A t Matagorda harbor on a mid-February afternoon I was cleaning a redfish—the only fish my wife and I caught on that day. As I worked, two young men came to the cleaning table carrying a heavy ice chest.
They had each limited on redfish, and released many more, all caught using Egret Baits Vudu Shrimp soft plastics while fishing in West Matagorda Bay. I didn’t ask where they went; even if you do ask that question at the cleaning table you rarely get a truthful answer. But the wind was blowing a hard 15 knots from the southeast, which put them on the south shore. So why did they catch fish while we didn’t?
The water temperature was 65°F, warm enough so that redfish will leave deep water and forage the flats. But at this time of year, they don’t get too far from deep water, so if a norther comes through they can quickly move back to the warmer water at depth.
In addition to the challenge of fishing in a 15-knot wind, the water was low, so the guys who caught the redfish had to be careful about where they went with their 17-foot boat, even though it had a shallow draft. The tide was incoming strong, and if you find the fish under those circumstances, they will probably be aggressively feeding. I speculate that they went to a spot that some fishermen call “The first house.” It is the next bayou west after Maverick Bayou on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay.
There are several places similar to this one on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay. These are places where you can get to the back of a bayou, even at low tide, if you know where the gut is, and then drift out, casting to the flats. Find one of these spots that are holding fish, and you too will come to the cleaning table with an ice chest full of redfish. If you don’t know where the guts are, or you just want to go with a guide who is a good teacher and who knows the bay, set up a fishing trip with Coach Floyd Ciruti (979-533-0893).
The challenge in February is that the water can be warm enough (over 60°F) so that the fish can be found anywhere in the bay. Typically, at the beginning of the month water temperatures are from 52 to 56°F, and then go up to 65 or so near the end of February. Therefore if you do not find the fish after giving it thirty or forty minutes, it is best to move. One spot to look for reds in February is the Diversion Channel south of Braggs Cut. You have shallow flats, deep areas, logs, shorelines, and marshes all in one area.
If the wind is blowing hard, it’s best to fish the deep areas, because the shallow areas would be muddy. But if the wind is light and there is water covering the flats, move your boat to a spot where you can cast to both the deep and shallow spots. Or better yet, put a kayak in the water and hunt for reds along the shorelines.
If you only get to fish once or twice a year, you may want to go with guide Albert Garrison (979-240-3822). Al knows how to maneuver his custom-designed catamaran into these flats and find the reds.
A good place to find trout is Half Moon Reef, just south of Palacios Point where the Intracoastal Waterway meets West Matagorda Bay. The reef is well marked, near the deep channel of the Intracoastal Waterway, and now that it has been in place for a couple of years, it attracts a variety of marine life that in turn brings in predator fish. If you drift this reef on a low tide, raise your engine all the way, because at times there will only be a foot or two of clearance between your hull and the structures. A Matagorda guide who knows this reef well is Charlie Paradoski (713-725-2401).
Fog is sometimes a concern early in February. This happens when the water is cool and the air is warm. However, if you fish in the afternoon when the fog burns off, the fish are more active because the water warms a few degrees
The challenge of fishing in February is finding schools of redfish or trout. The best way to search for them is to pick several spots that are not far apart that have both deep (over four feet) water and shallow water, and then fish each spot long enough to determine whether the fish are there.
Location: Intracoastal Waterway: CR 259 goes east at the Matagorda Cemetery in the village of Matagorda. You can fish the Intracoastal Waterway in several places along this road, but you may want to try the west side of Little Boggy, a creek that drains a couple of lakes north of the road. At this spot there is an oyster reef in the Intracoastal Waterway that you can cast to, and sometimes it holds redfish on an outgoing tide.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]