South Padre: January 2010

South Padre: January 2010
This trout was determined to escape.
Unfortunately, 2009 did not end on the happiest note for the Lower Laguna. In my last article I said the red tide had not yet appeared in the bays, but soon after I wrote that piece the red tide moved in. Although we have not seen or heard reports of massive gamefish kills between Port Mansfield and Port Isabel, the dead mullet and other small fish found floating in certain areas near the Arroyo Colorado and south to the Brownsville Ship channel remind us of how fragile our bay system really is. The areas that have contained pockets of stained water and dead fish (mainly mullet) have been desolate of live ones as well. A noticeable number of dead stingrays have been seen and the sad part has been that areas that once held plenty of gamefish prior to the red tide episode now appear void of all fish. I will say that this natural phenomenon has not occupied the entire bay but only isolated patches that seem to be concentrated by wind and tide. Even though the flats near the Arroyo Colorado have been void of any great numbers of redfish or trout since this outbreak, we are very grateful that most of our gamefish were smart enough to detect this toxin producing algae bloom and left before it caused any damage to their population. As a matter of fact, as of this writing, I have yet to see any dead redfish or trout.

The good news is that despite the gloom and doom most of our water is still in good shape. We are still catching solid trout, but it has taken a bit more creativity to catch them. Moving around and finding clear to trout green water has certainly helped our chances. Our marathon wades have now become short marches through soft bottoms. The choice of lures and how we worked them are tailored to the conditions of the day. Presently, we are targeting small areas where experience tells us fish congregate during colder periods of the year. If you know an area where a flat meets up with a gut, this is an excellent choice this time of the year. Working your soft plastic or a suspending lure near the bottom of these guts is a sure bet, especially during the cold spells. As I mentioned in my previous article, the edges and drops of spoil islands will certainly hold good fish during these cooler months.

Even in the middle of winter our grass flats are excellent producers. All it takes is the sun to warm them up, and they warm up pretty fast. I have learned that the best time to hook up on some excellent winter flats fishing is two days after a cold front has passed. Two days of sun is enough time to warm the flats. As soon as they warm the baitfish venture out of the deep and into the shallows and not far behind are the gamefish and they will be hungry. Remember, in the winter they don't have the opportunities they get in the warmer months, so when an opportunity arises, they will be quick to begin feeding. This is when small topwaters worked slowly over potholes will produce good results.

I will admit winter fishing takes finesse and good observation skills. For example, as we wade through an area, we just don't stampede through. Instead, our wades are slow and thorough, and our casts become tight and precise. Your eyes also play an important role when trying to find concentrations of bait even when they have decided to stay low in the water column. Keep an eye on what the birds are doing and over which depths they seem to be feeding. Sometimes you will find birds feeding on the drop of the ICW or at times on the adjacent flats; this is where your eyes can lead you to the fish.

The tides will drop dramatically during January so look for deeper holes to be good producers as well. Currently, our better catches are coming in late afternoon and into the evening hours. You might want to do a little homework and plan a trip on an afternoon where you have an incoming tide. This is part of applying creativity to improve your fishing.

With the water temperatures dropping, you will need a good set of waders. My first and only choice is Simms along with their layering garments. When you're out in the elements, protection, durability, and comfort are very important to the angler. Simms brings all of this and more and they stand behind their product. Get out when you can and fish outside the box this New Year.