Mansfield Report: December 2017

Mansfield Report: December 2017
John Walker was very pleased getting into some solid trout – CPR!

Greetings from Port Mansfield! What a great time of year this is. As you receive this issue of TSFMag you are likely enjoying a feast of a big Butterball turkey or are about to. Maybe we should start thinking about partaking of such fine fare more often, instead of waiting for holidays to come around.

More importantly, some of us (me included) are thinking about big trout while eating turkey and enjoying the company of family and friends. I am curious to know how many coastal anglers fall into this category. As we are swimming in holiday spirit, eating some of the best meals of the year, the fish are in the same mindset – so to speak. November and December are when fish, especially trout, start packing on weight and, in that regard, speckled trout may be more like us than we realize.

I am fortunate to have been extremely busy these last few months on the water. Also on my schedule have been several Coastal Conservation Association chapter meetings. I have learned a lot over the last two months about the CCA and the important role they play in our current fisheries and the future of our fisheries. My seminars presented at Hill Country and San Antonio chapters, as well as another that Captain Ernest Cisneros and I presented jointly at the Rio Grande Valley chapter, seem to have been well received. The primary topic of the presentations has been the Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program that continues to garner great support in the fishing community.

CCA contributes resources that support the stocking of literally millions of seatrout and redfish fingerlings into Texas bays. CCA also helps educate anglers on the mortality rate of seatrout following catch and release. Guess what, post-release survival actually averages 85-90%. I find that quite amazing, considering they will all die in an ice chest.

Moving on to fishing: Northers have a little more bite these days and our tides are receding from the highest levels I’ve seen in a while. This will help concentrate fish into depressions on the flats and other deeper structure. While the tides were unusually high I could navigate my 24-foot Shallow Sport practically anywhere. While running some backwater areas I noticed some nice fish taking advantage of the increased water levels. Now, think forward and consider fishing out a little deeper from those same areas as the tides recede. I’m betting you might be pleasantly surprised.

Late-fall and early-winter fishing requires that we slow down a little bit. Areas we would cover in 30-minutes during warmer months should be given 45-minutes to an hour. And, just because the water is a bit cooler, does not mean topwaters will not work – just slow them down! The fish will tell you how they want it.

In addition to surface plugs, we continue to rely on our K-Wigglers Willow Tail Shad. This bait really shines in thigh- to shin-deep water. Its buoyant nature when rigged weedless or paired with a light jighead keeps it in the strike zone longer than other lures. Pushing out to waist-deep, we usually opt for the Ball Tail Shad but, again, with the lightest jighead possible. Remember that whatever you’re throwing, keeping it within the strike zone as long as possible is one of the greatest keys to success.

Heading into cooler fishing weather, personal comfort during long wades and days on the water is paramount to achieving angling success. I know you have heard it hundreds of times but, you simply cannot hang in there and remain focused when you are wet and shivering cold. A few suggestions for fishing in comfort would be Simms waders, with layered undergarments to match the conditions, and a quality waterproof jacket. Simms jackets are legendary in their own right and the new Anhydrous jacket from American Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO) are two of the finest on the market today. I recently had the opportunity to field-test the Anhydrous and found it very comfortable and dry.

In closing I would like to thank all those who have participated in our Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program trips. So far this year, my clients have released a combined total of more than 750 keeper trout, redfish and flounder. This does not include keepers that came on my personal rod – only client landings.

A special thanks to the sponsors who help make this happen – Simms Fishing, AFTCO, Shallow Sport Boats, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Fishing Tackle Unlimited, K-Wigglers, and Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine.

Until next month, good luck out there and, always remember to practice conservation and courtesy toward your fellow anglers.