South Padre: February 2022

South Padre: February 2022

Kayla Rhodes with a nice winter specimen that couldn’t resist a KWiggler Ball Tail. CPR!

Well, the big show is about to begin! By now all big trout aficionados should have honed their skills, inspected their Simms waders and jackets carefully for tears and leaks, and hopefully also located a few spots holding giant specks. Last on the list is plenty of patience…trophy trout are famous for being incredibly stubborn.

February is our coldest month; northers become more frequent and pack a bigger punch. As a result, water temperatures plunge to their coldest levels, but the bigger trout tend to show up with these conditions. We can expect lower tides on average, and this helps concentrate fish in deeper pockets.

My formula for identifying the best fishing days is based entirely on the science of the lunar cycle and the tide chart. Referencing these I see more good days than bad days this month. Of course weather is always a big factor, but nobody can predict what it will be weeks in advance. We can only add it to the equation as it develops.  

I mentioned cold fronts and I want to expand on the topic a bit as frontal approach and passage can have great impact on fishing success. The pre-frontal bite can be phenomenal, but what happens after the front? In my experience, a ridge of high atmospheric pressure settles in and can have a strongly negative impact on the bite for two to three days. As the barometer begins to decline to average pressures the fish will resume normal feeding patterns. This usually coincides with light breezes or mild wind from a southerly direction.

I highly suggest studying the daily solunar feeding periods to increase your chances to land that trophy. Be willing to put in the time, fish patiently, and be ready to work low and slow when the water temp has dropped suddenly. Oh, and lest I forget, be observant of the birds. Terns, gulls, ospreys, and pelicans; including the water depth where they are feeding.

Trophy trout season has grown increasingly popular over the past decade; I see it now as similar to the way deer hunters increase their efforts during the whitetail rut, and for good reason. Larger trout become more predictable in their habits and we frequently find them more numerous in some areas. Just remember that the colder temperatures can reduce their metabolism and they might not eat every day. Warming trends between fronts will likely be your best bet. Mullet is their primary wintertime food source, but locating mullet isn’t always in winter. Quite often the birds mentioned earlier will point the way.

Currently, my outlook on our trout fishery is considerably better than I expected. Catching a limit of trout is possible, but what we are not seeing this winter are the schools of big trout like we have seen in the past. There are big trout to be caught, but nothing like it once was. It will take some time, but if we can do our part in conserving this species they will come back much sooner and make our trout fishery world-class like it once was. I therefore remind everybody to consider practicing catch and release as much as possible. A few for a fresh meal once in a while…but do you really need a limit every trip?

Targeting trout this winter will have us throwing 1/8-ounce jigs in shallow water and 1/4-ounce when working bottom on high-pressure days and during colder periods. The new KWiggler Wig-A-Lo will be a great bait for shallow water (knee- to shin-deep) and probing potholes. And, you can bet my old go-to KWiggler Ball Tail in plum/chartreuse will be on the end of my line in deeper water. The slow-sinking Paul Brown Fat Boys will also see action when a slower presentation is appropriate on colder days.

Redfish action has slowed considerably during recent weeks. There is no shortage of smaller reds but we are definitely working harder for the larger slot specimens. We are catching very few on the sandy eastside flats; the best areas are now the softer bottoms along the ICW spoils as the back lakes are generally too shallow since the tides have dropped. The new Wig-A-Lo and the trusty Ball Tail Shads have been our go-to redfish lures.

Keep in mind February is the coldest of the year and weather can change quickly. Study the forecast carefully and often, and dress appropriately in layers. Remember to work your baits low and slow on the colder days, be patient when all the signs are favorable, and always be observant. Best of luck in your search for trophy trout.