Mansfield Report: December 2010

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: December 2010
I never leave the dock without these essential tools.
Even though our fall season has included a few challenges it was still fairly good to Lower Laguna Madre fishermen. Nasty water conditions continuing from the great freshwater inflow last summer are still a problem in some areas but the fish have little problem finding your lure when you're on them. Salinity in general is improving but we still have a ways to go. Hopefully the long-term effect will eventually outweigh the current negatives. "Cautiously optimistic" might be the best way to describe my prediction for the coming winter fishing season. With a bit of luck we could be in for some storybook big trout action.

Fall really is an awesome time to be on the water. Geese are honking, ducks glide into backwater ponds and fish bent on getting winter-fat are aggressively looking for something to eat. As water temperatures dip into breathable wader range, life on the flats heats up and every trip becomes a "cool" adventure. If you are as passionate about throwing hardware as I am, late fall is one of the better times to do it. We watched fish go from pecking at tails to slamming topwaters and the average size suddenly become much better as well. Almost out of nowhere we began finding three to six pound trout with a few heavier "kickers" showing up on better days. Redfish have been abundant too, stretching lines and straightening hooks, trying to beat the trout to your lure. Knee deep and less has been the place to be.

Unfortunately though, as good as all this sounds, overall poor water clarity plus floating dead grass has everybody stacking up in the same areas. We are hearing rumors of several mid and upper coast fishermen (read guides) wanting to relocate here this winter presumably to take advantage of better opportunity. If so, everyone should prepare for a few surprises; especially how little water is left to work due to the clarity problem. The fish are stacked up, but so are the fishermen, so let's all try to share responsibly and with good manners toward our fellow anglers.

December has traditionally been one of our better months. The weather is usually mild with cool but not cold water, the casual crowds are (usually) gone and fish have already moved into their predictable winter patterns. Water levels have dropped and most depressions on the flats near deeper water hold opportunity, especially between northers. It is a time to fish more thoroughly rather than marching across larger areas looking for scattered fish. The main forage will swing towards mullet so larger lure profiles will come into play. The larger Kelly Wiggler paddle tails, TTF's Big Minow, larger topwaters, and of course Paul Brown's Originals (Corkys) will become my go-to numbers.

December is also about Christmas shopping so here's a few hints for the angler on your list. Good tools are critical on the water and here are five things I couldn't do without. First are my Costa Del Mar fishing glasses. Quality eyewear makes all the difference and the 580s are the ultimate. For those who require Rx, the 400 series rock as well. Second is a 15-pound Boga Grip. No, it's not a fashion statement; it is an essential safety tool when landing a fish with treble hooks all over its head. Third is quality fishing pliers. The new all-aluminum pliers by Fishing Tackle Unlimited is both practical and affordable at $79; I'm loving them. Fourth is something made by our friend and FTU Pro-Staff Coordinator, Ron Shepherd. Ron makes an angler's lanyard to conveniently hold clippers, lip balm, hook file, leader material and especially my Power Pole remote. It's a little 70s retro-looking with cool beads and baubles, but I absolutely depend on it to carry my necessary stuff. I don't think anyone offers anything quite like it. Thanks Ron! Fifth but by no means last in importance is a Yeti Cooler, no other ice chest comes close. As a guide I am saving at least $6 dollars per day on ice. At that rate it doesn't take long to pay for a Yeti.

All in all, it looks like December will be one to remember, but it won't happen unless you make it happen. I've already caught a fat twenty-nine inch trout and on another day had ten topwater trout over six pounds and some brutish reds on my rod, so the potential is definitely there. Please remember to be respectful of not only the fish but of others coming down to enjoy what we have been blessed to receive. Bring your tools!