Mid-Coast Bays: February 2011

Mid-Coast Bays: February 2011
Vince Stueve had a hard time controlling his excitement after landing this red.
Fishing in January between the cold fronts was nothing short of awesome. My time on the water was spent in a variety of locales from back lake fishing and duck hunting on Matagorda Island to wading the reefs in the middle of San Antonio and Mesquite Bays.

The pattern for finding fish in February will not change a lot from your January escapades. You will still have to find an area with the correct structure with the number one ingredient still being bait. If you find bait holding on a sandy shoreline give it a shot if you want, although I must say sandy shorelines are not the normal feeding zones of wintertime trout in middle coast bays. Normally, this time of the year, your quarry will be holding in muddier places. By muddier I mean anything from soft and relatively firm to knee-deep goo. The bait will point the way.

I sometimes read that wading mud is an old wives tale and fish can be caught on sand in the middle of winter. You might occasionally come across a trout sunning in the crystal clear shallows of an Espiritu Santo shoreline but your chances of catching it are slim to none. Every winter I see huge trout sunning on sand but I have yet to dupe one. Perhaps the answer to this riddle lies in the absence of bait. The fish are only there to get warm. I don't want to come off sounding like a know it all, just stating what I have learned through trial and error. I hope this will save you some time and wasted efforts.

I will let you in on one of my secrets for wading muddy bottom. I always tell my guys, "The slower you move the less energy you use and you will catch more fish." Stealth is every bit as important as conserving your energy. I also tell them that if you can hear yourself splashing you are moving too fast. This applies wherever you are wading, no matter the season.

Grass holds lots of bait and is therefore a primary key to back lake fishing. In winter, though, much of the grass is gone. Quite often during really cold stretches I find the bait hanging in the cuts that lead to the back lake areas. The deeper cuts offer a place for the bait to snuggle into warmer holes until the sun warms the flats back up. You can bet the trout and reds won't be far come feeding time.

I have found that some of the deeper cuts that lead to a back lake can be fished from the shoreline edge (walking on land at the edge of the cut) and probing the depths without ever entering the cut itself. You might want to try this until you get to the mouth of the lake and then see where the bait takes you.

The current, if any, will dictate which way your lure should be worked along the cut. The most natural presentation is to drag the bait with the current, not against it. On really cold days the fish will be on bottom, so slow it down and maybe try a heavier lure. The bite will often be subtle and this is a place where braided line is worth its weight in gold.

My lure selection usually depends on the area I am fishing. I will always have my MirrOlure Corky in glow/chartreuse and my MirrOdine XL in CFPR in my wade box. The lure I throw more than any other is the 4" Bass Assassin Sea Shad (paddle tail) in electric blue/chartreuse in dirty water and bone diamond in clear water. This bait versatile and can be just dragged along the bottom or jigged at any depth. I rig it most often on Assassin's 1/16 oz head. There are occasional days when a topwater is called for and I then dig out my She Dog in CHPR or GCRCH.

This article is just a glimpse into winter fishing along the middle coast. If you have questions I welcome your calls and emails. I always enjoy talking fishing.

Something else worth mentioning is stingrays. That's right stingrays! I had a customer look at me like I was crazy when he saw me donning my ForEverlast Ray-Guards. He thought the stingrays were gone for the winter. I reminded him that I have seen stingrays year round and I never leave the boat without my Ray Guard shields or boots. I also carry extra several extra pairs onboard my Shallow Sport for customers that have forgotten theirs.

Fish hard fish smart!