Reports & Forecasts: January 2012

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

January can be great for those who don't mind gearing up for the frigid temperatures. Redfish should be the easiest to target, since they can be found around the weirs as usual. On many days, Gulp! lures, or Lil’ Johns will work fine. If they don’t, fresh dead shrimp or cut bait will usually get plenty of action. Reds can also be scattered along the shorelines. Pay attention to the water level-- lower tides push them farther from the bank, while higher ones bring them closer. Trout, on the other hand, are tougher to locate and catch. After air temperatures dip into the twenties, fish will be found in very shallow water during the warmest parts of the days that follow. Warmer days ahead of fronts are normally the most productive. The afternoon bite is usually best. Slow presentations with big baits work best. Good lures include Paul Brown Lures, weightless original Norton sand eels and MirrOdine XLs. Locating mullet is the most important key to locating trout on the flats. Even the slightest sign of bait fish can indicate the presence of plenty of predators.

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

James is not known to make a big deal out of nothing when it comes to giving a fishing report; he says the trout bite lately is as good as he can remember since 1983. “We’re catching limits every day we have good enough weather to go, and the size of the fish is phenomenal. In a short span of days just after Thanksgiving, we caught nearly thirty fish that measured twenty five inches or more, including five over twenty seven. The biggest weighed a little over eight pounds. All the big ones we’re catching by wading, concentrating on soft bottoms, using slicks to locate the fish. The boat fishing is good too. One day, we caught forty trout on two drifts, and the next day, we pull up to one flock of birds and catch thirty seven trout, and not one fish was undersized. The best bite everywhere has been on pink and chartreuse lures, whether it’s a Catch 5 or a 51 MirrOlure. It’s salty, so the back parts of the bays have lots of fish, including the rivers and bayous, especially when the tide is high. On low tides, they move to open water.”

Jimmy West - Bolivar Guide Service - 409.996.3054
Hunting and fishing have been really good recently, Jim says. “I’ve been hunting more of the time, but when I’ve fished, it’s been incredible. We’ll be hunting doves and ducks around Christmas and beyond, and fishing when we can. With this drought, we have salty water all the way up into the bayous and marshes, and it seems to have concentrated the fish in the backs of the bays. Wading is the way to catch the bigger fish; it‘s possible to catch trout up to and above eight pounds if you have decent weather and tides for it. We will probably see some big ones caught in the right weather windows in January, meaning in the warmer, calmer periods between the fronts. Fishing out of the boat is good lately too, and the average size is good, but it’s hard to catch fish over about five pounds when drifting. You can catch the fish on a variety of lures, but the most important key is to find the fish. Figuring out where to fish means learning how the fish react to changing tide levels and water temperatures.”

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

Randall is still having excellent luck fishing around reefs in his area, catching both trout and redfish. “When the tide is high, almost covering the reefs completely, we are casting up onto the shell and catching all we want. It’s easy to figure out which reefs are holding the fish, because the predators force the mullet to school tightly on top of the shallowest part of the shell. We are catching some on topwaters like the pink Skitterwalk when the weather’s warm, but mostly we’re throwing red magic and glass minnow colored Norton Sand Eels. If the fish are up on the shell, we’re using eighth or quarter ounce heads. Of course, when the tide is lower and the water is colder, we’re targeting the same fish in deeper holes with softer bottom and scattered shell adjacent to the reefs. Then, we typically use a little heavier jigheads, mainly three eighths ounce. We’ll probably be fishing those deeper areas quite a bit in January, since it is normally the coldest month of the year, and we usually have a stubbornly low tide.”

