"February is when large trout are over shell on the north side of East Matagorda Bay," said former guide and longtime Matagorda fisherman, Eddie Vacek. Eddie likes to drift fish over North Shore, Chinquapin, and Bird Island reefs using soft plastics or Gulp. February is also when brown shrimp move from the marshes to the bays to feed and grow, prior to migrating offshore in the summer. Shrimp in the bays trigger attacks from below by trout and redfish, and from above by birds. Vacek and I were drifting in East Matagorda Bay when we spotted birds sitting on the water. One of them got up and hovered just above the waters surface. This caused the other ten or so birds to jump up and start diving and snatching shrimp. Vacek said, "You see where they are hitting the water? Thats where the fish are." And when we landed our lures close to the action, they were taken by speckled trout.
I took Owen Williams, my brother-in-law and a well-known wildlife artist from Britain, kayak fishing in East Matagorda Bay in February and he found out that you have to move with the birds. After returning to the UK, Owen wrote, "Mike had advised me that the key to fishing for redfish and speckled trout in the bays was to keep an eye open for bird activity. I scanned the horizon for birds. To the north was a group of about twenty gulls on the water a mile away, so I headed off to check them out. As I neared the gulls, I noticed a few were feeding. They were joined by several Caspian terns that were diving for food. A tern was diving within casting distance, which set a target. I let the pumpkinseed/chartreuse Bass Assassin sink for a second and then started the slow retrieve. The line went tight. I was into my first ever speckled trout, not a large one but big enough to keep. The very next cast the rod tip bent with a force that suggested a keeper redfish. After a good tussle, the 24-incher was netted and placed on the stringer. After several fruitless casts, I looked around and noticed that the birds had moved. A pair of terns was noisily diving about 40 yards away, so I pulled in the anchor and set off towards them. As sure as clockwork, this move paid off with the first cast connecting with another trout. I now realized that I had to keep up with the birds, and so paddled to follow them. My 45 minutes of action had been a great lesson in the technique of fishing the birds. As I paddled back to meet up with Mike, I glowed with the knowledge that I had just cracked the code and had been richly rewarded.
The water temperature in East and West Matagorda Bays usually varies between 54 and 64°F in February. This causes algae to drop out of the water, which then becomes extremely clear. If you can see a fish through the water, the fish can see you as well, so it is best to cast your lures long distances. It is also best to wait until later in the day to go fishing to allow the water to warm up.
Airport Lake on the west side of West Matagorda Bay is a favorite feeding spot for redfish in the cooler months. Lake Austin, north of Chinquapin and East Matagorda Bay is another good choice for redfish in the winter months.
I was talking with Matagorda guide, Ken Marshall, just after a serious cold front lowered the water temperature in the bay East Matagorda Bay and he told me he was going fishing. He said when conditions were like that, and he has a day off, he likes to wade for big trout. Not everyone likes to slog around in the mud on the southeast side of East Matagorda Bay in the cold water. You dont get very many strikes, but when a fish hits, it is usually a trout well over 20 inches. Top water lures like the large Top Dog 94MR from MirrOlure, and slow sinking lures like MirrOlures Paul Brown Original are favorites of serious wintertime waders.
THE BANK BITE
Location: The Intracoastal Water-way at Little Boggy Bayou east of the town of Matagorda.