Tides in January tend to be low; therefore you should time your fishing trips to correspond to tides at, or approaching, their highest points. Pick days with strong incoming or outgoing tidal currents. Selecting locations to fish that have deep guts will also enhance your chances of coming home with fish when the water is cold.
My wife, Janet, and I anchored our boat at the point where a bayou with deep guts and shallow oyster reefs met the bay. We launched our kayaks and started paddling into the bayou. The tide was high and incoming. The trout-green 52°F water was promising; it was a cloudy day with a temperature of 65°F and the wind was from the south at 5 to 15 mph. Two guys were coming out of the bayou in their boat as we went in. I asked, "Did you catch any fish." Their answer was, "A few," which in fisherman speak means, "A lot." The redfish were turned on and hit spoons and soft plastic lures and it wasnt long before we had both limited.
Old Gulf Cut leading from the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) into East Matagorda Bay, and Mad Island Cut from the ICW into West Matagorda Bay are good spots to anchor and fish from a boat in January. In West Matagorda Bay between Greens Bayou and Pipeline on the south shore, there are three boat lanes leading to houses. These boat lanes provide deep gut locations to drift fish from a boat and usually hold trout and redfish in the winter.
Kayak fisherman can access Parkers Cut from the road running parallel to the old Colorado River, FM 2031. You launch near the LCRA Nature Center sign, paddle across the river, portage for about 200 yards and then re-launch into Parkers Cut. The water is about 4 feet deep in the main cove, with several bayous leading into West Matagorda Bay. This area holds both trout and redfish in the winter, but you have to take into consideration the amount of fresh water coming from the Colorado River, which flows into West Matagorda Bay just above Parkers Cut. If there is too much fresh water, the fish will move west into the bay.
January can produce some very cold weather and water. In 2010, Jeff Wiley and I fished one of our favorite bayous after a serious cold spell when the night temperatures dropped into the 20s. The water temperature in the bays had dropped to dangerously low levels for fish, 44.5°F. Wayne Dodd with Texas Parks and Wildlife told me that a fish kill will take place if the air temperature drops below freezing and stays there for 36 hours. When we launched at Matagorda Harbor, we saw dead mangrove snapper, snook and mullet on the launch ramp.
Jeff walked the banks of the bayou and I kayaked. Before I could get around the first bend, Jeff had hooked his first of three redfish. It was 24-inches, red and bronze colored, and had three spots on its tail. The bite was a light tap, and then another, and finally the line moved, signaling a time to set the hook. I caught three redfish as well, but we also saw three redfish that could not stand the cold, floating belly up.
Cold water reduces the amount of algae in the bays and this makes the water very clear on light wind days. The clear water gives the fish the advantage of seeing your lure better, and sometimes they will not hit a lure that does not act or look right. To counter that, you may want to use realistic looking and acting lures like the Wedgetail Stanley Mullet or Bass Assassin soft plastics in realistic colors.
Many people stay home in January, but fish have to eat too and if you select the right day, time, and place you will have a good day on the water.