Fishing patterns are unpredictable during the winter months, but one thing you can count on is extremely low water levels in the bays. It’s important to have an understanding of how to overcome the angling challenge this presents.
Flats anglers need to be aware of the size and draft of their boat because it determines where they can fish. Many areas in our flats and bayous have pockets of water protected by shoals or shallow sandbars that can become very shallow (or even dry) on extreme negative tides. While this makes those pockets difficult to reach, finding the small navigable grooves between them can get you into the pools that are often loaded with fish. Technical poling skiffs are best suited for low water conditions because of their shallow draft and ease of maneuverability.
Once you find a way in, stealth becomes absolutely critical. Slow down and use either a push pole or your trolling motor on a very low setting to work the edges of the transition from shallow to deep water. You’ll likely find tailing redfish in the shallow grass and speckled trout, flounder and black drum in the deeper sand.
The pocket that holds fish today might not be very productive tomorrow. Fish move from hole-to-hole or bayou-to-bayou, searching for ideal winter survival conditions. That’s why you should be patient and take your time. At any moment, you could run up on a giant school of fish that you could easily spook and miss out on catching a limit.
Use clues to select areas that you want to target. Look for birds diving on bait or egrets wading a flat. Be alert to mullet in tight schools acting nervous. Focus on areas in clear water where the water has been stirred up by active fish. All of these can be good indicators that fish are feeding or staging nearby.
Once I’ve located fish, I like to use soft plastic lures on light jig heads but, if live bait is your preference, then it’s hard to beat live shrimp this time of the year. Everything should be downsized to match – a medium-light action rod rigged with 6-10 pound braided line and a light fluorocarbon leader will usually get the job done where structure is not an issue. This will definitely provoke a lot more bites than heavier tackle.
As always, if you have questions about what’s biting, how to catch them or want to book a trip, give me a call or shoot me an email. Good luck!