Starry Nights, Cold Weather and Hot Fishing
As always, the weather in January on the Texas coast could bring just about anything, from a hard freeze to temperatures more suitable for shorts and sandals. Even though I personally feel I have the same allergy to cold weather others have recently complained of, some conditions will get me to brave the cold of a winter night. Speckled trout fishing is at or near the top of that list. When decent winter tides bring clear water and bait into coastal streams and harbors, fishing can be fast enough to ward off the cold, even for me.
One of my favorite spots requires a boat to get there, though not all do. The barge loading dock area of what was once Monsanto Chemical Company on Chocolate Bayou had several things going for it as a winter trout hole. The first was deep water; the second, a light placed near the breakwater in front of the actual loading area. The last little intangible was a “bubble barrier.”
Monsanto engineers had designed a system with a perforated pipe running along the bottom through which compressed air was forced, resulting in a vertical wall of air bubbles intended to break surface tension and resist any chemical spill from making its way out into the bayou channel. This super oxygenated water also attracted hordes of baitfish, and thus the predators who fed on them. Fishing with silver and gold spoons or dead shrimp would produce specks when a cast was made in the area illuminated by the light. A cast to the dark water by the bank would more likely draw a strike from a redfish. Sand trout were also very numerous. While soaking a bait on bottom in hopes of enticing a flounder one night, I ended up boating a 12-pound black drum.
Other streams also produce great winter action. My friend, Wimpy Lowe, is famous for catches of trout taken under lights powered by a generator in the Brazos River near Freeport, and homeowners with dock lights on just about any tidal bayou can get into good trout action. Many public piers on these smaller bodies of water, like those on Bastrop Bayou near Demi John Island or the many spots on Galveston Island, can pay off.
For those with access or permission, marina and harbor docks can be an excellent hunting ground for winter trout. Empty slips and the boat lanes between docks will often be the scene of hungry trout pushing small menhaden. The abundance of bait in the water can sometimes make it difficult to hook a fish on a dead offering, or even a live one pinned to a small treble hook, but tandem rigged “speck rig” jigs in yellow and white or pink and white will just about always draw strikes. These dock trout are not always big, but are abundant and make a nice foundation on which to build a mid-winter fish fry with fresh ingredients. For large fish, try a silver spoon or large jigs, especially those that glow after absorbing light.
THE BANK BITE
Hotspot: HL&P Spillway Pier
Location: Baycliff (There is an RV Park and bait camp for supplies and a place to rest.)
Alternate Hotspot: San Luis Pass Pier (The channel and deep waters of the Gulf are close enough to attract species like speckled trout to the pier lights in good numbers.)
Species: speckled trout, various panfishes
Lures/Baits: live shrimp when available, dead shrimp, small jigs
Best Times: a dark night with tidal movement, light wind, and chilly temperatures
Contact Mike Holmes at