Fish Talk: February 2011

Fish Talk: February 2011
Capt. Bill’s favorites for winter fishing in the Matagorda bays.
It's no secret that February can be a vicious month weather-wise. We see the coldest average temperatures and longest cold spells of the year in February. Naturally then, given this weather scenario, it can be tough to play the hand we are dealt into a winning fishing strategy. However, if you play your cards right, you might just walk into some great fishing. If there is a bonus in what February throws at us, it would the predictability of trout and redfish patterns and the weight of these wintertime fish.

A few elements to consider include fishing locations with respect to weather in terms of winds and tides, choosing the right bait and color, while adding in a whole lot of patient, hard fishing. The Farmer's Almanac projects a drier, milder winter and if this is the case, our fish population should be more active and consequently feeding on a more regular basis than we saw last year.

Wintertime fishing usually equates to somewhere in the vicinity of five to seven a bites a day, unless of course you get lucky and find them feeding aggressively during a prolonged warm-up. The best structure in the Matagorda Bays will be mud and scattered shell. Dark, mud bottom absorbs the sun's energy and the water above it stays warmer on average than other bottom types. Shell creates natural refuge for bait and game species alike. The importance of some amount of bait, at this time of year mullet, cannot be overstated. Wading is my preferred method as it allows me to enter an area very quietly and work it thoroughly. In years past, we have found an occasional mother lode of big trout, twenty-five to thirty inches, while fishing this pattern. It doesn't happen often but above normal temperatures in February can trigger these opportunities.

Drifting East Matagorda Bay can also pay off. The keys here will be to avoid the gin-clear water we often see in February and every once in a while a slick might pop along the edges of our many reefs. I tell everybody to work the murky to dark-green stretches and especially the edges of any muddy streaks you might find. Other telltale signs of fish activity will be small distinct mud boils, and of course active bait anywhere near a mid-bay reef. Both east and west ends of East Matagorda Bay have scattered shell and mud areas that can typically hold fish.

Most February days will find me over in East Matagorda Bay but West Matty does have a few hot spots. The Colorado River and Diversion Channel may see me but that depends on the degree of any freshwater run-off. For those diehard redfish folks, West Matagorda Bay's south shoreline can be a winner especially after a good hard cold front. The deeper guts with any amount of grass left in them and also any amount of scattered shell should fish the best.

I know everyone has their favorite baits and I'm no exception. My passion for Bass Assassin lures is no secret and top picks for winter fishing include: Hot Chicken, Chicken-on-a-Chain, Fire Tiger, Space Guppy, 10W40, Plum with green tail, and Sweet Pea. I always use Bass Assassin Bang in Garlic on my baits as well. All selections will work at some point in time - certain days the fish want the 5" straight tail while other times the 4" sea shad, so I suggest stocking both on the boat. MirrOlure winners are Paul Brown's Corky Fat Boys: Pearl Chartreuse01 and Mullet Fat Boy10, both in floaters; Original Corky's Pearl Chartreuse01, Black Orange Gold09, Black Chartreuse Tail97, Pearl Chartreuse Gold91, Silver Chartreuse Tail07, and Pink Silver08. Don't leave out the infamous Eddie Douglas Broken Back Special. I will have all these baits on board at all times while fishing this winter.

Water color is extremely important in reference to bait choice. Usually, off-colored water or overcast skies call for using a dark bait. Your clearer water and bright days warrant a clear, lighter-colored bait. I highly recommend using fluorocarbon line and, if you use braided line, like me, use a fluorocarbon leader at least three feet long.

Like I always tell folks, big trout didn't get that way by happenstance. Be extremely quiet. Avoid crunching shell with your boots. Slide your feet on the bottom like an eel. Make long drifts away from the areas holding fish before cranking your outboard to come back around. Wear good polarized glasses. Make notably long casts. Last but not least; fish and wade slowly. Hope all enjoyed a successful hunting season and looking forward to a bountiful 2011 fishing year.

God Bless. -Capt. Bill