Mid-Coast Bays: January 2017

Mid-Coast Bays: January 2017
When the wading gets sticky, don't hesitate to use your Power Pole to work an area over.

Yep, here we are blessed with another New Year. We had phenomenal fishing in 2016 and I am hoping 2017 will be as good. Our weather has been unusually mild weather so far this winter but I expect that'll change during January.

It seems only diehards think of fishing in January but there are advantages compared to warmer months. The colder water temperatures will have redfish and trout seeking warmer water. Unless it's down near freezing, the muddy bottomed back lakes are good places to target. Mud is dark and absorbs solar energy better than lighter-colored sand, which means the lakes on average are warmer than many other places.

Will these muddier bottoms be equivalent to a warm bath? Nope. They will only be a few degrees warmer than sandy shorelines but, a few degrees to fish is probably about like us having a jacket or no jacket on a chilly day.

You know what else is interesting? Finfish species that redfish and trout dine on during the warmer months, like shad and perch, spend the winter in deeper water far from the flats, forcing trout and reds to exist almost entirely on mullet.

What does that mean for anglers? Two things: Find the mullet, find the trout and reds. And, with less forage available trout and reds become more willing to take our lures.

Since my right knee ACL reconstruction last year, I try to avoid wading muddy bottom and my winter strategies now focus more on drifting instead. Colder water means less algae, which means the water tends to be clearer than in summer. Grass is also much reduced, so color streaks created by wind become the only "structure" in many areas. Mullet hide in these streaks and predators slink in and lie in wait for an easy dinner.

Fish can no doubt still see their prey in murky water but sight might not be the keenest of their senses. Biologists say they "feel" equally well, sensing even minute vibrations in the water through nerve endings in the lateral line, somewhat intertwined with their hearing. And, of course, they can also smell.

Because of their ability to detect vibrations, fishing with lures that produce vibrations is a no-brainer. No, I'm not saying to rush out and purchase one of those battery-powered vibrating gimmicks. Most everybody has some type of paddle-tail plastic in their tackle box. Bass Assassins makes many excellent styles and types, my preference for murky conditions is the 3-1/2" Die Dapper in Mama's Chicken or Slammin Chicken. These baits have good paddletail action and they have the added bonus of being scented.

Typically, with the cooler water, fish can become a little less willing to rise in the water column to take a lure, so working your bait slower near bottom will usually get you more bites. Be thorough as well. If you are drifting through an area that looks to have potential or maybe you have had a few bites, don't hesitate to lower your Power Pole to stop your drift. Then continue to make casts in all directions before you proceed forward.

On the few days that we get extreme low temperatures, don't be surprised to find that many of our fish will migrate from shallow back lakes to the nearest deep water in search of protection from the cold. By deep water, I'm talking about 6- to 10-feet, or deeper in channels or sloughs. In this scenario, you will need to allow your offering to sink to the bottom and then run a slow-twitch retrieve.

During cold snaps when the water gets down around say 50- to 55-degrees, you will probably find the fish picking up the bait very gingerly not the solid thump of warmer days. Days like this are when braided line greatly outshines monofilament. I will not go into detail on the subject of braid vs. mono because I believe they both have their pros and cons. But when the fish tend to strike lightly in colder weather, braid enables you to "feel" more than monofilament and that could mean the difference between catching and going home emptyhanded.

I'm not much on New Year's resolutions because I feel your success and happiness lies within you no matter what time of year it is. I do believe that fishing is good therapy and good for your soul. If you make resolutions, resolve to get out there and fish more. I've heard it said that fishing adds years to your life and life to your years. Enough said.

Happy New Year!