As we have heard many times, "History repeats itself," and never were any words more applicable to our trout fishery. Habit and routine are the manner in which we predict and focus upon upcoming fishing trends. With that said, February is historically classified as Big Trout Month of the Year. This title not only pertains to East and West Matagorda Bays but to each bay system on the Texas Gulf Coast. Fact is, Jim Wallace caught the state record trout, 13 pounds 11 ounces, in Baffin Bay on February 6, 1996. He happened to accomplish this feat throwing one of the best big trout baits around, the standard Corky. This bait has magical properties during our cold winter months mainly because all our fish at this time are feeding on finfish and eels and have been for over a month. Their bodies have adjusted to the cold water by now and they have established a feeding pattern. You'll be able to toss a few other baits such as Broken Backs and Saltwater Assassins but the main focus will be to pinpoint the feeding patterns. Here are a few tips that may come in handy:
1. Fish 3-4 days before and after a full moon or new moon because of tidal flow.
2. Fish muddy flats with some shell around with deeper water, say 3-5 feet, close by. Start shallow while slowly working your way deeper.
3. Normally the bite will not happen until well after sunup as this gives the surface water temperature time to warm up a bit. Bait will begin to move and so will the fish. Not saying to delay trying your favorite spots until daylight because nobody has perfect foresight, however odds are it won't happen until later in the day. Hardcore trophy trout wade fishermen are determined and they start fishing at first light and will stay with it until dark.
4. My choice is an 8 lb test diameter braided line because it is more sensitive to light strikes. Also, I recommend using a 20 lb test fluorocarbon leader in clear water.
5. Check for the presence of baitfish. A good rule of thumb says, "No bait, no fish."
6. Erase all distractions. Your mind and eyes need to stay focused on the water. Wear stingray guards, the water may be cold but why take the chance? More critical in winter than any other season, wear high-quality polarized sunglasses to detect subtle subsurface bait flashes and fish movement. Take my advice; you will be able to stay focused while not having to worry so much about stingrays or tired, smarting eyes. The sun's glare can wear on you as the day progresses and you may miss big trout swimming right by you. That in itself is enough to get your heart and adrenaline pumping.
Fishing for big trout is not everyone's cup of tea.
Chances are you may fish all day with only a few bites although they will more than likely be good ones. You just never know, you may hit the lottery and meet up with a massive school of big trout, 25-inchers and up, out for recess and on a feeding frenzy. Big trout do run in schools and they do have lunch break although this time of year you may also find a little fasting going on. Boat fishermen, don't worry because there will be opportunity for you as well. Drifting scattered shell and mud in East Matagorda Bay can produce quality trout while requiring you to look for slicks and streaky off-colored water to find your treasure. Remember to make long drifts and use plastics on 1/8 ounce lead heads. Fish your bait slow. If you are not getting hung up on the bottom shell or feeling shell then you are fishing too fast. Slow it down a bit. I hope this will help you to catch more fish. I have a motto for catching big trout in February, "Fish early, fish late, fish shallow, fish artificial."
Until next time, God Bless... Capt. Bill