The least expensive and most accessible fishing opportunity in Texas lies along the Gulf Coast.
Hundreds of miles of shoreline is available to anglers from Sabine Pass to Port Isabel. Despite the cool conditions some of the best fishing is actually during winter. You won’t find many speckled trout, Spanish mackerel and sharks that thrill anglers during the summer period, but there are plenty of fun to catch and tasty options out there.
Think of this article as a Texas Winter Surf 101 of sorts. It is about how and where to score on super fishing during the cool (and occasionally) cold days of the Texas winter.
Gulf kingfish (Whiting): According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, this species lives in small schools in the surf along the Texas coast.
“Young kingfish sometimes move into the shallows in coastal bays. Like their relatives the southern kingfish, Gulf kingfish feed on bottom-dwelling animals such as worms, clams and other shellfish.”
Winter brings lots of “whiting” to beachfronts, and the beautiful thing about catching them is simplicity. A dead shrimp or small chunk of cut bait fished on the bottom is usually enough to get their attention..
Atlantic Croaker: These are about 12 inches long and weigh 1/2 to 2 pounds on average according to TPWD. Distinguishing characteristics include three to five pairs of small barbels or “whiskers” on their chins to help them feel for food on the sea floor; a lateral line that extends to the tip of its caudal (tail) fin; inferior mouth (located to the bottom of the head facing the ground), and brown vertical stripes on its sides.
Adults are silver with a pinkish cast, while young are silvery and iridescent. Older fish are brassy in color with vertical brown streaks formed by spots on their scales.”
Croakers are also simple to catch and take to dead shrimp quickly. When they are abundant in the surf, croakers will gladly take scented lures like Gulp! and also hit small spoons and spinnerbaits, especially if you find some of the bigger ones.
Sand Seatrout (Sand Trout): This species is silvery with a pinkish color on the upper sides according to TPWD. Their large mouths are orange on the inside and have one or two rounded teeth at the front of the upper jaw. Although they are common in deeper bays, channels and the shallow Gulf, sand seatrout live nowhere else.
Dead shrimp and cut bait are the way to go for bait.
Silver Seatrout (Gulf Trout): TPWD describes silver seatrout as bright silver all over with no stripes, bars or other marks. The only place you’re likely to find color on these fish is inside their mouths, which are orange. They live mostly in the Gulf where they feed on fish and shellfish, but they do come into bays in the winter. They go for the same baits as their close cousins the sand trout.
Black Drum (Bull Drum): There is no mistaking these giants. Oversized black drums move into the surf beginning in early winter with more and more fish coming in toward the spring spawning period. Crab with the shell taken off and large dead shrimp are great baits to score on these bruisers.
Odd Baits for Winter
Shrimp and cut bait are naturals to fish during winter but the following are some that can score on the above species
Sea Lice: These strange looking creatures are marine parasites that feed on the mucus, skin and blood of host fish. They look like a crab crossed with something from the movie Alien. They make great bait for black drum, especially the really big ones.
A number of bait camps along the coast carry these disgusting looking creatures. Besides drum, they are effective for croaker and whiting at times.
Fiddler Crabs: These little crabs with one giant pincher and another small one are perhaps the best bait for sheepshead. They are hard to take off a hook and sheepsheads will seemingly take them before anything else.
Some folks catch fiddler crabs in dip nets, and others set traps. They are not so easy to catch, but if it’s sheepshead you want, fiddlers are the golden ticket. Black drums have a fondness for them too.
The following are some great locations for the above species. Most of them are on the beach, but a few are nearby. They are great spots to intercept the top winter species as they trade from beach to bay.
Sea Rim State Park
Location: Off of Highway 87 past Sabine Pass
Location: Highway 87 between High Island and Port Bolivar
Location: Off Highway 87 at jetties
Mustang Island State Park
Location: SH 361 Port Aransas
Location: At Humble Channel in Corpus Christi
Location: End of FM 2031, Matagorda
Location: At Port Bay in Rockport
Foley Reserve Park
Location: East Bayshore/Palacios
South Padre Island
Location: North end of Park Road 100
CR 1145 South
Park Road 100 Bay Access 1
Location: Across from Edwin King Atwood Park, South Padre Island
On the warmer days of winter, temperatures are extremely comfortable on our beaches. Although wading into the water is not an option, there is plenty of space for kids to roam free, fly kites and look for seashells. The best part is you might be alone. Very few use the surf during winter so that means you can spend quality family time in solitude.
This type of fishing is not rocket science, but it sure is fun. We defy anyone to find anything that tastes better than freshly caught whiting or sand trout.
—story byTF&G STAFF