Reports & Forecasts: January 2014

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

January is one of the best months to catch the trout of a lifetime. The problem is, the fish are cold, so sometimes bites are hard to come by. Don't get me wrong; we will have days when we catch forty or fifty fish, but a typical day fishing for big trout is eight to fifteen fish. We will fish shallow sand flats and oyster reefs on the north end of the lake. Turners Bay is THE spot. Mullet are key. When we are fishing in winter, we have a Corky tied on 85% of the time. MirrOdines, Redfins, Jointed Thundersticks, and Catch 2000's are great baits as well. If the water is crystal clear, natural/translucent colors work wonders. If it's stained, brighter/solid colors work great. The key to fishing in January is your rate of retrieve. If you think about it, the fish are just trying to survive the winter. They need to conserve energy as much as possible and maximize feeding opportunities which present themselves. Moving around really fast to catch your darting mullet doesn't do much for conserving energy. So, low and slow retrieves are deadly.

Trinity Bay - East Bay - Galveston Bay | James Plaag
Silver King Adventures | | 409.935.7242
James raved about the quality of the fishing both before and after the cold spell just prior to Thanksgiving. "We were on a typical fall pattern, finding plenty of keeper trout under birds in a variety of places. Trinity Bay was best; one day we hit a school of three to five pound trout with one over 28 inches mixed in. That's like the old days for bird fishing. Once the weather got cold, everything changed. Now, we are catching them well out in the middle over a muddy bottom when water temperatures drop. On the warm-up the fish move shallow, and we're catching them wading. Redfish have been easier than the trout, but the size of the trout is impressive. Had one about seven and a half pounds today. Best lures have been salty chicken Sea Shads when the water has a little color to it. MirrOlures are working better when the water is really clear. We are using classic colors like Texas chicken, pink/silver and chartreuse/gold, 52Ms when we're fishing from the boat, 51Ms when we're wading. A steady retrieve without any twitching is working best."

Jimmy West | Bolivar Guide Service | 409.996.3054
The fishing leading into the time of this report was in a predictable fall pattern, with easy limits of trout biting under birds, but Jim expects a big change after this recent cold snap. "We will be fishing mostly out of the boat come January, working bayous, drains and deep areas with a mix of mud and shell. And, we'll also be making some of those late afternoon wades. This time of year, the best bite of the day often happens right as it is getting dark, into the first couple of hours of the night. I like to take advantage of that, especially when we are going after the big trout. Speaking of big trout, there have been some caught during this cold weather in the far upper reaches of the bay, places like Burnets and Tabbs Bays. Those areas should be good during cold stretches this month. Of course, I'll be splitting time between the bays, marshes and fields. Duck and dove seasons are both off to a great start, and the shooting should remain steady throughout the month. When the weather's nasty, the hunting usually offers up better potential than the fishing."

West Galveston - Bastrop - Christmas - Chocolate Bays
Randall Groves | Groves Guide Service
979.849.7019 | 979.864.9323
Randall was driving home from the deer lease when we talked. He said the fishing had really turned on before he left to do a little hunting. "The bull tide finally went out and the water went back to basically normal in terms of salinity and color. With the cold weather, the pattern was predictable, and we had some easy fishing. Most of our bites were coming in five to ten feet of water, over a bottom with a mix of mud and shell. We were catching best on Norton Sand Eel Juniors in Salty Chicken. Some of the less-experienced anglers were doing better on Sand Shads. They seem to have enough built-action to work with minimal presentation skills. All that's required is a lift and drop. Three eighths ounce heads were working best. We also had a good topwater bite on pink Skitterwalks at times. I stocked up on those to take advantage of it! These patterns should hold through January. I expect good drift fishing on soft plastics when the weather is cold, and good topwater action while wading when it warms up."

