Mid-Coast Bays: March 2011

Mid-Coast Bays: March 2011
Andrea Dugie with her first ever redfish.
As I sit here in my warm house bundled up to stay toasty, I can't help but think of the impact this cold snap might have on our fisheries. With our tides being extremely low a lot of fish have no doubt become trapped in shallow backwaters with no opportunity to escape to deep water refuge. It is these fish that will be most vulnerable to shock or death. Redfish fair better than trout but both species can end up losing the battle.

This brings to mind the recent failed attempt to improve our seatrout fisheries. As everybody should be aware by now Texas Parks and Wildlife's proposal to reduce the daily limit from ten fish to five coastwide was shot down by the voices of many who attended the public scoping meetings. Public comment in total was split very near 50/50. TPWD's population survey data shows a significant general decline in mid-coast bays with an increased number of trout less than fifteen inches. This is no surprise to me as I had many days of catching nothing but undersize fish last year. Searching for "keepers" really kept me on the hunt. So as I sit here warm and cozy I am hoping and praying those small trout we found so plentiful last year survive this cold snap. It is too soon to tell but I will remain optimistic.

I supported and spoke with everyone I could in favor of the bag limit reduction. The most common theme I heard from non-supporters was, "Well you know, once TPWD takes it away, we won't be getting it back." I think that is the absolute narrowest-minded position any angler could take. Why in the world would anyone not support a measure that has potential to make our trout fisheries healthier? Everybody is entitled to an opinion but I have yet to hear one that would change mine.

We all know that many factors influence the general health of our fisheries with weather topping the list. Droughts and freezes are natural events we cannot control. Fishing pressure has definitely increased over the last ten years. Boat and tackle technology contribute greatly to effective pressure and anglers use cell phones to "dial into" the bite every day. These also fall into the category of things we cannot change.

What we can change, though, is our personal fishing habits and we can support TPWD when they propose a plan for improving our fisheries.

I'll get off my soap box now and talk a little about cold weather fishing. Cold fronts will continue to move through our area in March making it somewhat difficult to plan trips. Back lakes will still be the go-to spots. If you could plan a trip based on weather, I would tell you to forget those pretty and sunny high-pressure days and shoot instead for overcast skies with some wind blowing. It is typical of our tides to be low this time of year unless we manage somehow to get a few days of hard south wind. So low tides paired with clear, calm days with little wind makes it tough to get within casting distance of fish without spooking them. Given a choice, I try to avoid clear water, look for off-colored water this time of year.

Places like the banks of the ICW or the Victoria Barge canal can be excellent areas when the water temperatures reach the 50 mark. It is no secret these deeper holes hold fish when the weather gets cold. If you are one of those tough anglers that like to fish when conditions are at their worst, take note that TPWD will close some of the better known holes to fishing when freezing temperatures persist for more than a few days.

My best artificial bite of late has come from using Bass Assassin's 5" Texas Shad in the Texas Roach color with chartreuse tail and also the plum-chartreuse rigged on an 1/8 oz jighead. Some days I even choose to place a Cajun Thunder above my lure to help slow down the presentation and add a little noise to my offering. Seems to really do the trick on those windy days. If using lures is not to your to your liking, I have also been having good success using Carolina-rigged live finger mullet when fishing for reds. The downside is that most bait camps do not keep a steady supply of live bait this time of year so catching them yourself becomes part of the fishing day's activities.