South Padre: February 2014

South Padre: February 2014
A personal best for this winter angler.
Winter on the Lower Laguna is by no means as cold as in the northern parts of the state but I think everybody would concur February is the harshest of the winter months all along the coast. February is usually wet too and this can interfere with fishing plans more than cold temperatures. The good news is that we are right in the middle of trophy trout season. If you can bear the elements, February offers some of the best trophy trout fishing of the year.

Colder weather means you have to plan carefully, starting with marine weather forecasts. Foremost, I want to know the predicted wind direction and strength. Specific areas of shorelines can benefit from strong wind while others become rough and murky; knowing which area might be a good producer only comes with experience.

Air and water temperatures are critical as well and observing changes in both during the course of the day are important keys in fishing success. Quite often we begin our day in deeper guts and troughs but knowing when to shift focus to adjacent flats might well be the most important decision of the day. And as if this wasn't enough, I like to know when the strongest tidal flow will occur. Even though winter tides are often weak, being on the right structure with moving water will positively add to your success.

Colder weather also means dressing correctly and it's always better to overdress than to be caught shivering all day. If you are not familiar with the Simms brand of Gore-Tex Thermal and Windstopper products, I highly suggest you visit their website or one of two Fishing Tackle Unlimited stores in Houston and do some research. I recently fished with a client that would have made a Simms display mannequin look naked with all his Simms gear from top to bottom. At the end of our miserably cold and rainy day of wade fishing that never warmed above 46 he said, "I'd have never made it without my Simms."

Over the last few weeks I have fished the Lower Laguna from the Land Cut to Port Isabel and everything in between. I observed that currently our fish are not widespread throughout the bay system but are concentrated in what I call their winter holes, and generally more abundant the further south you go. Of course, all this can change on a daily basis.

Even though as of this writing we have yet to land a giant, my confidence remains very high for what lies ahead. I believe the suddenness of the arrival of cold water temperatures is playing a role in this and it is only a matter of time until the bait and the fish become fully acclimated. For now, locating the big-trout bite is a game of trial and error. However, over the course of the next few weeks, I'm positively sure many of my clients will display big smiles, grasping a personal best or a trout of trophy caliber. Water temperature nudging back up to the mid-50s range should bring a 180 turnaround.

Shallow flats with plenty of deep potholes and edges of spoils with deeper water adjacent have been holding the greatest bait concentrations and also producing our best catches during warming periods. What's surprisingly and very noticeable this winter is that the redfish and trout have been sharing the same areas. Several times recently we have pulled into an area that has produced good numbers of trout up to seven pounds and also given us 10 to 15 redfish during a wade. During the colder periods we have concentrated in deeper guts with plenty of mud. At times we have had to trek through knee deep muck to get a bite; it's not fun but it fuels our passion. Our top baits continue to be Corkys from Devils to Fat Boy floaters and sinkers, and the good old reliable Kelley Wigglers in dark colors.

Along with the requirement for good planning I would like to mention the osprey, my favorite bird to watch in winter when I'm on the water. Even on the coldest days the osprey will pinpoint the bite for you. When the osprey is sitting on a piling, there is no bite. When he is soaring high and only looking, the bait and the bite is scarce and scattered. If you see the osprey dipping and diving, the bait is on the surface and the bite is on. Bank on it!

Be as patient as the osprey. We often catch our best wintertime trout when the bite is slow.