Mansfield Report: February 2014

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: February 2014
Ol' Man Winter has finally arrived here in deep South Texas. Apart from having to bundle in more layers than we are accustomed, with just a bit of luck the Ol' Man should usher in some heavy potential for February's trophy trout program. After scratching my head much of early winter, attempting to understand patterns and stay on a decent bite, the most recent cold fronts could turn out to be exactly what this guide has been waiting for. Hopefully we'll see some changes toward the positive.

The water temperatures dropped into the mid-40 range during the Christmas and has remained there since New Year's Eve. We have had a fair showing of trout and redfish on east flats grassbeds, shorelines, and spoil banks; north and south. Many of the redfish are upper slot and, in the mix, we're finding a sprinkling of winter-fat trout of 26-30 inches. The real heavyweights have not shown up as of this writing, but we hope that will change soon enough.

February should be very similar to January with a slight twist. The arrival of colder water temperatures always pushes and stages fish in predictable areas but, conditions in February can be more "survival based." By that I mean they cannot stay holed-up and lock-jawed forever. As with all other winter predators, the trout have got to acclimate to the cold and begin eating eventually. This is when we will devote a lot of time to stalking the "Big One."

Some of our best chances will be when late-morning down comforters with coffee in front of the TV are hard to leave. Large fish will often concentrate themselves in sheltered areas during the coldest period of a norther, making the needle in the haystack easier to find. It's the typical cold water "stack-up" scenario, and often where you find one you will find many. In front of the television is no place to be when they decide it's time to feed.

February last year provided some very notable rewards on the first warming day after each successive front. The first few days after a front came through we could move with them from deeper holes to warming shorelines pretty regularly. When we found them, they were often willing and voracious participants, especially when Mother Nature informed them another blast from the north was approaching. Remember, it is always about timing and the cycle of survival.

In the real estate business they say, "Location, locationlocation," and it is never more true than in wintertime fishing. We need to be where they are when they eat, and often these places can be very tiny. And when they eat, the type of lure we are using matters little.

Having said that, I must also say my regular go-to lures have never let me down. There is no doubt the Kelley Wigglers' Ball Tail Shad rigged with their excellent 1/16 ounce 1/0 jig head is a game changer. It is remarkable in floating and bottom grass which is very bothersome in Port Mansfield; it just plain glides and twitches right through it.

In water that is knee-deep or less I find the 4" paddle tail to be a straight shooter, fast or slow, it stays where it needs to be in the skinny water column. Colors depend on water clarity; when murky I usually pick electric grape/char belly, midnight metal-flake with chartreuse tip, and plum metal-flake with chartreuse tip are great winter colors. When the water is air-clear as it sometimes is in winter, smoke and mirrors, sand, and moonbeam are a smart choice.

No wade box is complete without a few Corky Fatboys, and also a topwater or two when conditions warrant. When fish are not responding to a tail, a slow moving big-bodied surface plug is sometimes the lure selection I rely on to entice a strike.

February promises lots of potential and I am dreaming big. Hope you are too!

Tricia's Tips
1.The marina still has gas available. The corner convenience store on TX-186 does not. Be sure to fill up your boat and tow vehicle in Raymondville before heading to Port.
2.We will have a new restaurant soon at the old Fisherman's location. Pelicans Cove, The Windjammer and Gregory P's BBQ are all great too. Gregory P's is open for breakfast.