My Favorite Month

My Favorite Month
Anicieto Alonzo displays a beautiful winter specimen.

I frequently get asked, "When is the best time of the year to fish down here?" My immediate response to this question is, "You need to come down and experience what December has to offer." Instantly this response is followed by a second question, "Why is December one of your favorite months to fish?" December is the ideal time to be on the water. It's when fishing becomes red hot catching. It's the time of year where fish's girths are enlarged putting them on the chunky side of the scale. In addition, winter heightens your chance of catching a trophy size trout in the Lower Laguna Madre.

By this time of the year, our bays have significantly emptied of boat traffic. Everyone is either hunting or thinks it is just too cold to fish. But allow me to let you on a little secret. Wintertime is the ideal time to be on the water. If you truly want to experience plenty of redfish and trout action and you don't mind a slower, more subtle bite, you've got to experience firsthand what winter is all about.

If the current mild winter patterns continue like we have had the past few years, look for the fishing to be superb. If it's anything close to what we experienced last year, you'd better have plenty of reel grease on the ball bearings. Winter time is when the fish become very predictable in between the mild cold fronts that happen to make it down our way. Cold snaps will move fish to deeper water, but as soon as the temperature begins to rise and the sun's rays fill the blue bird skies, our flats will once again fill with masses of baitfish. Lurking not far behind are the hungry redfish and gluttonous trout looking for their first good meal in days. Finding flats that have immediate access to the ICW or deep water guts and channels that have a muddy bottom are excellent places to start early in the morning. As the day continues to warm up, look for the fish to move shallower into the flats. Keeping an eye on the presence and behavior of bait fish can be one of the more critical points when trying to experience a successful day on the water.

What is it about December that makes it one of my favorite months to fish? Is it the cold brisk wind on my face that makes my eyes watery as we head out for an adventure, or is it the sensations of cold knees that I feel through my waders the minute my legs are submerge in the cold water, or could it be the tranquility that occurs above the water in between the passing of cold fronts? It's all of these things and more. In the wintertime getting an early morning start is not all that critical. Getting an hour or two more of sleep means you can be good to wade for a few more extra miles. Another good thing about fishing in the winter is the mild temperatures that allow you to fish all day and not get exhausted by the energy sapping sun.

Although our winters in Deep South Texas are mild for the most part, at times it can get down right cold and windy. This brings vividly to memory a winter fishing trip that I guided last year with a group that I now call the "No mas group." They traveled from as far as Dallas to experience what winter fishing was all about. I recall Rick Pipen, the contact person, commenting on the phone, "We are all hardcore fishermen and excited to get out on the water." The evening before the trip the wind was howling over thirty miles per hour, and it didn't look like it was going to slow down. Later that evening I got a call from Rick; he and the "no mas group" were discouraged about our chances of going fishing the next day. I remarked to Rick, "I thought you said y'all were hardcore." After a few convincing words, they all agreed in giving it a shot. The next morning I told them I was going to fish them from sun up to sun down or until they said "no mas." We woke up to winds blowing in excess of twenty five miles per hour. Heading north of the Arroyo we later jumped out of the boat at the first signs of some decent looking water. Our prospects did not look good and there was not a boat in sight. If all the wind-driven commotion occurring above the water on that day was an indication of what was happening below the water, it certainly would score a day to remember.

We were able to fish four areas that held some decent water despite the winds blowing over thirty miles per hour by mid-morning. Three of those areas held plenty of fish willing to take plastics worked on a slow retrieve. The trout bite was exceptional; we caught many trout over twenty two inches up to 28 plus. The redfish were ever so eager to pounce on a TTK II. With each hour passing by and the bite seemingly getting better, I reminded the group that we were going to fish until sun down. Slowly the group started to show their fatigue and decided that they had enough. Greg Schoenmann, a member of the group had just caught a personal best trout, and after landing it, he walked back to the boat and yelled out "no mas." Consequently, that is how their name came. The sun had yet to set, and they practically had to drag me off the water. They got firsthand experience about the great opportunities and excitement that winter fishing brings.

This fall things started off slow for us, but the winter is more than making up for it. Big trout have started to show up. A sure bet to find one is in or around spoil bank areas, flats with scattered potholes, and guts leading off the ICW. As I mentioned previously, redfish can be found around flats adjacent to deeper water; however, as soon as the flats begin to warm up, you can bet to find redfish prowling the shallows for their next meal. Find spoil areas with a firm bottom and begin to explore this winter. The rewards are one cast away. Pay close attention to the movement of the bait and certainly keep an eye out for bird activity. Remember, birds fish for survival, plus they are better fisherman than we are. I will be leaning more towards throwing plastics this time of year, but you can bet I will have a topwater handy if the occasion arises.

I recently read a bumper sticker that said, "Some traditions just can't be told; they have to be experienced." That conveys exactly how I feel about fishing in December.
December without a doubt provides some of the best fishing of the year. If you come, you won't be disappointed. May you have a blessed and Merry Christmas.