South Padre: December 2013

South Padre: December 2013
en’s best-ever; a whopping 25-incher.
Well here we are, another fishing year about to be in the books and I am very excited to have the winter season upon us. From now until spring I will be bundled in Simms waders, underwear, layers and outerwear. I will begin each day with great expectations of finding exceptional trout.

Late fall was not easy for us although the extra hours spent grinding paid nice dividends. It brings to mind a phone call I got from a potential client a few years ago. It went something like this; "Captain, I would like to book a trip with you but, can you guarantee me fish?"

My standard reply to questions of this sort is always; "Sir, if I put you on the fish, will you guarantee me you can get them to bite, and if they do can you catch them?"

He paused for a second and then said, "I see your point."

I have learned from years on the water that you can be right on top of fish, but you cannot dictate when, where, and how they will feed. We can only guess from experience and hope we make the right choices.

Cold fronts will play a very large role in the predictions we make during the coming months as they become more frequent and faster moving. Even fronts that pass as suddenly as they arrive still have an effect on the feeding patterns of fish. Their metabolism and movement patterns will slow down with cooler temperatures. Deeper water will be a temporary refuge but, we never know how long temporary will be. The day following a front reaching the coast is usually very slow and they will begin to feed sometime during the second day. Having said this, I have also seen them with lockjaw until the third day.

December is a month for more casual starts, no need to hurry to the launch ramp. Take your time and let the sun penetrate the shallows to allow the fish to occupy the shallow grass flats and enter their feeding mode. As I mentioned above, this time of the year the chilly conditions will quite often have fish staged in deeper water, but when they get up shallow to feed, they will eat unlike any other time of year.
Yes, their reaction strike or willingness to chase might be a bit slower, but they will eat just about anything you throw at them, especially when bad weather has put them off their feed for a few days.

Early and cooler mornings, you probably want to start along dropoffs, deeper flats, or areas near the ICW. Watch and listen for fleeing baitfish or swirls, sure signs a predator is on the prowl.

Bird activity is helpful. Take note of the water depths they're working; that's where you need to be. Pay particular attention to the osprey, he is the best fisherman on the water.

Mud boils will tell you fish are present and often also means they are holding near bottom, so slow your presentation.

Bait is usually scarce in winter, but bait is bait. I don't care if it's horse mullet, finger mullet, or small pinfish. And they're not always visible at the surface; quality eyewear helps you observe what is going on down lower where trout and reds are feeding.

December will bring some of the lowest tides of the year so caution is advised. There will be fewer boats on the water and help might be scarce if you run aground.

When targeting big trout, don't rule out skinny flats during warming periods but do expect them to be extremely wary in ultra-skinny water. Smaller topwaters like the Zara Puppy can be the ticket, especially when it is calm. Kelley Wigglers in natural colors and flomingo on 1/8 jigs can also be very effective here. MirrOlure's Paul Brown Original Floating Fat Boy is another excellent lure for trophy fish in calm-clear skinny conditions.

Our redfish remained mostly scattered through fall but as the water temps drop into the 60s I am fairly confident we will begin to see winter schools forming, this is a normal pattern. Reds adapt readily to winter water temperatures and they get heavy for length. Already we are seeing their shoulders widen and their bellies sagging. If reds are in your game plan, the lures I have recommended for trout along with the 6-inch Flapp'n Shad rigged weedless will work on these brutes just as well.

Come get you some! Happy Holidays!