jighead possible, given the amount of current we have. Most often, this means using an eighth-ounce head. If the current is really ripping with strength, using a heavier head can be required to keep the lure close enough to the bottom and in the line of sight of the fish. Seems to me some people insist on using a quarter-ounce head too much of the time. Maybe because it's easier to cast, but doing so causes problems and is less effective most of the time. The other drill that should start to work more often this month is wading the shallows from late-afternoon until it gets dark.”

West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays
Randall Groves - Groves Guide Service
979.849.7019 - 979.864.9323

Randall says the fishing in his area has been very productive on most days recently. “We're fishing out of the boat most of the time, targeting our fish in four to seven feet of water, over a muddy bottom with shell scattered around on it. Best lure lately has been a Norton Bull Minnow in chicken on a chain rigged on a three-eighths ounce screw-lock jighead. On the warmer days, when we're wading, we've been catching better on sinking Paul Brown FatBoys, using the emerald/silver ones when the sun is out and the pearl/black ones on the cloudy days. We're keying on the presence of bait fish when choosing our wading locations. Doesn't take much bait sign this time of year to give me confidence in trying an area. In February, the wading should become more productive on a consistent basis. We'll want to see more and more bait in the area as temperatures warm up. And, if we see plenty of mullet jumping and moving around just under the surface, we'll use topwaters more often to target the bigger trout.”

Matagorda | Tommy Countz
Bay Guide Service | 979.863.7553 cell 281.450.4037

As is always the case, Tommy mentions multiple options for fishing the Matagorda area in February. “One of our key places this time of year, depending on the weather, is the Colorado River. If it's kinda cold, we like to throw the Hogie double-tailed Minnows in light colors on a three-eighths ounce jighead in stretches of the river close to the ICW, working them close to the main shelf, letting 'em flutter down and stay close to the bottom. Working slow and being patient are keys. Of course, wading the south shoreline drains in East Bay with Paul Brown Lures can produce lifetime-best trout for anglers who work hard to get the bites. Another good pattern to fish while wading in East Bay is to work the main drop-off from the shoreline flats into the main basin of the bay. This works best when tides are medium low. Lower tides also facilitate fishing for redfish in the shoreline guts and drains over in West Bay. Dark soft plastics on light jigheads work well over there in most cases. Small topwaters work too, when the weather's warmer.”

Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam | 979.240.8204

We are definitely in winter fishing mode in our area; the fish have fallen into deep bayous and rivers. We have been bouncing Down South Shad in chicken of the sea, and dirty tequila and catching plenty. The key is to find the ledges of the drops and try and work parallel to the bank. The Palacios Seawall and the Palacios Turning Basins have also been hot spots. The seawall bite has been best on slow-sinking lures like Paul Brown Lures and Maniac Mullets in pearl/chartreuse and pink. The turning basins have held some solid fish in the deep holes on super cold days. Down South lures in white ice work best bait in this locale. February will still see us fishing in deep holes and rivers. Finding bait on mud flats close by as the water warms up a few degrees can make a huge difference in catching or not catching this time of year. Just one flicking mullet or shad this time of year can signal some fish in the area. Slowing everything down and working your lure at a snail's pace this time of the year can improve your catch rate.

Port O'Connor | Lynn Smith
Back Bay Guide Service | 361.983.4434

Fishing has been as good as ever in the Port O'Connor area over the last few months, Lynn reports. “We're going to be fishing in the back lakes, wading a lot, throwing lures like the SoftDines and Paul Brown Lures, targeting the bigger trout. We've been catching more big trout than normal this past year or so, and the catching should continue good in February. We like the back lakes best when the tide is up. The fish tend to follow the rising waters into the back areas. Normally, in February, this means we'll catch them best when onshore winds blow the tides up to at least a medium level, if not higher. When that happens, it becomes a search for concentrations of bait fish, mostly mullet. When we find lots of jumping mullet in the backwater areas from late-morning through the afternoon this time of year, we often find some of the biggest trout in the area as well. We will throw dark soft plastics if the bite is tough, but we stick with lures that look like fish more often, meaning the sinking twitch baits and topwaters that look like finger mullet.”

Rockport | Blake Muirhead
Gator Trout Guide Service | 361.790.5203 or 361.441.3894

With cast and blast season winding down and stopping, Blake will spend more time targeting trout and redfish exclusively, when he's out on the water. “I'll still fish the back lakes some, where I've been catching reds over the previous months after duck hunting. February is a good time for that. We tend to find them in the shallow parts of the lakes when it's warm and the tide is high, and in the holes and guts when the tide falls out. For trout, I like to fish some of the same areas, but often do better on the main bay shorelines, targeting area with lots of grass beds close to the bank. We also do well fishing some of the shallow reefs tight to the shore this time of year too. For lures, we throw topwaters when the water's warm and we see lots of bait jumping, but won't hesitate to switch to the old standby soft plastics in dark colors with chartreuse tails rigged on light jigheads if the blow-ups become less frequent. The pearl/chartreuse Gulp! Jerk Shad will catch 'em sometimes when the other lures won't.”

Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut
Robert Zapata | [email protected] | 361.563.1160

February is a great month to hunt for those trophy trout. Our water in the Upper Laguna Madre is still in very good shape. With cold water temperatures the fish will go into water depths of five to seven feet with muddy bottoms. On sunny days, the fish will move into water depths of four feet or less and then shallower as the day progresses, especially if we get two or more warm sunny days in a row. Look for concentrations of bait like mullet or shad flipping or swirling on the surface. I think that wading will yield the greatest success. With the colder water temperatures this month, we will need to work our lures very slowly, close to the bottom. I’m still liking the Bass Assassin Die Dappers in colors like plum/chartreuse, chicken on a chain and sand trout rigged on an eighth-ounce jighead attached to about 24 inches of 20 lb. fluorocarbon. This tactic will also work very nicely on redfish. Sight-casting on sunny days, in less than twelve inches of water, with chartreuse, shrimp-flavored Fish Bites will produce trout, redfish and black drum.

Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez | | 361.937.5961
February presents great opportunities for fishing in the ULM and Baffin Bay areas, Joe says. “Our water is clear all over right now. When it's cold like it has been, sight-casting is mostly possible only on warm afternoons. In many years, though, the fish move shallow and stay there more of the time after the middle of February, particularly if the weather is warmer than normal. So, we might have ample opportunity for sight-casting both trout and redfish on a regular basis this month in places along the King Ranch Shoreline, at Rocky Slough, and in the Badlands. If it's colder, the fish will move up and down in the water column more, so we'll have to target them without sight-casting, throwing at deeper rock edges, grass lines and in potholes where it's not possible to see the bottom. We catch a lot of fish on soft plastics rigged on light jigheads this time of year, and also on slow-sinking twitch baits. Topwaters work well at times too, when the weather is really warm, and the wind is blowing some.”

P.I.N.S. Fishing Forecast | Eric Ozolins

Coldest winter weather we’ve seen in quite a few years sent surf water temps on the Upper Texas Coast plummeting to the mid-40s. Many surf species move quickly to deeper water offshore when it gets this cold. Timing your surf trips to occur during warming periods between fronts will provide best opportunity for both red and black drum. If the hardheads and whiting will leave your baits alone, the drum will eventually find them. Slot redfish should be plentiful with a few oversized also present. Best baits for reds will be live or freshly-cut mullet. Pompano should return to the surf if the water warms back into the 60s and clarity returns to normal. Shrimp and Fishbites combos are usually a winner for these tasty fish. Sharks will also be scarce until the water temps warm back up to the 60s. Sandbar sharks should show first, feeding on smaller bait, especially whiting. February is famous for fog blanketing the beaches. Beach drivers should slow down and exercise caution. Camps should be set as far away as possible from driving lanes.

Port Mansfield | Ruben Garza | 832.385.1431
Getaway Adventures Lodge | 956.944.4000

Winter’s challenges include low tides and widely varying temperatures. Navigation becomes very tricky and feeding-holding patterns change quickly. One or two mullet flipping might be the only signal you receive, or maybe a few gulls or pelicans loafing on a deeper gut – the birds are there for a reason. On cooler mornings, I typically target deeper water along the East Cut drop-off, ICW, or various spoil banks. Fast-sinking 52 MR MirrOlures work great for this, as are quarter-ounce heads on K-Wigglers plastics. The bite will often be a slight tap or the line slowly tightening as your work the lure. As the day begins to warm, I move to shallower depths on the west shoreline – switching to lighter jigs, Paul Brown Lures and MirrOdines, methodically targeting grassbeds and sandy potholes. Later, we slip over to the eastside sand flats and find trout and reds basking in the shallow water. Redfish will gobble smaller weedless spoons. Checking the marine weather forecast often to avoid surprises is strongly advised for safety this time of year.

Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel

Janie and Fred Petty | | 956.943.2747
The tides In the Lower Laguna Madre are as low as they’ll get at any time during the year, one of the reasons we run Shallow Sports. At the time of this writing, several prime winter fishing spots are closed because of near freezing temperatures. These conditions will stack up fish, trout especially, into deeper staging areas. Freddy says, “Back in the day, we used to call it freeze fishing. You could catch a twenty seven inch or larger speck on just about every cast, and often there were schools of reds mixed in. In other words, it was a slaughter. Nowadays, there are no where near as many fish to be found and many more boats out there.” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has done an admirable job maintaining the fishery by managing the freeze fishing. Hats off to these guys and their dedication to preserving our resources. We’re throwing FP3 with Berkley Gulp! shrimp or DOAs for trout and chunking cut ballyhoo at redfish, keeping everything is in slow motion when the weather is at its coldest. No more open bay dredge disposal!