Hooked Up: March 2010

Hooked Up: March 2010
Anxiety and triumph are the stuff of great contests and healthy releases.

Since last month's article, fishing has really taken a turn for the better. The big arctic blast that killed trout to our north seemed to have had a surprisingly positive effect on fishing down here in the Coastal Bend. We dodged a bullet, no doubt, with local losses limited to baitfish, turtles, and even a few snook and tarpon that were found in the Upper Laguna Madre.

Following the blast, we were blessed to have days of sunshine and southerly breezes. As predicted, the trout took to the shorelines and shallows like hungry stray dogs. Fishing was, almost, easy for a change. Clients were blessed with numerous hookups that brought to hand trout in the six to nine pound range, not to mention others between 20-25 inches.

As I sit here and try and meet deadline, I am watching the palms sway as another cold norther blows into the area. I am optimistic that the bite will come back but first I have a tournament to fish over the next two days, and am now questioning why I let a buddy talk me into it. Post front conditions, highs in the 40s, winds out of the north - what was I thinking? If there is any good to come out of it my charters during the coming week will be met with awesome conditions for catching large trout. With a little luck, the trout gods will allow a few bites during the tournament to boot.

College basketball coined the term March Madness. On the Coastal Bend we borrow their term and apply it to what we have to look forward to during March days on the water. No doubt, March is a killer month for landing big fish, but it is also our most challenging month when you include Mother Nature's input. Wind can and will be downright nasty at times. Having confidence to catch fish with a 25-30 mph wind on your back is definitely a learned trait, something you have to acquire to be successful this time of year.

Something you need to understand about the relationship between Laguna-Baffin trout fishing and wind is that wind actually works to your favor and can help in many cases. We have very little tide-driven water movement down here. So little in fact that I cannot tell you the last time I checked a tide chart for this area (Bird Island and south). The larger mover of these waters is wind. Wind-driven water movement adds enough color to normally gin-clear water that trout will move and feed more comfortably. Their meals will be mullet, perch and shrimp that have been forced onto windward shorelines and we have miles of shorelines between the spoil islands, Baffin and the King Ranch.

On these windward shores are points, small coves (some deep, some shallow), potholes, and troughs that run parallel to the bank. We also find mounds of dead grass that resemble small towhead reefs. The trout will use all of these natural ambush spots to their advantage during this windy season. The trick to catching is using a confidence lure. My top choices will be a 5" Bass Assassin and the MirrOlure She Dog. Both are great in their own element, but need to be used with a little savvy.

What I mean is - when the wind is blowing, whether light or strong, the trout are going to be facing into it. When hanging on a pothole or other structure they are waiting for a meal to be pushed into their face. Now if you are casting straight downwind, what part of the trout will the lure approach first? Hopefully, you said the tail. If not, you might do best to pick up windsurfing instead of fishing during March.

Seriously, you will have much better luck if you cast at a quartering angle allowing the wind to build a bow in your line which allows the lure to be brought into the structure in a more natural presentation. Jay Watkins discussed this very thing a while back in this magazine and he was right on the money with his thoughts.

Now before you say it, I know what you are thinking, "Well if there is a bow in my line, I will not be able to feel the bite." My rebuttal would be to use a high-quality fast action rod (my preference is the Waterloo HP Slam Mag in 6-6 length), braided 30lb line and, of equal importance, anticipate the bite as the lure approaches the sweet spot in the structure. Pulling this together in stiff wind with a light action rod and mono line is not easily done.

"Many go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." -Henry David Thoreau

"Set 'em loose," -Capt. David Rowsey