Mansfield Report: December 2016

Mansfield Report: December 2016
Capt. Wayne shows off a sleek 28. In another month or two she could easily be a full pound heavier.

Greetings from Port Mansfield! As of this writing the first couple of fronts have drifted through and winter will soon be dropping our water temperatures. Evidence of the change is everywhere, notably in the large flocks of waterfowl that have been piling into the Laguna Madre. Any day now a true cold snap will head our way and the big trout enthusiasts welcome the dropping temperatures with open arms. Many, including me, have already pulled their Simms waders, undergarments, gloves and jacket from the closet and inspected everything carefully to make sure it is in good order. I am thankful to have such gear and remember vividly landing monster trout last winter, all the while warm and comfortable against the blustery conditions.

Speaking of dropping water temperatures, we should take a closer look at our beloved Lower Laguna. This bay complex is a shallow system compared to other bays. Water levels currently remain high and we are using this to our advantage. With water temps running in the upper-70s to low 80s the fish are comfortable, staging mostly on flats with bottoms that are easy to wade. At least until strong northers push large volumes of water out of the bays.

I have a theory on high water as it relates to boggy and hard bottoms. When the water level is high it is simply easier to wade in a boggy area rather than when the water is low. I believe this because of two things. One - the wader is more buoyant. Two - the high water adds weight and therefore compresses the soft bottom, making it more wadeable. Now, this is just my opinion, I have no scientific proof supporting my theory, but it seems to make sense if you think about it. And for hard bottom areas, these are mostly sand and remain hard-packed no matter the water level. Just enjoy them and don't ask questions.

Recent trips have been awesome, with less fishing and boating pressure on the water we have fished all day with the nearest boat still a half-mile away. We are still getting out early, before sunrise, and settling into our spot as the sun rises what a beautiful sight. Topwaters work great one day and the next day the fish want plastics; still have not quite figured this one out yet but I'm trying. On occasion, we have had to deal with 25-30 mph northerly gusts but with the high water levels the clarity is holding rather well.

Heading into December we should see the water fall out of our bays (though it should have already happened). However, rest assured it will happen and when it does the fish will fall off the flats and stage in depressions, drains and areas close to deeper channels. The bait will also be concentrated in these areas as well. If we have a true norther that rapidly drops temperatures, expect a sluggish bite, but as the water warms the fish will feed again within a day or two. Severe cold snaps may take three days.

In general, I believe December is shaping up to be a great fishing month. Trout will be feeding very aggressively between fronts and packing on weight we wish they would carry in summer. You will notice this predominantly in larger specimens but even mid-size trout will be sporting greater girth and thicker shoulders. I always say that winter-fat trout are shaped like footballs.

As for baits, I will always have a topwater tied on at least one rod, a One Knocker or Rattling Spook. About all it takes is for me to see a mullet jump or flee in a manner inconsistent with normal "joy" jumping. If the topwater doesn't produce I am throwing plastics and you can bet it will be a 4-inch paddle tail or a Ball Tail Shad. The color depends on the clarity of water but as of recent Olive Red Metal Flake/Chartreuse Tail and Honey Gold/Chartreuse have been steady producers. The hot Ball Tails have been Bone Diamond, Mansfield Margarita, Sand and Natural Two-Tone/Chartreuse. We are using these baits on 1/16 or 1/8 jigheads depending on the depth of water and wind.

In closing I want to express how important it is to release those bigger trout. Any who are friends with me on Facebook see how often we release those big fish. Clients typically do not post or follow-up on social media of the actual release, they may only comment on the catch. But let me tell you, they love the thrill and accomplishment of the release, too.

Be safe out there and courteous to your fellow anglers.