Searching for Trophy Trout
COLD/COOLER WATER and air temps, heavy winds, and possible freshwater run-off are the main items the Texas coastal angler has to contend with in January.
How would you handle these conditions? Capt. Mark Franklin doesn’t waste any time in saying what he would do.
“I would call my clients and tell them not to come because you are catching zero,” Franklin said. “If a cold front comes through blowing hard out of the north, I like to give it at least a couple of days before I get back out on the water. The high pressure produced after the frontal passage squeezes on the trout, and they are not hungry.”
On the opposite side of frontal passage, the day before the wind changes direction, the fishing can be great. Stay current on the weather predictions as to when the front approaches.
Being out on the water as the front blows in can be dangerous, wind wiping up big waves, and the temperature dropping. It would be impossible to not get wet in a bouncing boat. Hypothermia is a possibility.
“In January it’s not like you can go out there and catch full limits of trout. During the wintertime you are pretty much targeting one trophy fish,” said Franklin. “It can be difficult to slow down and keep grinding away when you are not even getting bites. It’s hard to explain to clients sometimes because they all want to catch fish and catch them fast.
“I tell them wintertime is the best time to get the trophy trout, but you could fish all day and not get a bite. Usually the people who I have during the wintertime want that one chance to catch the monster.”
Franklin’s biggest trout was caught in January, measuring 34¼ inches, weighing about 12 pounds.
Wading is the best way to meet a trophy trout, mainly because if forces the angler to slow down and carefully cover more water. Target flats and shorelines with access to a river, creeks, bayou channels and backwater lakes. Trout want the deeper water drop-off close by when the temperature drops.
Look for bait activity. Even just one baitfish flipping on the water, merits a few casts. Back-water lakes are small enough that they are not messed up bad by a hard-blowing front and provide the muddy bottom that fish like. The high banks of a river provide a natural windbreak.
Frontal Passage Lures and Colors
You want a lure that can be effective when fished very slowly, such as the Corky style baits. The Corky, or other similar lures, work because they have a slow descent as they settle to the bottom where the trout are lying; they get a good look at it as it slowly settles.
“Throw it out there, let it sink to the bottom,” advises Franklin. “Leave it lie there on the bottom.”
The fish usually hit when the lure is settling to the bottom. It they don’t take it on the drop, jig/pop it a little bit where it hops off the bottom. Continue the sequence through the complete retrieve back to the boat.
“It’s pretty much real slow fishing,” adds Franklin.
The other lures of choice for January are soft plastics. The technique is the same as using slow-sinking lures, but this bait choice sinks a lot faster because of the jig head used in conjunction with soft plastic.
Franklin uses a ¼ or 5/8 ounce jig head to get the soft plastic on the bottom. Cast it out and let sink to the bottom. Reel slowly, pick the rod tip up and let it sink down, pick the rod tip up, and let the bait settle to the bottom—continue the retrieve.
“The slower the presentation, the better are your chances of getting that one big trout bite. That’s why I like to use Corkys because it takes a month to sink to the bottom.”
Think of what a fish sees as it looks up from its bottom lair. How about a bright color in dingy, off-colored water and a darker color if it’s a bright sunny day?
Franklin goes a little against the dingy-bright sunny day choice of colors. “Some people use that method to determine bait color. Me personally, I have my favorite colors.”
His number one choice is a bait that has pink as a primary color. Whatever color choice, trout are looking up and can see the dark or colored bait outlined against the sky.
Bottom Makes a Difference
“Find a muddy/shell bottom, not like nasty with a mud you sink a couple feet on every step,” Franklin advised. “The mud holds the heat; it might be just two to four degrees warmer, but it’s enough that the fish will lie on the mud taking in the extra degree or two.”
Fishing in the wintertime you must tell yourself you’re going to catch fish—persistence, patience, and keep grinding. Do that and you will catch them.
THE BANK BITE
Location: Fish Pass
GPS: N 27 42.011, W 97 11.203
Species: Trout, redfish, flounder
Tip: Wade the flats; watch for stingrays!
Email Tom Behrens at ContactUs@fishgame.com