Hooked Up: February 2019

Hooked Up: February 2019
Catch and release works. If you want a viable trophy fishery, there comes a time when we must police ourselves.

Nearly every phone call and email I receive regarding charters includes this question: What is the best month to catch a big trout?  I reply very honestly that it is hard to name just one month, each year is different, but February is tough to beat. 

The truth is that any day from December through May can produce legitimate giants that sport not only length but impressive girth as well.  February, being in the approximate middle of that timeframe, traditionally produces some of the most consistent big catches we see each year.  With hunting season in the rear view mirror, the trophy hunters come out of the woods, so to speak, and their determined focus turns to the wiliest of all Texas trophies – giant speckled trout. The only trophy that can't be bought. Time and persistence is all that will prevail in this quest.

My preferred method for seeking out the best trout February has to offer, typically begins with a muddy flat that contains both grass and slick/sandy areas, near a drop-off  into deeper water.  These areas abound throughout Baffin and the Upper Laguna; however, they do change annually due to new grass growing in and covering up areas that may have been ideal a year earlier. 

The flats themselves are a constant, for the most part, so they are always a good starting point if you find yourself down here for the first time since last spring with no clue where to start.  Once you have established the flat has all of the right ingredients; bottom structure, etc., just add a food supply, mullet or perch, to the recipe, and you should be on your way toward some top shelf trout fishing. 

I always start my days with clients where I know big fish are hanging out.  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 on a positive note.  As the day rolls on, and more boats start running around, my charter will invariably migrate toward areas that have a great history of catching big for me, without boat traffic and prying eyes. 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. baitfish supply.

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.  To save time, I use the "wait and watch" method when pulling into what I think might be a 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 in this, the more eyes the better in this situation.  Inside of five minutes, a decision will be made whether to stay or leave.  With a little luck mixed with experience, it's usually the correct choice.

A major key to daily success, and one that so many have a tough time grasping, is to slow your wade and fish the area properly.  When you are trying to catch a trout that makes up less than 1% of the total population, it is very easy to walk right past them.  In the right conditions, these big trout will be hanging out on a very specific type of structure, be it a point, windward side of a pothole, or something similar.  The times are countless in my career when a “Sea Biscuit” client darted out past everyone, only to have his buddies hand him his katoosh on big fish he just blew past.  Patience, good casts, and stealth, will deliver results on these big, skittish girls way faster than any race horse can get to the finish line.   

With all of the dead grass on the bottom of the bay floor, I am using the lightest jig heads possible to work my trusty Bass Assassins through big trout water.  The Bass Assassin 2/0 Pro Elite Series Jighead in 1/16-ounce is the bomb for doing this.  It looks small but has a lot of attitude and can handle anything in our bays.  If there is any surface activity, MirrOlure’s Floating Fat Boys (Paul Brown Original Series) have been great over areas of dead grass.  If I'm fishing in an area that has live grass and more potholes, the original slow-sinking Corky and Fat Boy are the ticket. 

Remember the buffalo!  -Capt David Rowsey