THERE IS NOTHING SUBTLE about redfish feeding. They corner baitfish and shrimp, and then smash into them with gusto, tossing water everywhere.
I paddled my kayak down a bayou in middle December and heard reds feeding, but didn’t see them. Then I rounded a bend and witnessed several redfish smashing bait at a point where water flowed from a three- to four-foot deep bayou into a narrow entrance to a lake, which was one foot deep.
Usually redfish are waiting at the intersection of a bayou and the bay for bait being pushed by the outgoing tidal movement, but this time they were attacking baitfish that were swimming into the lake with the incoming tide. The depth change from three feet to one foot created a place where redfish trapped baitfish before they could get into the shallow, narrow entrance to the lake.
Tidal movement, either in or out will greatly help your chances of getting into fish. When you plan your fishing trip, it is helpful to check the Sportsman’s Daybook section of Texas Fish & Game for tidal movement information.
Other factors to key on are Minor and Major Fish Score. These are times when the fish are likely to be feeding. In the above-described situation with redfish aggressively feeding, I saw the action at 1:30 p.m. and the PM Minor in Sportsman’s Daybook was 1:37 p.m.
In early December when the water temperature is around 65°F, you will find redfish very actively feeding in bayous and on shorelines. When the water temperature drops to around 50°F in late December, the redfish seek out water four feet or more in depth because it is a bit warmer on the bottom. However, they will come out of those holes in search of a meal when the daytime sun warms the shallow water a few degrees.
The 12-foot-deep Intracoastal Waterway, adjacent to the south side of Oyster Lake, is a good deep spot for fish to find a little warmer water. They come out of that deep water into Oyster Lake in search of prey, making Oyster Lake a good place to fish on a sunny winter day.
If you open the stomach when you clean your fish, it helps you understand what the fish are eating and what lure or bait to use. One December afternoon I was kayak fishing in Keller Creek when I saw a redfish bashing the water near the limb of a tree protruding above the water by the shoreline.
I turned my kayak around, paddled over that way and made the cast. The 23-inch redfish put up a good fight. When I put it on the stringer, I saw that its mouth was full of mud.
Apparently it was getting shrimp out of the mud because when I cleaned it, the fish’s stomach had shrimp and a couple of two- to three-inch baitfish in it. The lure I was using was a 3.5-inch Egret Baits Wedge Tail Minnow, colored black with a yellow tail.
On many December days the wind is coming from the north. Depending how strong the wind is, it could stir up the bay and make for muddy, low visibility conditions on the south side. It might be uncomfortably rough water on the south side. However, fishing on the north side where you have protection from the wind can produce well.
On East Matagorda Bay, drift fishing on the northeast side between Bird Island and Chinquapin can produce sizeable trout. On West Matagorda Bay, Shell Island Reef near Mad Island Cut and Half Moon Reef near Palacios Point are good drift fishing places on a north wind.
On days when the wind is light from the south or southeast, the water gets super clear. This happens because algae falls out of the water when the water temperature is low, and the bottom is not stirred up.
If you can see a fish through the water from a distance, rest assured that the fish can see you, too. Make long casts and use a realistic lure because the fish see it better than in low visibility situations. Remember that a lure going over a fish will cast a shadow and spook the fish.
I was fly fishing near Oyster Reef Farms on a calm, clear water day. I saw a school of redfish in shallow water. I cast my fly over the school, the shadow of the fly scared the fish, and they took off.
Another December consideration is duck hunters. The duck hunting season is open the entire month with the exception of the first eight days. If you go out early in the morning, look for spreads of decoys and avoid that area. Most duck hunters are off the water by 10 a.m. so you may want to wait until after 10 a.m. or go fishing in the afternoon.
Fishing from Piers for Trout at River Parks: There are two parks on rivers in Matagorda County that can be good places for catching speckled trout when the water is cool in winter months. They are FM 521 Park and Cark Park. The conditions that may produce a trout bite are very little fresh water influence and water temperatures less than 55°F.
FM 521 Park is located where 521 crosses the Colorado River. It has a pier, porta-can rest rooms and is wheel chair accessible. Carl Park, on the Tres Palacios River is close to the intersection of FM 2853 and FM 521. There is a long boardwalk along the river for fishing, and a launch ramp. The park has picnic tables, but no rest rooms.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]