I was kayak fishing on the south side of West Matagorda Bay in mid-December. It was a sunny day with air temperatures in the low seventies, and wind coming from the southeast at five to ten mph. The tide was outgoing, and the water was high and very clear with visibility over two feet. Even if the fish weren’t biting, it was a great day to be on the water, but fortunately, the fish were biting.
As I approached an oyster reef, between me and the shore I saw some clear signs of activity, a small fish leaped with terror, then a puff of silt exploded from the bay floor on my right. And as I paddled to the back of a cove, I caught fleeting glimpses of large fish through the clear water.
I tossed my drift anchor over and let the light wind float my kayak out of the cove while I swam an Egret, four-inch Wedge Tail soft plastic over the oyster reefs. A redfish darted out of a sand hole and took the lure. Drifting in the center of the cove, I caught a 16-inch trout and as soon as I hooked it, I dropped my anchor so that I would not drift over the reef. Trout under twenty or so inches feed and move in schools and I hoped that this was the first of many. The next cast produced another trout, and on the next cast the fish got off just before I could net it. This was followed by landing an eighteen-inch trout; and so it went for an hour.
The exceptionally nice day I described above was between two fronts. Low tides and strong north winds are common in December, but you can still find fish. The Diversion Channel, south of Braggs Cut, is a good place to anchor and fish on a strong northwest or northeast wind.
North of Braggs Cut and The Colorado River Locks, the Colorado River is a good place to fish in the winter for trout and redfish. Fish like the deep water because it is a little warmer. The Tres Palacios River also holds trout when water temperatures drop.
The decision where to fish in December in the Diversion Channel or the rivers depends on how much rain falls in the week or so before you go. If there has been little or no rain, you will find trout and redfish in the Colorado River north of FM 521. Under those same conditions, you will find fish north of FM 521 in the Tres Palacios River.
Even when we have rain, the fish will be in the rivers at depth, but most likely they will be closer to the bay. Salt water is heavier than fresh water, and it will be at depth while fresh water will be on the surface and down to variable depths depending on rainfall.
You may want to look for a morning when the water is high and outgoing, and then try drift fishing over the oyster reefs in East Matagorda Bay for trout. I have seen fishermen use this strategy to come to the cleaning table with stringers of large trout.
This works best on a south or southeast wind at less than 15 mph if the water is low and cooler than 55°F. If it’s a sunny day with an incoming tide and the wind is light from a southerly direction, wait until the afternoon to go fishing.
It was early December when Jeff Wiley and I headed to West Matagorda Bay. We arrived at our chosen bayou at about 1 p.m. The tide was moving in with force and rapidly covering the exposed oyster reefs. Initially there were no takers, but at 2 p.m. the fish turned on.
I saw the outline of a wake in very shallow water and dropped a pearl/chartreuse Bass Assassin in front of it. The 23-inch redfish was a vigorous fighter and we hooked up with several more in the shallow water over the sun warmed flats. Then we fished the gut in the center of the bayou, which was two to four feet deep, and found steady action from feeding trout.
If the wind is howling out of the north, but this is the one day that you have to fish, head for the rivers or the Diversion Channel, but if it is a partially sunny day with light southerly winds, time your fishing so that you have high, moving water that has been warmed by the sun.