Matagorda | Charlie Paradoski
Bay Guide Service -713.725.2401

With the ongoing lack of significant rainfall, the Colorado River is running green and salty, providing Matagorda-area anglers another option heading into the cold period. “We mostly like to fish East Bay this time of year, either drifting over scattered shell and mud, wading mid-bay reefs or wading shorelines. We catch a lot of redfish on the good days during the winter, especially when drifting; it’s not uncommon to catch them by the hundreds. We usually catch some pretty big trout drifting too, but wading is a better way to consistently pull some of the best sows out of East Bay. We throw a lot of soft plastics on really light jigheads this time of year, favoring colors like space guppy, limetreuse, purple/chartreuse and chicken on a chain. When the water is super clear overall, the best fishing is usually in the dirty streaks. As long as we have these high salinities, the water will probably stay clear like it has been. And the river will be productive too. It’s full of fish and is always a great option when it gets too windy for other areas.”

Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam - 979.240.8204

The fall trout frenzy is well under way. The fish have showed up over deep shell, under the birds, and out in front of area drains leading out of the marshes into the main bays. Root beer colored shrimp tails fished about a foot and a half under popping corks and slow sinking Catch 2000's in mullet and chartreuse have been the most productive lures. Flounder fishing has picked up as well. On almost every trip, we’ve picked up a couple, which is something we haven't seen in recent years. Slowly working Gulp!s in front of drains on falling tides have seemed to work the best. Redfish are still plentiful on mud flats in less than two foot of water. Small topwaters and quarter ounce gold spoons have been the ticket for catching them lately. The local rivers (Tres Palacios-Lavaca-Colorado) ought to be awesome in January, with lots of fish moving to the depths to escape the cold weather. It may sound like a broken record, but in the winter months, the ability to catch fish starts with the location of bait fish.

Port O’Connor | Lynn Smith - Back Bay Guide Service - 361.983.4434
Lynn expects to be focusing on soft, muddy bottoms as the temperatures go down with the arrival of the new year. “I like to fish scattered shell on a mud bottom this time of year. I normally prefer wading, staying on flats that are somewhat shallow, but also that have close access to deeper water. The deep water can be a main bay basin or something else, as long as it’s close by. We throw a lot of soft plastics this time of year, rigging them on light jigheads. I like Bass Assassins in red shad and morning glory. Of course, we also throw slow sinking twitch baits like Corkies on most days, and won’t hesitate to throw topwaters if the weather warms up enough and we see plenty of mullet jumping around. The potential for a good topwater bite in January usually occurs in the afternoons. I don’t get up and go early too often in a cold month like this. I’d rather sleep in, leave the dock around ten and try to take advantage of the warmer afternoon temperatures and fish until dark or a little later.”

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

All three of Blake’s major winter activities will still be in full swing in January. He’ll be fishing for trout and reds and hunting ducks and doves. “January is the tail end of the cast and blast season,” he says. “We’ve been having good luck hunting and fishing so far, and it should stay that way. The weather’s been kind of warm for the most part so far, but you never know what it might be like come January. If it stays warmer, I’ll be targeting main bay shorelines mostly in Aransas and Corpus bays, fishing in water around knee to crotch-deep, focusing on areas with soft grassy and muddy bottoms. I might also spend some time in the deeper holes in the bayous leading from the bays into the back lakes, particularly those closest to the open water. If the weather gets colder, I’ll generally fish a little deeper water. As always, I’ll be throwing my old trusty favorites, the pumpkinseed and purple/chartreuse Sand Eels and also topwaters on days when we see lots of bait activity on the surface and the fish are willing to rise to the bait.”

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

It was quiet on the water during December, and it will be even quieter during January, because so many deer hunters are out looking for Muy Grande. This will make things easier for those of us hunting for the elusive trophy speckled trout. By now, your waders should be in proper order, along with your ForEverLast Ray Guards. I’ll be doing a lot of wading in areas with a mixture of mud and gravel bottom. I have a lot of confidence in scented lures like Bass Assassin Die Dappers in colors like plum/chartreuse, pumpkinseed/chartreuse, morning glory/limetreuse and Berkley Gulp! four inch shrimp in colors like pearl and new penny, rigged on eighth ounce Assassin Screw Lock jigheads. The same plastic lures can also be very productive when rigged on quarter ounce heads and cast along the edges and drop offs of the bigger channels like the ICW. The lures should be retrieved slowly during this time frame, basically dragged along the bottom. After a few warm days, MirrOlure Catch 5s can become productive too.

Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez – - 361.937.5961
January is the classic time to fish the edges of the ICW and other channels in Corpus Christi area bays, Joe says. “By the time we get into 2012, the weather should be cold enough to concentrate most of the trout and redfish in the channels. I like to fish areas around the JFK Causeway this time of year, where there are many channels intersecting each other and crossing over the ICW. Often, areas around these intersections are more productive than long, unbroken stretches of the channel. It’s also possible to locate fish by watching bird activity over the main channels and on the shallow bars next to the channels. Given the cold water temperatures, it’s important to work the lures slowly and try to maintain contact with the bottom. If winds are light, it’s fairly easy to do so with lighter jigheads like eighth ounce, but as it gets windier and if currents are stronger, heavier jigheads will be necessary. Most of the fish caught in channels this time of year will bite within a short distance of the drop off, and close to the bottom.”

Padre Island National Seashore
Billy Sandifer - Padre Island Safaris - 361.937.8446

Oversized and slot redfish, Atlantic bluefish, whiting, pompano, black drum and sheepshead are all possible in the January surf as are sandbar, bull and blacktipped sharks. Live and cut mullet and whiting will be best for the reds and bluefish while fresh dead shrimp and “Fishbites” will produce whiting, pompano, black drum and sheepshead. Nighttime shark fishing seems best during winter and kayaked baits are more productive than cast baits although wise shark fishermen will always have one cast bait out. Scattered speckled trout are possible and while numbers are small the size tends to run large. Various 51M and 52M MirrOlures retrieved at snail’s pace produce best on the trout. January fronts tend to come from the northeast rather than from due north or northwest and care must be taken as this can really push the water high on the dunes and trap drivers in all the dead fish killed by the red tide and cause flat tires. Ensure that you have plenty Fix-a-Flat, tire plugs and a portable 12-volt air compressor available.

Port Mansfield | Terry Neal – 956.944.2559

Hope everyone had new waders on their Christmas list; these last couple of northers have put a pretty good chill on the water. A good layer of Under Armour is a must, followed by a good upper body layer of polyester, then your favorite fishing shirt. This will keep you warm and let you shed some of it and stay comfortable as it warms throughout the day. A waterproof parka as a top layer is also a good idea to break the wind and keep you dry while wading. The saying goes, "One day chicken, next day feathers." Wintertime in South Texas is a little different than the rest of the coast; for one thing the fishing is usually pretty consistent, but no matter what you hear, fish don't bite every day. And how do all those boogers decide not to bite at the same time? But when it’s good down here it’s really good. The other day every mature trout had at least one 8-10 inch mullet in it; so they do eat well in winter. Patience! Happy New Year!

Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel
Janie and Fred Petty – – 956.943.2747

In the end, 2011 is going to be one for the record books. We’ve continued to limit out on redfish for the last two months straight. Trout have been a little sketchier, depending on weather and the debris that is swirling downwind of the dredge pipes. Flounder were down in numbers at the end of October and the beginning of November, but are picking up again at the end of the year. The red tide is no longer an issue for folks on Padre Island and was never a problem in the bay. The Lower Laguna Madre is still not looking good as far as bay grasses are concerned…the west side especially is covered with a layer of silt that has stacked up in front of the Cullen House, and is easily stirred when there’s wind from any direction. Freddy says, “We’ll be able to get a better idea of what will happen with the turtle grass next spring, since it’s dormant during winter months. That’s when we’ll see if the silt is hurting normal growth.” Dredging is a necessary evil, but maybe we could have less impact from it if the dredged material were deposited differently.