D uring your next November fishing trip, try to imagine yourself as a scientist whose surroundings are nothing more than one huge laboratory provided to you for the sole purpose of experimentation.
Your job as the fishing scientist this day is to utilize the principles and practices you’ve learned throughout your fishing career in order to gain further knowledge into the more natural problem at hand—catching fish. Your first order of business will be to collect some data.
Some of you may have a head start on others as you might have already amassed brief pieces of data from your local weather channel while pre-planning today’s adventure. Others of you might need to play a little catch-up in this area, so before you even launch the boat try to get a quick forecast for the day before getting underway.
Once you have arrived at the spot where you think you would like to begin fishing, start collecting your second grouping of data before you even turn the engine off. Is there evidence of any bait activity? If so, what kind? Are there any pelicans or seagulls that happen to be flying or sitting? What condition is the water in? Is there any conspicuous movement of water, or current? Are you able to see what the bottom terrain looks like – grass, mud, sand, shell? Which way will you need to walk in order for the wind to not be a hindering factor for you? These are all data points anglers should pay close attention to when fishing for cold-water trout in November, but your particular list may vary. Remember, this is an experiment, and at the end of the day there probably is no right or wrong answer.
Finally, you make your way over the side of the boat and into the water. Now it’s time to begin experimenting with some of the data you’ve collected to this point through your previous observations. You noticed a few anxious mullet popping the surface when you pulled-up, so you tie on a top-water and start chunking it randomly in front of you. To your dismay, there are no takers at the other end of your line.
You’ve been wading fairly close to the bank, but have noticed that most of the mullet action is currently taking place out amidst deeper water. What should you do? Many may prefer to experiment with patterns, but you should always attempt to cast in the general vicinity of the bait itself, especially in the colder months of the year. After all, you’re pursuing an animal that’s most likely cold, lethargic, and who may only attempt to eat one meal a day right now, so the odds are weighted heavily against you to get it right on your very first try.
Other hypotheses to test on this day would be to try several different retrieval patterns with your lure, whether surface walker, slow-sinker, or plastic tails. Before giving up on having any luck at the water’s surface, try bringing the lure back to you differently each time on several consecutive casts.
One way would be the walk-the-dog presentation with a steady retrieve. If that doesn’t draw attention, try the old fashioned jerk-n-sit, whereby you walk the bait across the water with five brief movements of the rod tip and then let it sit motionless for five seconds. It can be a tedious and monotonous task, but it has proved to work great in cold weather when the fish simply don’t want to exert any more effort than absolutely necessary in catching their next meal. You can almost bet that if we were to ask the fish their opinion on this subject, they’d certainly tell us it’s much easier for them to catch bait that’s sitting still in the water over that of bait that’s moving very quickly across the surface.
All the things we’ve talked about here are but a tip of the iceberg when it comes to variables in the sport of Texas coastal fishing. We could probably talk until we’re blue in the face about all the things we could try, but here’s one thought to leave with you. In looking back on all your years as an avid coastal angler, you can probably honestly say that you have never once been able to tell the fish exactly what it is they prefer. They have to tell you.
For you to continue to advance to the next level of becoming a more successful angler, you’ll need to get good at letting them do that. One way for you to do that is to experiment. You should always keep in mind the necessity for you to mix things up once in a while and not be afraid to play with tactics and strategies that are new to you. Give it a try, and form your own hypothesis. Have fun, and be safe out there.
Email Chris Martin at [email protected]
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