Wow! Another year comes to a close. Throughout the year we saw many fantastic things, and overall the catching wasn’t too bad. Not always great, but certainly far from the worst.
If you’ve been following this column the last couple of years, you’ve likely noticed me saying that our fish patterns have become erratic, difficult to predict, and sometimes difficult to follow. Fish don't hold in the same areas as they once did, likely due to increases in boat traffic and fishing pressure.
It takes much more know-how and time on the water nowadays, and even these are no guarantee. As recent as fifteen years ago we caught fish everywhere we went and plenty of them. Schools of reds and drum roamed the flats for weeks at a time during specific months of the year. Flounder were plentiful along the ICW and trout over twenty-five inches were really quite common. Limits of all species came easily; even during an era of more generous bag limits.
Massive stringers and loads of fish on fillet tables posted on social media confirm that many anglers still subscribe to the “bigger is better” mentality. Please don't get me wrong; I like to eat fish. But I keep only what I’ll need for a meal and do not put them in the freezer. We have a good fishery here on the Lower Laguna, but greater conservation would contribute to making it even better.
We have entered what I call “wader season” and in my opinion there are none better than Simms. Monitoring weather forecasts to avoid dangerous conditions is more important in winter than any other season. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the water when a strong norther blasts its way to the coast. Layering with warm clothes under your Simms waders is good insurance that you can remain dry and comfortable all day.
Water temps have cooled into the 60s to low-70s and redfish are becoming more numerous and easier to pattern. These reds have been feeding greedily, snapping up our Kwiggler Ball Tails and Willow Tails, along with just about anything else they can swallow. This is normal this time of year, evidently Mother Nature has them programmed to pack on extra weight in preparation for winter. The biggest key in locating hungry reds is to focus on bait concentrations through the remainder of November and December. On the coldest days, I like to target areas with softer bottoms near deeper water. Ledges and guts along the ICW are usually very productive.
I mentioned last month that paying attention to pelicans and gulls can be a sure ticket for locating bait during colder months. The osprey is another. This sharp-eyed fish-eater glides aloft until it finds a school of mullet and hovers until the right moment to swoop down and grab one. Pay attention, the osprey knows what he is doing.
Our trout are growing noticeably heavier and they have been congregating in deeper holes on grass flats. Keep in mind that water temperature will be one of the greatest factors moving into December; they go deep when the temperature plummets during a cold snap. During warming periods they venture back toward the flats, and as that transition is occurring they can be found anywhere in-between. Suspending baits such as the Barboleta Lele or any of the Corky family should be in your wade box, along with your trusty KWigglers. Areas to target will include ICW spoils, deeper potholes on the flats, and large flats adjacent to channels. I’m praying for colder weather soon to aid in our searches for trophy trout.
If you happen to be in the Houston area on Saturday December 12, I would encourage that you stop by Fishing Tackle Unlimited’s Annual Inshore Expo to be held at their Katy Freeway location. I will be making a presentation on fishing the Lower Laguna Madre that I hope you will find informative.
One last thought, it is my sincere hope that by reading this column you will become a better fisherman and that you will also take my conservation messages to heart. The next time you get into a great bite, ask yourself, “Do I really need to keep all these fish?” Bringing the fewest fish to the cleaning table doesn’t make you any less of a fisherman.