Matagorda | Charlie Paradoski
Bay Guide Service | 713.725.2401
When we talked, Charlie was in the boat fishing deeper areas of East Matagorda Bay. "We're doing okay. Not catching a lot of fish, but we have caught a couple of twenty seven inch trout. If we were wading, we'd have the potential for a really incredible day. When the weather warms up this time of year, most of the big trout in East Bay move into the shallows. So wading is a better way to catch them. Out here, we use heavier jigheads and soft plastics, bumping the shells on the bottom and short-hopping them up, then letting them sink again. On the shorelines, when wading, it's often better to throw slow-sinking twitch baits like Paul Brown's Original Lures and Fat Boys, or even topwaters when the bait is active and the water is at its warmest. January is one of the best months of the year in which to catch a trophy trout in East Matagorda. Patience is required on some days, but we do have days where we catch plenty of trout and dozens of redfish too, including some really big trout. It will be good if the weather is reasonable."

Palacios | Capt. Aaron Wollam | 979.240.8204
Our recent cold snap has pushed our fish to deep water. We have responded to the conditions by making the main focus of our fishing in the Palacios Harbor where we are probing the deep holes for specks and reds by slow-rolling lures in fifteen to twenty feet of water. The best colors have been chicken on chain and pearl/chartreuse rigged on quarter ounce jigheads. Most of the time, the best bite in the deep water seems to occur on the drop. When we get some warmer temperatures, the fish will move back out on the flats, where we will go back to targeting them with Paul Brown's Original FatBoys and Catch 2000s. The shrimp are gone from the bays, and our focus will be strictly on mullet. I know it sounds like a broken record, but in the dead of the winter when you see mullet, stop and fish; the predators will be nearby. The Tres Palacios River, Caranchua River, Palacios Ship Channel and the spoils adjacent to it will be great spots to try in the upcoming month.

Port O'Connor | Lynn Smith | Back Bay Guide Service | 361.983.4434
January's typically cold weather normally causes Lynn to prefer fishing a familiar way. "We'll be targeting muddy flats adjacent to deep water most of the time. I like to throw at areas with a soft bottom, with some dark grass, some mud and some scattered shell. Normally, I'll wait until the middle of the morning to leave the dock, to allow the sun to get up and warm up the muddy shallows some. Once that happens, the bait is much easier to locate. Catching big trout in winter usually means wading areas close to deep water during the middle of the day and into the afternoon and making lots of casts around areas which are likely to be holding a few big fish. We'll wade most of the time, moving slowly and working our lures slowly, keeping watch for all signs that bait fish are present. Best lures for this type of fishing are Paul Brown's Original Lures and Fat Boys, in both sinking and floating versions, depending on the depth of water on the flats. Topwaters work well on the best days, when the fish are most active."

Rockport | Blake Muirhead
Gator Trout Guide Service | 361.790.5203 or 361.441.3894
Blake will be running as many cast and blast outings as he can in January, and hunting doves too. "This recent cold weather brought some great duck hunting. The winds and low temperatures had the birds really active. I look for great shooting to continue through the month. I'll be doing my typical mid-winter thing, hunting the dawn and early morning hours, then fishing my way into the day. We usually find good fishing for trout and redfish in the deeper parts of the back lakes, in holes in the bayous, around the mouths of the drains leading into the backwater areas, and around reefs and dark grass beds in shallow water over a mushy bottom. Most of the best catching will be done on some kind of soft plastic, either a Norton Sand Eel or a Gulp! of some sort. When the colder weather hits, we'll target the fish in deeper areas and use really slow presentations and light jigheads. When it warms up, we'll try twitch baits and topwaters some in the shallower areas. Some good topwater action does occur in the winter when it warms up."

Upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay - Land Cut
Robert Zapata | [email protected] | 361.563.1160
Boat traffic on the Upper Laguna Madre during January is light. The whitetail deer hunters are running out of time to take that elusive monster buck, but that's not the case for those who are looking for that monster sow speckled trout. The passage of cold fronts will take the water temperatures down and the trout will go down into deeper water, preferably to areas with muddy bottoms. I will be using soft plastics like Assassin Die Dappers in dark colors like morning glory/chartreuse tail on quarter ounce Spring Lock jigheads that will get to the bottom quickly and use a very slow retrieve. After a couple of sunny, warmer days, shallow water will begin to warm up and this will bring bait fish and the trout into the those areas. At this time, I will use a lighter jig head, sixteenth ounce, and use lighter colored Die Dappers like salt & pepper, silver phantom or chartreuse dog, using a medium speed retrieve. Look for shallow areas that have deep water nearby. Carolina-rigged live shrimp will work for reds and black drum along the edge of the ICW.

