I am finally home after spending the last two months fishing in Port Mansfield with my fishing club members. I would like to commend ALL of them on their contribution to the continued success of this fishery by practicing catch and release. I believe I only cleaned about a dozen redfish and maybe half a dozen trout for the 50 plus trips I took while there. Port Mansfield is a special place with some of the best trout fishing there is right now so we wanted to do our part to ensure that we keep it that way.
Back home in Rockport, I will have to go to work getting back on the pattern for spring. Lucky for me I saved most every day's conditions and areas that produced over the past 33 years so I have a pretty good ideal of where to start.
Spring will bring with it wind - serious wind - in between the last few fronts of the year. Lucky are those of us fishing the middle Texas Coast because we have some serious miles of barrier islands that create some of the most ideal spawning habitat on the coast. Hard sand with submerged grass beds is the key to finding and catching throughout the next few months. We also have a large expanse of back water marsh that seldom dirties up too much for sight fishing to actually fish or the structures that hold them. Add to this the many coves and large points that jut out into the bay off the barrier islands and you have water that you can fish when winds blow constantly at 20 to 25 mph. Wind at 20-plus mph SE is pretty much the norm so plan on having a stiff breeze on most days. The positive side of higher winds along our leeward shorelines is often a very distinct water change that makes up off the shoreline about 100 yards. When this water change covers up the outside submerged grass beds along the drop-off it is game on. The bait and predators alike see the change as camouflage and seek cover within. I have always said that in a shallow clear water fishery the wind is your friend and this belief still holds true today. More times than not, the winds aid us in the catching part of our day.
Game planning for me is based on water temperatures, solunar tables, tides and the arrival of baitfish, especially menhaden. Planning your day around a location where bottom structure, water movement and bait is available is critical but not the only ingredient needed to increase the odds of success. When dealing with mature spawning class trout, major and minor moon rises and sets become extremely important. Over the years I have become a huge believer in the value of being in the right place at the exact right time. Too many are the times to count that I have witness a major feeding surge as the day reaches one of the major or minor feeding periods. I prefer the minor moon rises and sets. This hour period can produce a more defined and aggressive feed due to the reduction in the feeding period verses a two hour major feeding period. The winter of 2012 has further proven to me that this feed is more often than not the strongest of the day.
Some other keys that will help many of you not on the water all the time is the presence of slicks and brown pelican activity. Where you find these two together there will be bait, trout and preferred bottom structure. One seldom exists without the other and all are proof positive of what lies below. I actually mark daily the movements of the baitfish along the barrier islands on my GPS. Where the food goes the predators go as well. I know many of you grow tired of the simplicity in my thinking but it has worked for me for many years so I think I'll stick with this program and leave the big thinking to the bigger brains.
Lure selection for me changes very little from year to year but over the past two years there have been a few new things that I have become confident in throwing. Of course the Bass Assassin in the 5" shad rigged with a 1/16 ounce 2/0 short-shank leadhead is always my go to fish finder. This year I have been throwing the 5'' Die Dapper by Bass Assassin but rigging it with a Mustad 3/0 1/16 or 1/8 ounce flutter hook. I attach a screw-loc spring to the eye of the hook. This allows me to screw the plastic onto the spring and then place the hook through the slot, coming out the back and then slightly covering the point by pinching the plastic over the point. This makes the lure totally weedless and also creates a very level-running presentation when swimming through the water. The 1/8 ounce provides a slightly better action from the swimming tail due to the increased weight. This rig has proven to be deadly on larger trout in slightly off-colored water. MirrOlure's MirrOdine XLs, Catch 2000 Jr and the MirrOmullet work best for me when trout are feeding shallow on mullet or menhaden over shallow grass beds. The Top Dog series of surface plugs are also great choices during the spring months in our waters. I prefer any combination of bone, silver, blue and chartreuse.
I do appreciate those that relate to my simple approach to finding and catching fish. Catching fish is mostly dependant on going fishing. The more you fish the more you learn. The more you learn the more you catch. Put the ones back you don't need so someone else can enjoy them.
May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins