DECEMBER ON THE UPPER TEXAS coast can be a changing situation for fishermen. Mostly, the temperatures will be fairly mild and probably more comfortable than deep summer.
This allows both fish and fishermen to roam more than at other times of the year. There is, however, always the chance of a cold front and chilly weather that changes the game plan.
In cooler weather, fish deep, fish slow, and fish carefully. Pick your spots according to water depth and temperature, available sunshine, and wind. There can be many sunny, calm days this month. So, fishing the surface over reefs and even sand bars in the surf can be good—especially if there is a good bait presence.
With a “good” outgoing tide near where a tidal stream enters a bay, or on the gulf side of a pass, fish will often be waiting for their next meal to float out. Incoming tides are usually not as strong as in warmer months, but normally will still put enough water over potential feeding grounds to make them worth trying.
Live bait, if available, is still a top choice, but might be best when the angler “helps” to move them around a bit—by selective casting to slightly different spots. With either live or fresh dead bait, move it slowly. Marine species in our temperate zone tend to slow down in cold water.
When you use a lure, soft plastics might be the very best—especially those with scents built in. However, at times a flashy spoon wobbled slowly in a current will be irresistible. On calm, sunny days, top water lures might pay off—especially for reds in weed beds.
Offshore, most of the action in cold weather will be deeper than in warmer months, but in water just a bit cool, upper portions of the water column will hold bait and attract the fish that feed on them.
Around rigs, if may not be necessary to bottom for snappers. Sometimes a live or fresh dead bait drifted in the current with just enough weight to keep it several feet below the surface will produce steady and consistent strikes.
Fishing over or near structure, chumming will always increase your chances—especially if schools of Spanish mackerel are seen working the surface. This is also a chance for trolling surface lures to be productive—not that common in cold weather.
In steady weather conditions, a boat blessed both with speed and sea-keeping abilities, try deeper reefs and rigs. They will attract and hold somewhat not only good snappers, but groupers—and even tuna.
Most tuna off Texas are probably caught as a “bonus” fish while trolling for billfish, but they are worth being selectively targeted. A “plus” to tuna is that they can be caught on bait or jigs as well as by trolling.
Blackfin tuna are fun and good for the table. Hefty yellowfins are a serious sportfish and can be freezer-fillers.
If you focus on the weather conditions, December can be a productive time to be on, or near, the water. It is also a time when fresh fish—whether croakers, sheepsheads, or Gulf trout—can be a welcome main course on a dinner menu/
Location: December is the beginning of winter on the upper Texas coast, so weather is a big factor. Watch tides carefully, fish deeper water than in warmer periods, and be temperature sensitive in selecting fishing spots as well as techniques.
Species: All common bay species will be around in some numbers, trout, reds, flounders, and croakers, mostly. Offshore focus on bottom species will be more productive, such as snapper and grouper.
Bait: Live baits work very well, but are more difficult to obtain and keep alive in colder weather. Dead baits, cut to attract better by scent trails, usually do a good job. Artificial lures that imitate natural baits that are available can be good, but normally require a slow presentation.
Best Time: Tides and other current flows are more important than time of day, water movement is always key to movement of bait species.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]