Winter fishing can be trying at times, but also very rewarding. As with any season, the weather may have you hunkered down seeking protection in back lakes one day, and then enjoying a calm afternoon of reef-hopping across San Antonio Bay the next. No matter the conditions, there are a couple of things you will want to look for when you approach any area this time of year.
Water clarity is a big one. Catching fish in super-clear water is tough in any season. The problem becomes even greater in winter when algae counts decline due to cooler water temps. Quite often we must rely on wind and current stirring bottom sediments to create favorable (reduced) clarity conditions along windward shorelines, currents running through sloughs that connect backwater areas with main bays, and also along edges of reefs impacted by tidal flows. Another source of “colored water” can be found where large concentrations of mullet root up bottom sediments during their normal feeding activities.
So, the takeaway should be this: For more bites; concentrate your efforts in areas where clarity trends toward the murky side, and also where some amount of bait is present.
When such an area has been located, it is time to consider the best approach for fishing it. The first bite or hookup is a signal to plant your feet and “fish” your way forward VERY slowly and METHODICALLY. I call it fan-casting, deliberately aiming my lure to cover the full semi-circle of water in front of me. This is easy to control when fishing alone but can often become difficult when fishing with others. Everybody wants in on the action. Too often I have clients that will continue to walk forward with each cast, right into the zone where fish are holding. The bite usually dies instantly and it can be tough to get them going again.
Another mistake I see anglers make, when fishing reefs, is rushing to reach a certain spot along the reef or join a buddy who is catching fish. Crunching oyster shells and pushing through the water at a normal walking speed will spook every fish within casting distance. Trust me on this. Move slowly, feeling your way carefully with your feet, to avoid crunching as much as possible. The greatest advantage of wading is the ability to fish more stealthily than from a boat.
My lure selection during winter becomes very basic compared to the warmer months. When the water temperature is really cold I lean toward the slow-sinkers such as MirrOlure’s Paul Brown Original Suspending Twitchbait and sometimes the Original Floater. I use these baits mostly in relatively shallow areas; 2- to 3-feet deep. These baits can yield big results but you must pack your patience. These are slow-sinking baits and should be fished slowly. Cold fish are not likely to rush a bait as they do in warmer conditions. Slow it down and let the bait do what is was designed to deliver.
During the recovery days between fronts when the water has warmed a bit, I like MirrOlure’s Paul Brown Devil Twitchbait. It sinks a little faster than the Originals and has a great darting action produced by short jerks and twitches of your rod. The Devil’s long tail swishing side-to-side when twitched is very attractive to hungry fish.
Almost without fail, the heaviest fish come from back lakes during winter, but for sheer numbers of bites you can’t beat the reefs in San Antonio Bay, especially on warmer afternoons. Here I prefer to use Bass Assassin’s 4 inch Sea Shad. This paddletail rigged on an 1/8-ounce jighead sinks faster than the baits mentioned above – perfect for probing the entire water column. Trout like to hang along drop-offs that lie along the edges of reefs, where depths can range from 3- to 6-feet. We might find them holding anywhere from mid-depth to lying on bottom; that’s what I mean when I say probe the entire water column. Some days we find steadier action when giving the lure a few seconds to sink and then simply dragging it slowly along the bottom. Slight hopping action is sometimes necessary to prevent hanging on scattered oyster shell.In this New Year I hope you reach all your goals, gain lots of knowledge, and find happiness in everything you do… especially when it comes to fishing!