Downright Dirty Confidence

Downright Dirty Confidence
Brett Nedry's patience and experience provided success in very dirty water as well as 25 mph sustained winds.
Didn't when I was younger but I now believe it is true what they say about time flying by faster as we age. Seems just yesterday I was packing up for my two month winter stint in Port Mansfield and just today I have washed and dried my Simms waders and wading jacket and put them in the closet for the next five or six months. Spring is just about gone and the hot days of summer are closer each day by a few degrees. Already experienced some 90 days and rain is still needed in a big way. We had a long-awaited couple inches last weekend in some places locally but it soaked in almost overnight drop in the bucket to what we really need. With summer approaching I fear our next good chance will likely be something tropical in nature. I'm sure everybody is praying for relief from this drought that has been categorized severe or nearly so for the last five years.

I am concentrating more and more on wind-driven or wind-created possibilities as well as water changes that occur and develop OVER the preferred structure one is fishing for that given day and area. It seems very curious to me now that I am aware of the tremendous opportunities that DIRTY water provides.

First I want to make it clear; no pun intended, that it has taken many years of observation to gain the confidence that I have in fishing water with almost zero visibility. On many occasions I make a point to search out areas along the shorelines that I fish that hold water that is noticeably more off-color than all the remaining water around it. I make it a point to tell my clients to watch how many boats run past the dirty stuff to fish in the clear stuff. Just about all of them do this in our area along the coast. I think anglers that have experience in the dirty stuff are definitely attracted to the Cozumel looking water that we have so much of the time. Course grained sand and an abundance of sea grass results in water much too clear many times.

This is not to say that there are not instances when we catch fish in the clear stuff. It's just easier day in day out to generate a bite in dirty water. Fish are more aggressive and the strike zone is decreased due to the lack of clarity. This is especially true in shallow water areas. For the record, dirty water that covers shallow preferred structure is where it is at as long as a food source is residing in or around the dirty water as well. Simple thinking here, which I am good at, says that the bait fish think the game fish can't see them and the game fish think the bait fish can't see them. The two are swimming in there together and nothing positive ever comes of this situation for the bait fish I promise.

Predators need cover in order to hunt successfully. Take the tall grass and mottes of trees off the Serengeti and the lions starve. Water too clear allows the prey to see the foe as it approaches. The man upstairs provided bait fish with forked tails for speed and the predators with broad tails for power and maneuverability. In clear water the food sources see the predators coming long before a kill can be made. I think this can even be true when good bottom structures are in place forming ambush points for the game fish.

In deeper water the dirty stuff becomes harder for me to fish. I am accustomed to the shallow water dancing so my timing is off a bit when I have to start trying to catch fishing in water depths much more than four feet. We simply have to allow the lure to get down into the zone where the fish are holding and feeding. A heavier jig head is recommended when fishing with Bass Assassins or any other soft plastic baits. I am a 1/16 to 1/8 ounce believer and one probably needs a minimum of 1/4 ounce in the deeper stuff. Long time pro and friend Blaine Friermood jokingly says I don't even own a jig head of the right weight to fish his home waters of Trinity Bay.

One of the biggest problems with fishing dirty water is something I go back to in most everything I write or try to teach, and this is confidence. When all the ingredients for success are present then one has to simply believe that the fish are there and that you can catch them. For sure this only comes with time spent on the water in every imaginable condition one might think of. Most all experienced anglers you ask, whether salt or fresh water, would agree that there is no substitute for experience.

Another problem many have with working dirty water, this is especially true and observed by me daily, is fishing the area too fast. Fast mostly applies to the speed in which one moves through a designated fishing zone, not the speed in which you work the lure. When the water is dirty it is even more important that anglers maintain a higher degree of diligence with casting, lure presentation and repeated casts to areas of known structure. In dirty water it is highly possible that casting to structures holding fish could be slightly off target and no strikes received from possibly numerous fish that might be holding there. Repeated casts to likely looking and feeling areas are of extreme importance in my book. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in shallow dirty water when a viable food source is present. I often leave and return to areas of dirty water as the Solunar tables go from minor to major feeding periods. I personally find that feeding activity is heightened more in dirty water than clear during the majors and minors of the day. The Solunar insert in this magazine should always be consulted while planning your day.

So the next time you run along San Jose Island and observe an area of off-colored to downright dirty water, take the time to slowly idle and see what is happening. If there are mullet jumping, pelicans diving, slicks popping or a gunmetal grey and black Haynie High Output are anywhere around, you might want to stop and make a wade.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins