Mansfield Report: December 2015

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: December 2015
Shawn Dinwiddie with his recent personal best.

Considering the challenges we've experienced recently our fall fishing season has been quite good. The red tide in the Lower Laguna was not nearly as widespread as we saw several years ago and is currently no longer a problem (as of this writing). Since that event, we have also experienced severe flooding very much similar to what we saw in the summer of 2010. At the present time many backroads throughout the floodplain are still closed and I have no way of predicting what the outcome will be when all the runoff hits the bay. Hopefully, it will not cause another seagrass die-off like the last one. Only time will tell.

Before and after the rains, my charter clients and I have had some exceptional days on the Laguna. Fall is such an awesome time to be on the water. Geese are honking, colorful ducks zoom into backwater ponds and fish are hell-bent on getting winter-fat. As water temperatures dip, life on the flats heats up and every trip gets "cooler" if you know what I mean.

We watched fish go from picking and pecking to thumping and slamming. The average sizes suddenly became much better as well. Almost out of nowhere we began finding three to six pound trout with some hitting thirty-inches and weighing almost eight pounds. Redfish have been abundant too, stretching lines and straightening hooks, trying to beat the trout to your lure.

As good as all of this sounds, we unfortunately are beginning to see some areas becoming very fresh with very poor clarity. Because of this many anglers are congregating in the areas of better water quality. Fish too run from the freshwater and they too "stack up" when they find an area more to their liking. Fishing is a popular sport and you really cannot blame folks for taking advantage of the "stack up" situation–but please, let's all remember the responsibility we have to be courteous and practice good sportsmanship until we can all spread out again.

December has traditionally been a really solid month on the Lower Laguna. The weather is usually mild with cool but not cold water, most of the casual crowd is gone, and fish will have moved into predictable winter patterns. Water levels have dropped and most depressions on the flats near deeper water hold opportunity, especially between northers.

In December we need to tighten the focus and fish more thoroughly rather than marching across larger areas looking for scattered fish. The main forage will swing towards mullet, so mullet-mimicking lures definitely come into play. My December go-to list includes K-Wiggler Paddletails, Gambler Flapping Shads, larger topwaters, and of course, Corkys.

It is very easy to get stuck with what you know and winter is a good time to learn new methods and scout new areas. Floating grass is much less of a problem and on average we enjoy decent clarity–barring a honking norther, of course. As the water temperatures continue to decline the mullet and other baitfish species are no longer scattered widely across the Laguna but huddled instead along drop-offs and deeper depressions on the flats. This is definitely a month for seeking the locations holding bait, even if the surface signs are very subtle. A flicker or two below the surface when the water temp plunges toward the 50s can be worth at least a hundred of summer's playful jumpers. Teaching seasonal techniques is truly what I love and winter is an especially great time for me to do this.

December is also about Christmas shopping so here's a few things I couldn't do without. First and foremost my rods and reels. I cannot say enough about my Waterloo Rods which I believe are the best in the business. Waterloo has recently opened a complete outfitting store in Victoria, Texas and you can also shop their online store. They offer 13-Fishing's Concept Reels, clothing, and more. Another must-have are my Costa sunglasses; quality eyewear makes all the difference for me. Last but not least is a 15-pound Boga Grip. I regard my Boga Grip as an essential safety tool when landing a fish with treble hooks all over its head, and it also greatly reduces fish mortality compared with nets and other landing devices.

In summation, it looks like December will be one to remember, but it won't happen unless you make it happen.
Please remember to be respectful of not only the fish but of others coming down to enjoy what we have been so blessed to receive.