December - Month of Many Presents

December - Month of Many Presents
Late Fall - This father and son team did very well for their first time wading.
As fall fades into winter, the rains have finally subsided and the temperatures have cooled a bit. The months of October and November gave us lots of shallow water redfish. With the arrival of November's first cold front our trout action picked up considerably. What the summer lacked, these two months made up. With water levels so high in late fall, we were fishing back lakes and other areas that will now be inaccessible. During the fall months we were very successful with topwaters in knee to thigh deep water. Many times the response to our Junior Spooks was only a tail slap. To entice an aggressive strike we experimented with our retrieves. At times we would have to stop completely and then twitch slightly to get them to crash it. Figuring it out was fun.

December will bring low water levels similar to what we see during the middle of summer. Many areas that were fishable only a week or two back are now mud and grass pastures; those that do contain water will be holding more ducks than fish. The dropping of the water levels can be a good thing though as low tides mean less water where fish can hide. The key to achieving success during the winter is finding where they go during a cold front and where they will stage after it passes.

The fish of the Lower Laguna Madre have begun to pattern to the cooler weather. Redfish and trout have put on weight, gorging in preparation for the arrival of the colder weather. Brown pelicans have been faithful scouts, swooping down on schools of baitfish. Sea gulls wait patiently for shrimp to make the mistake of rising to the surface. These can be just the signs you're looking for when trying to locate fish.

Paying close attention to bird activity during the months of December thru February can bring dividends. Remember, birds are the better fishermen, and their existence depends on their next meal. In the winter I will use the birds to help me locate the baitfish which is where you can bet the gamefish will be. In winter we often find that the bait is down on the bottom during the cooler part of the day. As the day warms up, the bait will rise closer to the surface, and this is where the pelicans have a field day. A gathering of feeding pelicans can also show you the depth where trout and reds may be found.

In December we will be concentrating in and around spoil banks that have a good current flow. A few years ago my son conducted a science project; the purpose was to record and display a thermocline of the bay waters. I helped him take temperature readings at different depths in and around our bay system. We took one temperature reading near the edge of a spoil bank and found that the water temperature near the spoil was eight degrees warmer than the adjacent flat. This information is valuable to a fisherman.

When fishing spoil banks the conditions will dictate what we will be throwing. If a warming trend has settled in, we will more than likely be throwing topwaters in waist to calf-deep water. This time of year I will tend to throw bigger topwaters like a She-Dog or Skitterwalk. If the weather is on the chilly side I will move to deeper water and throw tails, Corkys and Corky Devils. A color that has always done well in the winter is purple. You can bet that my box will hold a good supply of Brown's Sea Devils in purple and white. Working Corkys or Sea Devils with a slow retrieve over a mud and shell bottom is what the fish may want, and the Lower Laguna is littered with spoil islands with just the right bottom to attract fish during our winter months.

Fishing potholes in December can also bring some line stretching. Pothole riddled areas that are near deep water are certainly spots you might want to consider. Reds and trout will station themselves in these sand holes and wait patiently for their next meal. A few days after a cold front our vast turtle grass flats will hold good numbers of redfish.

I remember last year when the nastiest weather gave us outstanding fishing. We concentrated on the edges of oilfield cuts where one wrong step would sink you to your waist in soft mud. I know this from experience because I had to pull several of my clients from these mud traps. It wasn't funny then, but it is now. One client in particular, no need to mention names; we thought he was going to faint as he sunk over his waist. All the while his friends were reeling in the fish and offered no help. It was left up to me to pull this grown, frightened man out of four feet of mud. Fishing guts in the winter time can be rewarding, but be very cautious. I suggest you always fish with a buddy when exploring new areas.

I always enjoy when people share stories of how they could not sleep the night before a fishing trip; it reminds me of Christmas Eve when I was a boy. December is the month of giving and our good old Laguna is a generous giver. Last December she certainly produced many big fish and many personal best days for those who dared brave the elements. Remember to check the weather, look for birds doing their thing, and be quick to spot mud boils and bait. Let the weather and temperature dictate bait and presentation.

If you are looking for a special gift to give this Christmas, I highly recommend one of the lightest and most durable rods out on the market today. The green rod from Fishing Tackle Unlimited in the APXL1 action and 6'6" length would make a great gift for that special person on your shopping list. I have put these rods to the test and they have performed flawlessly.

The best of Holidays to all of you and your families and may you experience the best present at the end of your line this December.