"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-André Gide

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Paying Dues

As mentioned by others fishing for big fish during the winter is a true test of your willpower and endurance. You must have a whole different mindset when targeting big trout during the wintry season. Bites frequently are few and far between and conditions are usually not very favorable or for the faint at heart. You have to mentally prepare yourself for these conditions to keep from losing faith in what you are trying to accomplish. At times it’s easy to become discouraged but you have to position yourself in high likelihood areas and remind yourself that any bite could possibly be the fish of a lifetime.

Paying your dues is about learning how every aspect (tide, wind, current, etc.) affects your fishing area and the fish that inhabit it. Also equally important is putting in your time on the water therefore increasing your chances at crossing paths with the fang-toothed leviathans of our inshore waters. Fish’s metabolism slows down this time of year and as a result they don’t feed as regularly compared to the warmer months. Slow and deliberate presentations have been the most effective.

I have made 11 different trips over the past 12 days with only one trip that the action was anywhere near steady. My buddies and I have had some tough days on the water which on occasion has been compounded by the weather and conditions. We have also made numerous night trips fishing in bitter conditions to help increase the odds of getting that big bite. We have had lots of short nights of rest and chaotic sleeping patterns as a result.

A few trips have been what others might consider “crazy” or “hardcore” because of the timing and duration. One trip that stands out above all others was the freezing cold Christmas night trip when Sam and I camped out on an island from 8:00pm until 10:30am with only two bites to show for our efforts.

The typical winter pattern of deep water over mud and shell has produced in quality but has definitely lack in quantity. We have caught decent numbers of trout in the 18” – 20” range over the past 12 days with quite a few pushing over this range. The occasional redfish and flounder has also been a welcomed addition to the scarcity of action but our focus is singular this time of year; big trout and nothing else.

Our lures of choice this winter have been Catch 5’s in chartreuse top and bottom with gold sides, and numerous soft plastic paddle tails fished on heavy jigheads (Gambler Flappin’ Shad, TTF Flats Minnow, TTF Flats Minnow XL, Bass Assassin Sea Shad)in Roach, Morning Glory, Liquid Shrimp, Salt and Pepper, and Mumpy Glow. Color selection has been based on the water clarity. The clearer the water the lighter or more natural colored baits and vice versa.

There have been more than a few trips were bites have been of the premium. No worries though, there is still plenty of winter left and I’m determined to find a reliable pattern and bite before the winter is up. Until next time…

Sam's Rat Red

Sam's 22" Trout

Sam's Slot Red

Sam's 21" Trout

Sam's 25" Trout

Sam's 23" Trout

Roach TTF Big Mino

Tater Chip

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Five 2's or One 10?

Quantity versus quality the old debate. I had a little of both this past week and I've got to say that I enjoy both. Some days when I hit the water I just want to catch fish and a lot of them. While other days I feel like grinding for a few bites because I know the quality will justify the effort. I took advantage of every opportunity to fish during the Thanksgiving break from school, fishing five days straight this past week. I had a blast fishing with good friends and caught a fair amount of fish.

Now for the report...

I recieved a call from Clint on Tuesday asking when I was going to be back in Houston for the break because he was planning on hitting the water Wednesday morning for a quick trip. I really wanted to hit the water but I had class till 9:30 and I still hadn't packed so I knew it was going to be a long night (or short depending on how you look at it)if I wanted to make the trip. After much debate, I made a last minute decision to rush home, pack (throw all my stuff in a trash bag), load all my gear, and hit the road. I didn't make it home until almost 2:00am and the plan was to be on the road by 4:30am.

Running on two hours of sleep, I met up with Clint, Chris, and Rick at a spot that has traditionally produced fish during the colder months. We hit the water before sunrise and caught a flounder, a few redfish, several keeper trout very early in the morning but the bite was spotty and didn't last long. Among these fish I did manage one solid trout that went a hair under 25" and 5 lbs. We caught our fish on various soft plastics on heavy jigheads and underneath a popping cork. The spot we fished is your typical winter haunt, its deep (5'+) with plenty of mud and shell.

25" trout caught on a TTF Flats Minnow in liquid shrimp...

Clint and Chris saw some birds working over a flat off in the distance and decided to chase after them to see what was under them. They pulled out numerous rat reds along with a few keeper trout underneath the birds. We all met up and decided to work a few shallow reefs to see if the fish were shallow. There were plenty of reds and trout on the points of reefs in about 2' of water. Clint put on a clinic with a popping cork/soft plastic setup working the edge of a reef. Not owning a single popping cork, I tried using a skitterwalk as a substitute with mild success until Clint felt sorry for me and gave me one of his spares. The tides running above normal and the warm water temps lead me to believe that the typical winter holes haven't turned on yet. The fact that we caught so many fish shallow reinforces these observations.

Me holding Clint's stringer that consisted of 6 trout up to 21" and a 19" flounder that I was able to donate to the cause...

On Thanksgiving Day I hadn't planned on fishing but after talking to Sam he convinced me to make a quick to Seawolf, sans kayak, to see if we could muster up any flounder. I hate flounder fishing because of their lack of fighting prowess and difficulty to catch. We fished for about an hour and a half and proceeded to catch nothing more than a cold. It's was freezing cold out there with the howling north wind and unpleasant surprise of leaky waders.

Ship Channel Sunrise

Tugboat moving our structure

Black Friday we decided to skip out on the shopping and hit the marsh. Sam, Greg, and I hit the water bright and early to catch the early bird special (literally). As we made our way into the marsh we found birds working over a school of feeding redfish. We pulled six fish up to 27" out of the school before they dispersed.

We finished the day with 26 reds up to 27" with most of them in the middle of slot. We caught most of our fish sightcasting to backs, tails, or by looking for small disturbances or irregularities in the water. All the fish were fat and full of bait, mainly shrimp. Most of the fish were in about 1' - 1.5' of water and were not holding close to the shorelines even though the tide was high. All of Sam's and Greg's fish came on soft plastics. I landed a couple of fish on soft plastics but the rest of my fish came on topwaters worked very slowly.

My roommate, Austin, and his brother, Cooper, came into town late Friday evening after a few mishaps including going to Corpus instead of Houston and making the first Oreo blizzard flavored Citica. We decided to fish the same spot we fished the day before to try to put them on some fish after the long day they had the day before. The day was very slow compared to the day before and we only managed 5 reds between the four of us, all but one of them was a quality fish 26" - 30". Austin managed to catch his PB redfish so not all was gone to waste. The fish were nowhere near where we found them the day before and most of the fish we caught were in the very back of the marsh on shorelines chasing bait.

Cooper's the first to strike

30" Red caught on a TTF Flats Minnow in pumpkinseed-white/chartreuse...

Austin's 27.5" Red caught on a TTF Flats Minnow in liquid shrimp...

Me and Austin's Big Fish Double


Smiles Before the Drag


Still Struggling

Relief After the Drag

On Sunday I hit the marsh with Rick, Clint, Vincent, and Sam to look for redfish again. We quickly found small schools and singles roaming the shorelines looking for bait. We all caught fish but the bite died off pretty quickly and it was slow the rest of the morning. We all met up further in the marsh on a deep cut and Rick quickly made use of the popping cork/soft plastic setup that has been catching a lot of fish for them lately. Rick was getting bit on nearly every cast and he landed numerous trout up to 19". A short while later we were all throwing the same setup. I have to say I learn something new every time I fish with these guys and you better believe that I will be adding the popping cork to my arsenal from here on out. All of them have been having great success for both trout and redfish using this technique. Had a blast but now I'm ready for the cold fronts to start pouring in and big trout to start showing up in better numbers.