Corpus Christi | Joe Mendez | 361.937.5961
At the time of this report, the cold weather has the fish in the Laguna Madre huddled close around the intracoastal waterway, and the birds are working up and down the ditch. "Once we get cold weather like this, the fishing usually gets pretty predictable. There will be trout in the channels, pushing the shrimp and other bait fish to the surface and attracting the attention of the sea gulls. Even when the birds aren't working, it's possible to catch plenty of trout by keeping the boat over the deeper water and casting toward the edges and secondary ledges of the channels. Best lures for this drill are soft plastics. If winds are light and currents relatively slow, light jigheads work best, especially if the water is cold. When winds and current speeds ramp up, heavier jigheads will be required to maintain contact with the edges and dropoffs. When the weather heats up, especially on sunny afternoons, flats adjacent to the channels will hold plenty of redfish and some big trout. Sight-casting is then possible in the clear, cool waters."

Padre Island National Seashore
Billy Sandifer | Padre Island Safaris | 361.937.8446
Good catches in January are usually not a matter of location nearly as much as timing. Many days this month will bring conditions that are simply unfishable as high winds and heavy seas accompany the passage of cold fronts through the area. The days of moderate conditions in-between these fronts should be targeted as they afford anglers the opportunity for successful bottom fishing. Species available will be redfish, pompano, black drum, whiting and sheepshead. Fresh dead shrimp and Fishbites are the baits of choice although reds will also take gold spoons quite readily at this time. Sandbar, bull and blacktipped sharks are available at times and most success will be on baits kayaked some distance from the shore. Avoid periods of NE winds which will stack water high on the beach and avoid traveling during daily high tide. Avoiding breaking new trails; staying in the main track will keep a "good" road packed down for everyone to drive on. Make sure you have emergency supplies as the winter beach can be quite isolated and help a long time in coming.

Port Mansfield | Ruben Garza 832.385.1431
Getaway Adventures Lodge 956.944.4000
With fronts approaching more regularly and with greater strength, possibly giving us strong northerly winds and very cold temperatures lasting several days, finding the right time to go can be a challenge. Ideally, anglers would keep their schedules open and select only post-norther recovery days or, better yet, fishing during warming trends. But on days that you have no choice, you have to make the most of it. When the weatherman gives me a tough one, I tend to head north of Port and fish the oil field guts. There is less walking involved and more casting into one general area. Stick with 1/8 ounce jigs and Kelley Wigglers Ball Tail Shad. Don't forget about working bigger baits like a MirrOlure Corky Fat Boy. They often produce better fish, especially on these cold and nasty days when a lure has to hang in the strike zone longer to draw a strike. When fishing deeper guts or channels, I recommend a loud popping cork like Cajun Thunder with a soft plastic or Gulp Shrimp. Until next time, tight lines and calm seas.

Lower Laguna Madre - South Padre - Port Isabel
Janie and Fred Petty | | 956.943.2747
The fish have been feeding regularly on outgoing tides, especially the reds. We've had our most successful outings with the Cajun Thunder round corks, hitting potholes and popping just as hard as normal, but slowing down every other part of the retrieve. We're rigging the Norton quarter ounce jighead at about twenty four inches with a three inch Berkley Gulp! Shrimp in pearl white, new penny, and molting colors. Freddy says, "Always slow everything down in the winter when the water is cold; concentrate on the holes where the water is warmer, and set the hook by reeling and lifting at the same time, without jerking too hard. Changing a few things to accommodate chilled fish will increase the number of hook ups and result in more fish landed." We're still catching a couple of trout in the twenty six to twenty nine inch range, but not as many limits as when the water is calm and warmer. The latest norther really churned the LLM into a mess, but calmer winds will get things back to normal quickly. Stop open bay dredge disposal.