Pro Tips: December 2011

Pro Tips: December 2011
Nice cold water trout under small area of active baitfish.

My hat is off to our feature writers for the past two issues in our magazine. Good reading and always very informative on all levels concerning fishing along the Texas Coast. I learn with every article so thanks for all your continued efforts to make Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine the best saltwater publication on the entire Gulf Coast.

Since our last issue the fishing in my area has picked up. The increase in activity certainly has everything to do with some much needed rain and cooler temperatures. The red tide event impacted menhaden, mullet, hardheads and some rays but gamefish suffered almost no impact at all according to my local Parks and Wildlife contacts. I did get a good many e-mails and calls concerning this occurrence due to some somewhat dramatic press coverage.

December is the kick-off month here in Rockport for our larger trout. We should start finding better than average sized fish in and around scattered shell and slightly softer bottom. If the past four to five years have taught me anything at all its that trout do not necessarily move to mud bottom when water temperatures drop into the mid to upper 50s. Wherever we find bait we'll find some trout. Very seldom are the baitfish on just sand, typically there is some type of bottom structure present. On areas with mostly flat sandy bottom you must locate and key in on the structure. In Rockport I love to fish water that is knee to thigh deep with a softer bottom and a mix of scattered shell with grass attached to the small clumps of shell. This is my primary big fish choice if I find bait over this type of bottom. Flats adjacent to larger reef systems are great areas to find such bottom structure. I prefer minimal tidal movement IF water temperatures are below the 56 degree mark. My secondary choice in bottom structure is submerged grass in the same water depths. This type of structure is primarily located along shoreline drop-offs as well as out in front of the sloughs that feed the backwater marsh. In the mouths of the sloughs water movement is a good thing so I plan my arrival to such locations according to daily tidal flows.

From one frontal system to the next bait location can change so we have to be willing to hunt for bait as well as signs of the bait's presence. Not always will the bait show itself in obvious ways such as jumping, flipping or simply pushing. Ospreys are my favorite mullet locaters. Show me an area where ospreys are and you can bet they have a food source located. This food source is usually mullet and where there are mullet there will be trout. It is known by most that any signs of mullet in an area warrant a wade or drift. Knowing or at lest believing is only a small portion of what is needed to actually work the area and pull from it the rewards that often await. I use to believe that patience was the main ingredient for success when chasing trophy sized trout. Over the years I have come to believe that it may be that mental picture I have so often seen in my minds eye that tells me to stay when production would suggest that I move on. There is certainly no replacement for time spent on the water; experience is earned not only by long days but also by being totally in touch with everything around you as the day progresses. We see small areas of baitfish concentrations become active for short windows and then suddenly, as if someone turned a light switch off, they go seemingly dead. It is in these windows that our opportunities are present. It is important to know that when the switch is flipped the fish do not leave, so if we stay there will still be a chance to take a big fish.

We all have our favorite trophy trout lures. I have over the years gained confidence in my abilities with the Corky and a Top Dog (when conditions warrant) but without a doubt I prefer day in day out a 5" Bass Assassin rigged with a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig head. Back in 2010 Bass Assassin introduced the 5" Die Dapper swimbait series. This bait proved to be very effective on our bigger trout from Rockport all the way south to Port Mansfield when I fished these areas. The swimbait works best I think when mullet numbers are limited. The bait simply represents a bigger target thus attracting larger fish needing a larger food source. In 2011 Bass Assassin introduced the 5" Vapor Shad. I can't wait to float this bait across the scattered grass beds and potholes in the Lower Laguna. No matter what your favorite lure might be I would advise one to go to a soft plastic of some kind during periods when your fishing action seems to have hit a lull. Many times larger trout will readily eat a worm-like bait when the two come in contact with one another. The worm obviously looks to be something that they don't mind eating even after a huge meal. My experiences have proven that after a major topwater or Corky bite, large trout that have definitely already fed can still be coaxed into eating the worm. With this said there is only one thing left for us to do, get out there and start putting in some time on the water, taking in everything around us and enjoying the great fishing the Middle to Lower Texas Coast has to offer this time of year.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins