Hard Work and Luck Run Hand-in-Hand!

Hard Work and Luck Run Hand-in-Hand!
Cold, damp overcast days in January and February can yield some of an area’s best.

I am settled in at the Lone Star Lodge in Port Mansfield, my home away from home for January and February. I enjoy this sleepy little fishing town, nothing to do but fish is a good thing, right? I enjoyed a very good year in 2012 fishing my home water around Rockport. We caught more trout than in recent years and enjoyed some special days during early spring and late fall.

Spring is always windy in Rockport. Water here holds up extremely well, thus the numbers of guides and fishermen. Our barrier islands provide more protection from SE winds than other areas on the Texas Coast. Add an abundance of sea grass and you have terrific water clarity, too clear sometimes.

During the summer dog days I ran some half day charters to beat the heat and we did very well. I feel one of the main reasons was that the limited time available led me to run less and fish areas more thoroughly. They say, If you build it they will come. I think that we can also say, If you lead they will follow. I have always boasted about how good most of my clients are, still true today even in this instant gratification world. I think we have almost perfected the man-made moving water pattern here in Rockport. In July, August and September I would actually plan my morning around the barge traffic in the ICW. Amazes me how it works and I think my clients get a kick out of the anticipation as a barge approaches and water starts to move. You can be catching smaller trout and IF there are larger ones with them, you'll get shots at them during the time the water is moving. This is always a good pattern to have in your game plan on days with little to know tidal movement or no wind-driven currents.

Our fall season had days that echoed of old with solid trout and a mix of redfish up shallow in the cooling water eager to eat. It impresses me how fast they can show and then go. Once I have seen them I am confident they are still close by even when visuals become scarce. Confidence, confidence, confidence, you gotta have it or your done in this game.

Winter arrived later than normal and we still had many days when the air temperatures reached into the 80s. Now this is just me talking here but I have said many times over my career that during the winter months as it warms day by day the trout along our shorelines decrease in size. Cold concentrates bait and the larger fish take advantage of these concentrations. Fast warming shallows after prolonged periods of cold are great for a few days. If the warming trend continues as it did many times this year Ill see a decrease in size. Trout and reds alike acclimate to cold and once this is achieved they can be extremely aggressive and caught with many different types of lures given you're in the right place during the feeding periods. Overall the late-fall/early-winter of 2012 was a little above average for me in Rockport.

So how will the continuing drought affect our prime trophy trout season? Since I am not a biologist my thoughts are just a guess, prediction lets say. Higher salinity levels to the south, even though normally a hyper-saline system, could stress game fish and promote undesirable algae growth due to a lack of micro-organisms in the water which feed on them. I have come to discover that there is a very small zone where water conditions are perfect. Its always too much or not enough rain and large runoff events cause something to bloom. Feels like the bays are missing some vital piece of the puzzle that keeps things in balance. In the end it wont matter all that much though Ill still be fishing and believing Ill get a bite every cast.

Ill spend the first two months of the year in Port Mansfield. Jay Ray will join me for a few multi-boat trips and also with a few of his own big trout enthusiasts. Not fully understanding this system is more of an advantage than disadvantage. You see, what we don't know cant hurt us. Trust me you don't always want to know the truth no matter what one tells you. Many times in my life I have had more truth than I cared to have. When I say what we don't know cant hurt us I am speaking only of patterns and little nuances of an ecosystem were not familiar with. I understand weather patterns; I can read water and can locate bottom structure so safe navigation isn't the not knowing I am referring to. Its those very small underwater pathways spotted with small areas of bottom structure that every area has and that hold the keys to truly understanding fish movements that I have not had time to discover yet. That's the disadvantage. The advantage is twofold with me. First I think I am better than I am so confidence is not a problem. Second, knowing that I don't know keeps me eager to learn, which forces me to work harder. An eagerness to learn and work for that knowledge will usually lend itself to success. Many years ago Buddy Gough told me that the harder I worked the luckier I got. I am as lucky as a three bearded gobbler no doubt but surely some of it stems from hard work on the water.

Here's a tale of being luckier than good. I ran over a shallow sandbar WAY off the shoreline down south one morning in dirty water. When I felt the transom of the boat hump up and then the motor touching bottom I pulled back on the throttle which brought us to a stop. We weren't bad stuck so no biggie. Just then a mullet flew out of the water and two slicks popped on the upwind side of the bar. After easing, well maybe a bit of straining, we got the boat to slightly deeper water. I stuck the Power Pole and proceeded to fish the upwind side of the bar. Numerous trout over five pounds were caught along with good numbers of two pounders. Marking the spot on my GPS, I have returned many times and, every time the water sands up and the bait shows up, the fish show. So I was unlucky to hit the sandbar but lucky to understand several key ingredients for locating fish were present; structure, moving water, and food. Seldom does this combination disappoint.

During the low tides of winter, take advantage to study and record all the changes in the bottom contour you can observe. I take photos and file them on my computer by bay system. This is an excellent example of that mental picture I describe often comes into play. A picture is certainly worth a thousand words and sometimes even a few more fish.

May your fishing always be catching. Guide Jay Watkins