O ne of my favorite ways to antagonize my Michigan in-laws is to send a picture of me and Sandie fishing in the middle of winter with a caption that says, “Enjoying a balmy day in South Texas! Wish you were here!” Yeah…they hate that.
Sometimes, though, a serious cold snap turns weather colder than the usual winter fare, and water temperatures will dip down below 60 degrees (an Early December 2016 cold front that finally finished of the red tide bloom down here, for example, pushed LLM water temperatures down to 58 degrees for three or four days). When that happens, cold-blooded trout will abandon their shallow water haunts and seek the warmer, more comfortable environment of deeper water.
Fishermen being fishermen, most of us are willing to brave 50, 40, even high-30 degree weather to wet a line, especially if we’ve had a trip to the coast planned for quite some time. Our wives will stay buried under the blankets and mumble that we’re crazy, and our dogs won’t even get up and follow us to the kitchen, but we’ll grab rods and tackle box, hitch up the Dargel, and make the run to the coast. The only thing that will keep us in bed is a howling north wind. No one will buck that.
If you are among the happy few that will brave drizzle, even rain, and cold temperatures to have a shot at some trout, there are plenty of deep water spots to turn your attention to, and some of them are not very far from most Port Isabel and South Padre Island boat ramps.
One spot that anglers who don’t want to venture too far from port should consider, is the Port Isabel Turning Basin. The deep water of the turning basin is a major fish magnet after a serious cold snap, and can offer some excellent fishing.
Speckled trout will hold along the drop-off near the shoreline. A depth finder can be very useful here, because it will pinpoint the depth break. Some anglers prefer anchoring in the shallows and casting out towards the drop-off, but I’ve been more successful dogging-up in deeper water and casting up to the edge, then easing the bait or lure into the drop-off.
Tackle and techniques are relatively simple. A live shrimp on a #1/0 Octopus 14 inches below a #3 split shot will present a very natural offering that a trout won’t pass up. Let the bait fall along the edge on a semi-slack line. When you feel a bump or see the line jump, ease the rod up until the line comes tight, and you’re hooked up. Faux shrimp, such as the ¼ ounce Live Target Shrimp are good choices too. Fish them the same way as you would a live bait.
Another good cold water trout spot is the Y, which is the confluence of the Port Isabel Boat Channel and the Brownsville Ship Channel. The drop-offs along the inner channel edges and the points have structure that trout aggregate around in cooler weather.
The mangroves on the channel and center island shorelines are also keen trout and redfish spots when the weather is warmer and fish move up to forage. If you choose to work the shallows on a mild day, a gold spoon, Topwater in Bone or Pearl, or a swimbait such as a Kelly Wiggler Balltail Shad, or Yum Money Minnow are tough to beat.
One last thing, this is structure-oriented fishing. Do not be surprised if you run into a variety of structure-loving species during your outing. It is not uncommon to find sheepshead, mangrove snapper, black drum, or even a flounder keeping company with the trout in your cooler.
All these fish gravitate to deep water structure at one point or another during foul weather. On one trip, my fishing partner Jim Brewster and I were only catching dink trout after dink trout. On speculation, I eased my boat farther away from the drop-off and located a school of keeper-sized drum cruising along the bottom of the depth-break.
Still, the trout were there, and they will be there pretty much all winter when the weather goes in the toilet.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]