Hooked Up: February 2015

Hooked Up: February 2015
Big John Stafford with a fat trout that fell to a Corky. John was taken from us by a drunk driver as he headed to his deer lease one early morning this hunting season. A great outdoorsman, and friend. RIP
If there were three Februarys in the calendar year I believe I could book them completely solid, and probably a year in advance. The 28 day month, and March, are always the quickest to fill when I open the winter-season charter books every fall. The reasons almost go without saying, but the most obvious is that February holds high potential for some of the largest trout of the year.

Before Jim Wallace set the new state record in February 1996, it was actually pretty quiet down here. I guess it is safe to say that he let the local secret out of the bag and trophy-seeking winter vagabonds continue to multiply every year. No one has topped Mr. Wallace's record-setter from '96, but it has not been from lack of effort from the saltiest guides to the solitary bank fishermen.

There is an overwhelming amount of information available via the internet and print media detailing where and when to be in Baffin to catch that monster trout during this time of year. In 1996 that information was more relative and reliable when it was thrown your way. Today, almost 20 years later–not so much. You may get them for a day or two, but you better not be planning on making a living out of it. Simply put, there are just too many people trying to fish the same water when reports of big trout begin circulating.

Regardless of where trout want to be, too much pressure from wade fisherman and boat motors will push them into water uncomfortable to wade in. You have two options in this situation; fish from the boat or find more fish in an unpressured area that are still willing to bite.

I always start my days with clients where I know big fish are hanging out. And, if I do not have too many sinners on the boat, the good Lord usually blesses us with quality bites and opportunities to get the day started out on the positive side. As the day rolls on, and more boats start running around, my charter will start migrating to areas that have a great personal history of catching big, without the boat traffic and peering eyes of others. Regardless of how many areas I have up my sleeve for this poker play, they are useless if there is no activity in the area, i.e.; plentiful baitfish.

When my party ventures out to a new area for another bite, there is always one main scenario in the back of my mind–a flat that breaks off into deeper water, with some sort of bait activity visible. Between Baffin and the Upper Laguna, there are literally hundreds of areas that fit this criteria. Some of the flats are small and close to the shoreline. Others extend a couple hundred yards into the bay and break off gradually, some sharply.

There are too many of these sweet spots to try and fish in a month, much less in a day. So to save time, I use the "wait and watch" method when pulling into what I think could be a potentially productive area. I always shut down 100-plus yards from the area I intend to fish, switch off the big Mercury, and start looking for bait. The clients get involved as well. The more eyes the better in this situation.

Inside of five minutes a decision will be made whether to stay and try it, or to continue the search. With a little luck mixed with experience, chances are it's a good one.

As previously mentioned, there are tons of these areas throughout our bay systems. A thorough study of contour lines on a good map will give you a head start on the process if you are not well-versed in the Upper Laguna and Baffin region. A quick start would be the many flats close to the ICW (especially those with some kind of deep cut/intersection running through it), numerous spoil islands that line the ICW in both bays, as well as south of BaffinRocky Slough or Kennedy Ranch shoreline, and also the King Ranch shoreline stretching from Beacroft's Hole to the south end of Emmord's Hole. All of these areas can produce big wintertime trout, and worth investigating if you don't want to be shoulder to shoulder to a stranger in the water.

My client's and I are keeping it pretty simple on the lure selection. The trusty 5" Bass Assassin (in both straight tail and paddle tail), and the Corkys (Paul Brown Original Series by MirrOlure) are far and away the top choices for producing the most and, more importantly, the biggest bites.

Remember the buffalo! -Capt. David Rowsey