Hooked Up: January 2014

Hooked Up: January 2014
This exceptional trout fell for a Morning Glory Bass Assassin; water temps holding steadily in the low 50s.
Hope this column finds you well during this holiday season and ready to bring in 2014 with a bang, and a bent rod. Trophy trout fishing is in full swing on the Upper Laguna and Baffin Bay. My most sincere thanks to all of you who have booked a trip to get in on the action, and hopefully a trout of a lifetime. If our fall success is any indication of what is around the corner for winter and spring, we are going to be catching some studs.

Quoting Shannon Tompkins in the Houston Chronicle: "At a public meeting in Austin earlier this month, the nine-member TPW Commission instructed the agency's Coastal Fisheries staff to look at the potential effects of expanding the five-fish daily bag limit for speckled trout currently in effect in the Lower Laguna Madre to other areas of the coast."

We have been down this road before and there are many opinions on the subject. Mine has never wavered. From the perspective of 250 days a year on the water between guiding and recreation, a reduction in the trout limit has been needed for years on the Upper Laguna and Baffin. Fishing pressure has probably tripled since current regulations were set in the 1980s, putting the ratio of fish to fishermen way out of whack. Anyone who thinks "It's as good as it's ever been" hasn't been around very long or has no true understanding of what has taken place over the past fifteen years. The reduction to five trout per angler is long overdue on our part of the middle coast.

Old Man Winter has settled in down here. It has been unusually cold and that to me is wonderful. Yes, I said wonderful. The past two winters have been super warm and delayed the timing of productive cold-weather fishing. These cooler November water temperatures have put us on what I consider a normal winter schedule and the big trout are following suit. Things will be perfect when this coastwide high tide falls out. So far, it has been slow to retreat. In fact, I have never experienced water this high, this late in the year.

The upside to these high tides is the pretty water pouring into Baffin. I am seeing rocks at the mouth of the bay that I have not seen in a couple years due to brown tide. I am more than a little excited about the prospects for 2014. Add that to the water clarity in the Upper Laguna, and on down through Yarbrough, and you are looking at a lot more fishable water than we have seen in a long time.

Cold water temperatures will put the fish on the soft, muddy bottoms and this is always a good place to start a morning wade in January. I would advise that you avoid tunnel vision on the old winter fishing clich that you must fish the mud to catch the biggest of the species. Bottom line is that trout not only need to stay warm, but, most importantly, they must also eat. Regardless of the type of bottom you are wading, there needs to be somewhat of a bait supply. Believe me when I say this, "A little bit goes a long way" during these cold months. You cannot expect to see rafts of mullet this time of year. Focus on areas that have the right structure, i.e., muddy flats leading to deep water dropoffs, with some amount of bait, and you will be well on your way to learning the sport of catching large trout. Folks, it's not rocket science. Leave the smartphone and ipod in the boat and pay attention to your surroundings. Think like a predator and you will be way ahead of the game.

Although it may happen occasionally, topwaters will be way down the list for catching monsters this month. The 5" Bass Assassin will prevail when it comes to locating workable numbers of fish to target. Besides locating large fish, I expect to catch just as many on the "worm" as I do anything else. The Paul Brown Originals (Corky) by MirrOlure will be filling in the gaps and getting major play time to try and pluck out the most wary of the big girls.

This goes for all lures: Clear water equals natural colored lures, off-color water warrants shades of dark and bright. It's a simple rule but works well when digging through bags, upon bags, of choices.

Remember the buffalo! -Capt David Rowsey