Greetings from Port Mansfield. As of this writing our weather has been rather mild with sunburns and lots of stingrays still roaming the flats the greatest threats. As might be expected our cold-water fish patterns were slow developing but certainly worth the wait once they came together. With the right mix of northers and recovery periods February has potential to deliver some awesome catching for numbers as well as quality.
Water clarity has been incredible every time the winds lay for a few days. Being able to see and count fish while running depths as great as five to six feet will always be remarkable to me, and of course it's always more encouraging to fish where you know fish are holding, regardless of whether the extreme clarity allows for steady catching. Seeing scores of fish and not getting them to respond can be frustrating but it is truly inspiring to see just how much life exists in these waters.
When conditions turn "finicky" some impressive fish can still be picked off with accurate casts and slow determined wades. Sight-casting to visible trout and reds and blind-casting to likely structure can be very rewarding if you have the patience for the stalk. Speaking of accurate casts, the new rubber-engrained cork handles on our FTU Green Rods have sure made "getting a handle on things" a lot easier. The mixture of rubber and cork offers a great grip, even with wet hands.
Some very impressive trout have been holding along sandy edges of shallow grass beds during the warm-ups. Good lure choices for targeting them have been natural-colored tails, and when the feeding turns aggressive they'll take Fat Boys and small topwaters. Along with hefty trout, redfish have also been sucking up plastics throughout the day and crushing topwaters late in the evening. Mullet are the primary forage this time of year so larger profile baits can often make sense, especially in off-colored water.
During colder morning wades or extended periods of low sunlight, we find the fish holding deeper and wanting lures presented lower and just a tad slower. Things can change fairly quickly though, and if you can wait them out you might find some excellent late afternoon action via the slow-stalk in the shallows. The animated performances of pelicans, seagulls and baitfish can be a pretty obvious clue where you need to be.
Like it or not February's fishing success will always hinge on weather as much as anything else. "Hunker down" fronts and lingering cold spells can come at any time during the month with the greatest probability for tough weather occurring during the first two weeks. If you have the right gear and enough grit you can find some surprising feeding activity right in the middle of a three or four day cold snap. The trout especially may not be concentrated or feeding on the first or second day of such an event but by the third or fourth day it can be very different as they begin to slide up out of the guts and other depressions where they rode out the storm and resume feeding along the edges of the depth breaks.
March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb in many places but here along the Lower Texas Coast we often get a little taste of spring during the final days of February. Our trout will be as winter-fat as they're going to get and it is not unusual to see egg development beginning to occur. I just love the way they flash those big bellies when they roll up on a topwater in that beautiful late-afternoon sunlight. So if you rate your trophies strictly in terms of weight you surely do not want to miss a single late-February opportunity. With the new moon coming on the 21st I look for that whole week to be on fire.
As mentioned above there are lots of stingrays on the flats and for whatever reason they seem more belligerent than ever. Even though popular wisdom says your chances of being hit are slim to none in late winter I have to disagree. Whether these guys are cold and sluggish or just being unusually stubborn to yield right-of-way, I highly recommend that you wear protective gear. Check out Foreverlast's Ray-Guard wading boots with the sewn-on shields as they seem to offer the most protection.
Always remember the fish you release today could grow up to become tomorrow's trophy. Keep an eye on the long-range forecast and get down here. February is gonna be awesome!