South Padre: February 2016

South Padre: February 2016
A personal best winter beauty that was CPR’ed!

Sitting here to write this month's report I am reminded how much fun fishing has been over the past month. The numbers and quality of fish we have been catching have both been very good and boat traffic has been very light. What a change from summer and fall, to locate schools of fish and be able to return to them day after day.

You do not have to wait in line to launch and the few people around the dock all seem to be in a good mood. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular and the rush of duck wings overhead adds a certain wildness to the scenes. The tranquility alone is enough reason to call winter my favorite time of year on the Lower Laguna Madre.

Northers have become more frequent and the tides are finally beginning to recede to more-normal winter levels. With water temperature declining to low-60s and occasionally the high-50s, our fish are beginning to settle into the deeper places with muddy bottom we expect to find them this time of year. Strong northers that empty the flats definitely makes getting on them easier. Pelicans resting and diving along edges of drop-offs are one of the surest signs for getting on a steady bite.

Trophy trout are on everybody's mind this time of year. I catch myself daydreaming as I wade along and the scenes in my mind are vivid down to the exact pothole a ten-pounder will come from, thrashing violently and tail-walking to dislodge my Corky. Every thump at the end of the line could be the bite we have waited for all year.

February is generally the coldest month of the year, and with that being said, on really cold days, most of our trophy trout wading effort will take place over mud-shell bottom, too laborious and challenging for all but your most diehard fishermen. A welcome change from boot-sucking muck is found near spoil islands and the deeper ends of flats during warming days behind strong fronts. Likewise, waist-deep potholes scattered amid solid grass are notorious for being sow trout hangouts when the tides creep back and water temperatures rise into the high-60s.

My go-to baits will include the K-Wiggler Ball Tail Shad in flomingo, plum-chartreuse, and the usual assortment of natural colors. Paul Brown's Fat Boy and Original Corky are always on my winter list, and I never leave the boat without a couple of clear Zara Puppy floaters for sight-casting large trout foraging and sunning in clear water on warm afternoons.

One word to describe our current redfish situation is scattered. A few times in recent weeks we have found them stacked in slightly deeper holes around spoils, but that has been the exception. On most of our trips we are picking up a few here and there but nothing to call a sure pattern. They are definitely not in tight schools just yet, but that might change if turns colder and remains so later in the month.

Warm and calm mornings and afternoons, say three to four days after a front, is a good time to look for pods and schools of reds waking across grassy, shallow flats. During colder periods they don't tend to swim very far from deep guts and channel edges. Most of our reds have been taken with plastics, working slowly near bottom. Don't expect a solid thump, more often all we feel is a slight peck. Be assured though; that light bite is no indication of the size of the fish.

A quick look at another species that may interest you. During winter, actually anytime the water temp drops below 60, snook go deep and hunker down. The Brownsville Ship Channel is a good place to target them. It can be a world-class experience if you get lucky enough to catch the right conditions. Soft plastics on 1/4 and 3/8 jigs are necessary to probe the channel ledges and deeper holes. They sometimes hold as deep as twelve feet, so do not be afraid to let the lure settle a few seconds before beginning the retrieve. Rat-L-Traps are another bait to throw at them.

A final note of caution–February weather can be highly changeable and you should always check the forecast before you go. Checking multiple times throughout the day to keep track of approaching fronts and storms is also highly advised. Do not get caught out there unprepared for the conditions. It's always better to be overdressed than cold and miserable. Best of luck in your trophy endeavors!