Pro Tips: December 2009

Pro Tips: December 2009
Note deeper grasslines, this is often the structure on which fish will stage.
In the last issue of the Texas Saltwater Magazine my article was based on targeting drains or sloughs that feed our backwater lakes. For those that frequent the middle Texas coast you know that even though we have had several good frontal passages; none have really dropped our water temperatures enough to get the slough thing going. No biggie, it will happen and when it does you know what to do. Let's just assume that the slough gig has happened so we can move on into our next winter pattern. To become a complete angler one needs to be pattern oriented. Recognition of the changes in patterns is something that often changes from year to year due to weather related issues so we need to be prepared to adjust as quickly as possible. No doubt the drought of 2009 will continue to affect our fishery for many months to come.

November is a month when smaller baitfish begin to migrate to deeper quadrants of the bay as well as the Gulf via the shoreline drop-offs. Come December, many of the back lakes and sloughs have drained several times and tides are starting to remain at lower levels. Three factors draw predatory fish to the outside drop-offs along our area shorelines - lower water temperatures, an absence of baitfish and a lack of water. These three factors aid in placing both baitfish and gamefish along distinct lines of most all of our barrier islands. I know I have touched on this many times before but your ability to distinguish this line is absolutely the most critical aspect of fishing. For the life of me I cannot understand why many make this so hard. Not only are there distinct water color changes due to bottom structure but there are also noticeable water depth changes as well as bottom condition changes. Many times the bottom will go from hard packed sand to a much softer bottom texture.

"Walk out until you hit soft bottom and then move back ten yards", if I have said this one time I have said it a million. Still someone always ends up neck deep with those following the instructions wading along this line catching fish. No way is this ever a straight line, the line varies much as does the shoreline it follows. You simply must be able to move in and out with the line. I agree that having the years of experience behind me allows me to have a better feel for this than many but it is not impossible to learn if you'll simply pay attention. You know when fishing is great and the bites are coming in rapid succession all of us tend to get a bit lazy. We overlook the little things that are truly defining the pattern. Lazy ain't workin' right, now I can promise you that.

In the long run, lazy tactics will cost one more often than not. 2009 has so far proven to be the year when knowing the pattern and being able to execute the needs of that pattern have proven to be the best tactics for catching fish, especially trout. I will go on record and say that it has been the toughest trout season for me in my thirty years of guiding excluding the killer freeze of 1983. That is a strong statement but I have my numbers to prove it. I attribute our success, when we were successful, to knowing the pattern that fit the conditions.

With some much needed rainfall and a slight sweetening of the bays I am hoping December will bring a marked turn around. The drop-offs appear to be holding ample seagrass structure so the ambush points are in place if the fish will show. Bait is abundant for sure so hopes are high that when Mother Nature says it time to strap on the feed bag the trout and redfish will pull up and show themselves. I am a believer that the best numbers of big fish spend most of the warmer months out deep no matter what we see up shallow. The three factors mentioned in this article are the triggering mechanisms that draw them to the drop-offs where we get more shots at them.

As always, we need to concentrate our efforts in areas that contain the most structure, best concentration of bait, and the most distinct drop-off. Not all of the shoreline drop-offs are created equal.

Your ability to see these areas is a critical part of your day. I like to mark the areas along the shoreline drop-off on my GPS where I have located the best bottom structure and the most abundant bait source. This allows me the comfort of stopping a reasonable distance from my intended wade and scoping the area as we prepare for our wade. Once fish are located there is absolutely no reason for running a shoreline. Understand that the pattern has the fish positioned along the same line all up and down the shoreline so there should be little if any reason for continuing to run where we need to be fishing.

I will be looking to throw suspending types of lures such as the Mirrolure Catch 5, Mirrodine XL and Paul Brown's Corky. Corky was recently bought by Mirrolure. Paul is, has been, and always will be a saltwater original, Mirrolure will take his name and design to the next level and this should be good for everyone. Well, everyone but the trout!

The stress the drought has put on the bays this year has caused me to believe that we, intelligent anglers that we are, should consider keeping only a few fish for that fresh fish dinner we all enjoy. I know that my clientele have been great about this the past few years and it has sure made my days on the water much more enjoyable.

May your fishing always be catching. - Guide Jay Watkins