Baffin Bay - Down and Dirty

Baffin Bay - Down and Dirty
Some of the author’s favorite baits for catching winter trout in the brown tide.
Through the years I've had to adapt to all kinds of conditions Mother Nature dealt us. The one that threw me the toughest curve was the brown tide. It doesn't kill the fish; they are still there, it's just a matter of figuring out how to catch them in brown water with near zero visibility.

The first year I experienced the brown tide was in 1990. I thought I was going to become Captain Bobber. I threw shrimp and popping corks and thought that was the only way I was going to be able to catch fish. That winter there was no bait and I needed to adapt. I still had a lot of clients that wanted to catch big trout, but with the brown tide I knew it was going to be tough.

As that first winter season with the brown tide wore on I discovered that I needed to do things differently. I needed to fish slower than normal and fish shallower than normal. So, with the brown water that we are experiencing right now in Baffin Bay, we've got to use the old tricks to catch big trout.

First, fish the areas that have worked before the water turned brown. You've got to go to the areas where you know the right structure is located. Even though you can't see the rocks or grass beds or sandy bottom, you've fished there before and should have it marked on your GPS or in your memory. Be very patient; tune your senses up and slow everything down. Look for even the slightest bait movement, especially mullet flipping. It doesn't have to be a lot, just any movement or swirl. Seeing mullet flip will give you the confidence that there are some trout in the area.

Second; and I know I've already said this, but you've got to work very slowly. Don't go tromping through an area. If I see a mullet flip, I'll sometimes stand thirty minuets without taking a step, covering the entire area well with the lure. Casting several times within ten feet of the cast before it. The fish can't see the lure so they have to locate it by sound. On the first few casts, the retrieve will be fast; then I'll slow it down and start twitching and even pausing. Imagine the fish are in a thick fog, you have to give them time to locate the lure. The presentation needs to be slow and repetitive while wading very quietly. Patience is a real key to the brown tide.

Third would be the lure and the way to rig it. I tie a loop knot on a topwater to give it more side to side action, this helps to keep it in one spot longer. I try to make the lure roll in the water. As far as color, the dark colors work very well in dingy water. In dirty brown water I start out with the black Top Dog that has the chartreuse head. If it's really windy and rough with a lot of noise on the surface, I go with a She Dog, its higher pitch and louder rattle are a plus. But, you need to remember that whenever it's calm or shallow, keep the lure quiet. I also like the Corky with the morning glory/chartreuse tail. I do better with the Fat Boy, I am able get better action, moving it side to side and leaving it in one spot. To cover the deeper water I use the Bass Assassin Kwik Cork with a leader about twenty-inches long. To this I attach a quarter-ounce chartreuse lead head with a five-inch Shad in morning glory. This rig makes a lot of noise and keeps the worm off the bottom, out of the grass, and suspended in the strike zone. Once they hear the noise they can locate it and hammer it.

The brown tide comes and goes. A few years ago, it was brown in the front of Baffin Bay and clear in the back, near Alazan Bay. In 1994 the brown tide was terrible and it turned out to be my best year of catching trophy trout. We've had record rain fall this year and some say that the brown tide is caused from the fresh water run off. Whatever the cause, right now, my focus is on Baffin Bay. In February and March the trout are at their heaviest weight of the year. It will take patience and a good attitude but we will be catching trophy trout.

The water conditions on the north end of the Laguna Madre have been near perfect. The water is clear and beautiful. All the channels around the JFK Causeway have been holding some keeper sized trout. I expect the cold fronts will continue to push clear water down the King Ranch shoreline, eventually reaching the north end of Baffin and giving us a flush of good clean water. I've seen it happen before.