Howdy from Port Mansfield! As you are reading this we are only days away from the beginning of a new year. Another year in the books and what a year it has been. WOW! I am so looking forward to this new year and I firmly believe it has many offerings and opportunities. For me, as a fisherman and guide, I look to this new year as one to improve and try and step up my game and focus on “dialing into” fishing and putting folks on the best fish I can.
The theme of this article will be about just that, dialing into what the fish are telling you, or not telling you. It will help if you are with a group, such as I am on many trips. Before we get too far into that let me say the weather has been very fishable, for the most part – a few hard northers recently.
Quick side note on northers – I recently was able to fish one, with winds gusting around the 30 to 35 mph mark. I set up near a large drain that led to a depression and the drain was surrounded by a large flat. As the water fell off the flat the fish staged in that depression. If you know of an area like this, consider it if you are fishing during or on the tail end of a norther.
We are now basically in the dead of winter, a time when we must mentally work on how we approach our fishing tactics. I must concentrate more, I must move slower, work my bait slower and “dial into” what fish are telling me. That can be challenging, especially if you are used to working tops and tails quickly, as we do in the spring, summer and fall.Is there bait present? Is it active? If yes; how are they acting? Rolling? Flipping? Scattering? You must piece these things together and then “dial” yourself into the scene.
First, the easiest way to address all of this is to catch a fish. Next, try to replicate the presentation you were running when it happened. There are outliers and anomalies; i.e. a fish hits your lure the very second it hits the water or as you are reeling your lure up to your rod tip. Those things cannot be replicated by skill.
One approach to winter fishing is work the lure as slowly as possible without catching grass. Many of my clients have heard this time and time again no matter what season we are fishing. I always start off fishing as slow as possible without getting grass on my lure. Here is why. If a fish is active and hungry it will hit a lure whether it is moving fast or slow. However, if a fish is less aggressive or nearly inactive you have an opportunity to catch that fish if you start slow. If you always work your baits fast you will miss that slow fish – especially in winter.
The biggest indicator that you are really dialed in is catching fish consistently. You have found that niche, that zone you end up in when all things are working, basically you are dialed in to your fishing environment. You have mastered when to slow your retrieve, speed up your retrieve, how to move your rod tip whether it’s up, down, sideways, rolling, etc. It’s a beautiful thing to bear witness when a fisherman is in this zone.
We continue to use the KWigglers Willow Tail Shad in shallow water, it has just flat out been producing big fish. Flo Mingo, Mansfield Margarita and Red Shad Pro seem to be the best colors as of this writing. We have not been fishing deeper than waist (at most) but when we do go out over thigh-deep water we switch over to the Ball Tail Shad in the same color combos as the Willow Tails. The topwater bite has not been as consistent as the soft plastics; right now soft plastics have been ruling the water.
Our Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program is still in full force and it looks like I will meet my goal of 1000 successful releases for 2017. Although I have not tallied the count, early indication is we might even surpass the 1000 release mark. Now that is awesome!In closing I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you at the upcoming shows in 2018. Remember to practice conservation and be courteous on the water.