Happy New Year! Hard to believe another year has passed, but here we are in 2022 and I am happy to report that fishing has been improving steadily. Fall tides rose as they normally do but not to the levels experienced last year. They did rise enough to position a good number of fish in back lake areas and we took advantage. January is noted for the lowest tides of the year and I welcome this as it definitely helps concentrate fish in deeper areas.
Water temperatures will continue to drop, making the fish a bit sluggish during the cooler periods. When this happens it becomes common to see mud boils left behind as fish scoot away when startled. These are signs that tell me fish are staging idly and not actively feeding. A slow lure retrieve always works best in drawing less than aggressive strikes. Something to keep in mind through the winter.
I mention this every winter and it's worth mentioning again. When signs of bait are hard to detect and gamefish are hard to locate – key on the birds! Pay particular attention to the depth where they are feeding. Birds that are diving indicate there is bait below the surface.
I have found four bird species provide the most valuable clues: osprey, brown pelicans, seagulls, and cormorants (AKA water turkeys). Each has their own way of showing me where bait might be located and a good chance that gamefish will be nearby.
Currently, our water temperatures have been hovering in the 70s but that will change soon as cold fronts become more severe and more frequent. Redfish have been staging fairly shallow in these warmer temperatures. However, as the water temps decline with frontal passages we should see them transitioning weekly, and sometimes even daily, from the shallows toward deeper water and back again.
This time of year, you can find redfish hanging on flats and spoils along the edges of the ICW. They will also roam into grass flats littered with potholes and, sometimes during prolonged warm spells, travel to the sand flats on the Eastside. Mullet will be their primary forage and they usually feed aggressively after a front.
The best news this month is that trout fishing has improved quite significantly over the past several weeks. We are now seeing them frequenting the flats; something we haven’t seen in quite some time. In fact, on numerous trips lately, our day’s catch was entirely trout, and not just a handful. Some of which have been of fairly respectable size, which is another thing we haven’t seen in a while. Most surprising to me is that we are finding them in as little as a foot of water.
If it’s lots of trout bites you’re looking for, I recommend any area near the ICW with grass and lots of potholes. The best thing about fishing potholes would be the fact that we find trout of all sizes, some of which can be pretty respectable. ICW spoil banks have also been holding decent numbers of trout but, unlike the potholes that seem to have similar potential, you need to pick the spoil with the most bait activity.
Overall, from what we are experiencing right now, our winter trout fishing is holding greater promise than I would have predicted months ago. And while I can honestly say January is not the best month for trophy trout in my area, it is the start of what I would describe as the winter trophy season.
KWigglers Willow Tail Shad and their brand new Wig-A-Lo, just now arriving in tackle shops across the state, will indeed be top performers to entice trout this winter. We will also be using MirrOlure’s Paul Brown Corkys and the Barboleta Lele when the conditions call for suspending twitchbaits.
Getting an early start will not be as critical in January; waiting for the sun to get above the horizon and begin warming the air and water is a smart move. Keeping tabs on the weather forecast this month will often play a greater role in predicting the precise time when fish will feed most aggressively. And although tidal flows are weaker, the currents also help define the best times to fish.
I mentioned at the beginning that our trout numbers are looking better but in reality they are still far from what they used to be. Therefore, I would encourage that if you are keeping trout, keep only a few for dinner and release the rest. Being passionate about our favorite pastime does not require bringing a limit to the dock every time you can.