H ow do you get up and motivate yourself to fish in the cold?” I was asked one VERY cold February morning?
I have to admit that the friend who asked me had his body pretty much wrapped around a marvelously smelling cup of San Antonio Blend coffee. He was sitting in a warm truck, stereo playing one of my favorites, Tony Joe White.
I had to wonder myself what bent sort of angler would be out in this runny-nose, finger-numbing cold? The answer pretty much resembled me.
The day before I had told myself it probably wouldn’t hurt me to do some work around the house, which always needs work. Everything here on the coast rusts. I’ve even theorized glass itself will rust if given enough time down here.
So instead I pulled out my boat and went through my winter checklist (don’t flip the page and go to another article, you know you need to do this as well). After running the motor and checking all the gauges, lights etc. I decided doing a once over on the trailer was in order.
The only way to truly check a boat trailer is without the boat on it. However if the boat goes in the water, the boat motor and trailer then need to be washed down. So for the sake of efficiency, and not wanting to waste my energy, multi-tasking was in order.
I thought, I can get up in the morning, do a little fishing, and come back early and do the trailer check and clean-up—a twofer.
Besides, I convinced myself, running a boat in the water is much better than just muffing the motor. As I pulled away from the house the next morning my wife said “whatcha doing?”
“Maintenance.” I hollered back.
“Good luck fishing,” she said, smiling.
Busted! I grumbled to myself. Couldn’t cheat a rabbit out of a single carrot if I had a bushel full.
Back at the boat ramp my friend continued his evil ways. So I flatly stated I was in fact checking my boat out, something he might want to do being he hadn’t done it in close to a decade.
“You’re doing maintenance on you rod and reel as well?” he chuckled as he nodded toward my Falcon rod sticking up out of my boat.
Busted again! Feeling like the back end of bad luck, I quipped “You want to think something? Why don’t you think your way back underneath the rock you crawled out from under this morning?”
“It’s warm and I have coffee,” he laughed as he turned the stereo up in his warm truck. “Call me if you break down,” he hollered as he drove away.
When hell freezes over, I thought. This felt like a distinct possibility as I stood on the cold dock, wind whistling up the legs of my coveralls. I was glad I was finally by myself and left alone to conjure up my own reasons for being out this blustery day.
I looked up and saw in the distance a lone truck pulling a boat heading toward the boat ramp. I noticed Minnesota plates right away and thought to myself, Now here is someone who knows about fishing in the cold – a brother in arms.
The Lund aluminum boat was enough of a giveaway as only northerners use that type of boat down in these waters. There were only us two as no one else was crazy enough to be out. He asked whether I was a guide, then asked whether I thought he would run aground in his deep-V boat.
“You might” I said, and gave him some navigation advice.
“What are you fishing for?” he asked.
“Just doing maintenance mostly.”
“You’re crazy. It’s cold down here today.”
“I wouldn’t think this cold would bother you being from up north.”
“It won’t,” he said, “but only fishing can get me out here on a day like today, besides I couldn’t stay in the travel trailer one more minute.”
“It’s gonna blow cold all day and get colder tonight,” I said.
“Well, I will only be out until my buddy runs out of fuel.”
“Buddy?” I asked. I didn’t see anyone else and there was no dog around.
He reached down underneath his port side console and lifted a small device that looked akin to a portable radio. “You don’t have one of these?” he asked.
“No sir I don’t.”
“You are gonna freeze” he said matter-of-factly.
“Electric?” I asked.
“No way, it has a portable one-pound propane bottle, or it can be hooked to a larger bottle if need be. Electric ones just don’t have the BTU output one needs up north and can very quickly run down a battery. When the bottle runs out so does my fishing time” he mused.
This device deserved some attention I decided, so I asked him if I could take a closer look.
“Tell me where to fish and I’ll do you one better; you can come aboard and warm your hands” he chuckled.
On this day that seemed like a fair trade.
“It’s called a Heater Buddy; and up north, I don’t fish without it.”
“I guess you have to keep it away from your gas tank and or gas vent?”
“Well, yeah” he said. “You guys down here are known for fishing in the heat, and I guess we are known for fishing in the cold. Warm hands and fingers are a must on a really cold fishing day, but I guess I’d fish anyway, one way or the other.”
“I think that’s called fishing Karma” I said.
He laughed with me. “It’s more like a fishing addiction and if you’re out here without a heater I’d say we’re both candidates for FFA (Fishing Fanatics Anonymous).”
I’d like to say I caught some ’gator trout that day, but the truth was I didn’t get a bite. The old man with the heater was still out when I got back to the dock and I envisioned him fishing toasty warm in his aluminum boat.
What gets us out on such cold God-forbidding days? It’s a bond that’s shared across this country, and through my travels I’d say across the globe. It’s love of fishing—a healthy addiction that I, for one, am glad I succumb to.
The average water temperature for February for Rockport according to instrumentation readings is about 60 degrees, but in shallower waters it varies to as low as 42 to 53 degrees. This is important to know because fish in this area become more active this time of year as the water temperature increases day to day.
The rule of thumb is find a warmer spot of water, such as over dark mud (dark shallow bottoms absorb and hold heat). Fish it slowly and very deliberately.
The color that seems to deliver time and time again is chartreuse. Any subtle color like grey or off-white tipped with Chartreuse is best. On warmer days new penny/chartreuse is a good choice.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
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Copano Bay: On warmer days, Lap Reef Bank is a good spot for trout, using soft plastics. New penny and morning glory colors work well here. The northwest shoreline adjacent to the Turtle Pen area is a good wade for trout, reds and a few flounders using Berkley Gulp shrimp under a silent cork.
Aransas Bay: Some black drums can be found off of Deadman Island using peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig. Jaybird Reef has some keeper trout with live shrimp free-lined being the best bait/rig. Wade down the shoreline of Blackjack Point for keeper reds using Jerk shad in new penny and root beer glitter gold.
Carlos Bay: On colder days the deep water in Carlos Dugout is still the best bet. Cut mullet or mud minnows on a medium to heavy Carolina rig works well here. Spalding Reef is a good spot for trout using mud minnows or live shrimp. Free line is best or a slow action popping cork.
Mesquite Bay: On warmer days reds frequent the area of the south shoreline close to Cedar Bayou. Wades using cut mullet under a silent cork work well here (This is mega duck hunting area, so beware.). Move slowly and be patient letting the scent of the bait draw the reds to you. The west shoreline is good on warmer days for black drum using free-lined peeled shrimp.
Ayers Bay: Rattle Snake Island is still a good spot for black drum and sheepshead using peeled shrimp and/or squid cut in small pieces.
This time of year free-line is best if the wind allows; a light Carolina rig will work as well. The deep water of Ayers Dugout is a good spot on colder days to drift a cork in the currents that frequent this area. Be aware this is a major egress for boats so be accommodating by moving your line when boats come through.
Here’s Wishing You Tight Lines Bent Poles and Plenty of Bait.
Location: Ski the Key: This time of year reds will frequent the ski basin area just off Key Allegro. I seldom recommend this area for it has a lot of boat traffic during the warmer months. Get a cup of coffee, set up on the west shoreline and bottom fish using cut mullet or mud minnows or finger mullet on a very light Carolina rig. It’s an easy area to fish, and it produces some nice fish when conditions are right. Note: if the water is gin clear, don’t waste your time; if it’s off color the fishing is best.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]