Mid-Coast Bays: February 2016

Mid-Coast Bays: February 2016
Sure was glad to be back at the dock before this baby hit!

January fishing has been right on par with what it should be this time of year along the Middle Coast. We'll have a cold front roll in and strong north wind for a couple days, then a calming trend when the wind switches back south. During this calming trend you usually see numbers of fair weather fishermen showing up. A perfect case of what they don't know won't hurt them or, in my case, won't hurt my favorite fishing areas.

We often see some of the best fishing of the year occurring during these cold snaps or right before the front makes its way to the coast. A word of advice for anybody planning to fish when a front is predicted, it can get very dangerous on the water. Especially so if you have to cross expanses of open water to make it back to port in the face of the storm.

I know what some might already be thinking; "Hey, I'm not a rookie. I'm an experienced boater and I know when to leave in order to cross open water and make it back safely."

But let me tell you from experience–cutting it too close can be a recipe for disaster.

I have been caught off-guard a few times and a front can be moving a lot faster than you might think. Picking up members of your wading party strung along a shoreline requires precious minutes when the clock is ticking. Fishing from the boat might be a slightly different situation, simply turn the key and haul butt to a protected area or the dock.

Here are two examples of what might happen if you wait too long to leave an aggressive bite.

One February while wading a back lake, I saw a front looming and idled along picking up my two clients. As the last guy boarded my Shallow Sport the blow hit us, 50 mph or more. Hurriedly stowing gear and swinging the bow into the wind, my lower unit was dragging bottom. The water was leaving that suddenly. We sat in amazement of Mother Nature's power as eighteen inches of water disappeared in a few minutes, and it took forty more before it returned. With the worst of the wind having passed, we got back in the water and continued fishing.

Another memorable trip with a front approaching came while wading the deep slough that connects Contee Lake with Espiritu Santo Bay. Actually my brother called from work in Port Lavaca to warn me it had already hit there and it was a wild one.

I looked north and sure enough the dark line of the front was barreling down on us. I made it to the boat fast as I could and ran on plane to the mouth of the slough. The wind hit as I was picking up my first guy, hard enough to ground the bow on the bank. I finally got it turned back around in time to see my other three guys struggling to cross the deepest part of the slough.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The wind had pushed a wall of water across the bay and it was funneling into the slough. My guys were trying to cross a raging river and I yelled to them to get on the bank. I'd retrieve them from wherever they ended up. Controlling the boat was all but impossible.

This was a much worse scenario than the previous story where all the water blew out from under us, we had too much water and the current was almost too strong to navigate. Had one of those guys lost their footing and been swept deeper into the slough they would surely have drowned. I eventually gathered my stunned fishermen from the bank and made it to a safer spot to wait out the worst of the blow before heading across the bay to the dock. Needless to say, back at the dock, all were happy to call it a day.

I know that I barely mentioned fishing in this article. But I have been thinking–how when sipping a cocktail from the safety of a warm recliner–fishermen love to spin tales of incredible fishing right before a front slams the coast. All of this can be true but, you should be asking yourself whether a nice box of fish is worth risking your life.

Hindsight being 20/20... I say NO!

Fish hard, fish smart!