FEBRUARY IS A GENERALLY a good time of year to plan fishing trips in warmer weather—or climates.
Closer to home and current conditions, there will be some days when it is more productive to use your fishing tackle, rather than to repair and update it. These days are few and far between, normally. So, it’s wise to do a good job on that equipment to have it in top shape when the opportunity to use it does arise.
The upper Texas coast is fortunate to have fairly mild winters, so we see mostly the same species of gamefish that we do in the warm summer months—just in different numbers and exhibiting different behavior. This necessitates a difference in our fishing techniques.
Live bait, more specifically shrimp, will be more difficult to obtain. If it is available, however, the effort to obtain it and keep it active will usually pay off. Dead bait is probably the number one choice, simply because it will often be the only choice, or nearly so. Dead bait doesn’t move very much without help, but it does give off a natural smell and taste in the water that will always attract something.
Because the fishing will probably be slow this time of year, putting more effort into making your bait more attractive is worth the effort. Baitfish that were frozen in a fresh condition, retain more juices to attract fish by smell and taste in the water than bait dried out in the sun before being bagged for the freezer.
Good artificial lures normally attract by the way they move in the water, but a flashy spoon puts a little more visual attraction in the game than just movement. Top water lures, under the right conditions do the same, just don’t fish top waters when the water conditions prevent these movements from being seen from below.
Lures are best when their movement imitates the bait they are supposed to resemble. In winter—even more than in warmer seasons—a soft plastic lure is especially attractive. In winter, a fish will take a lure slowly and be more aware of how it feels.
In cold weather fishing with natural bait, it is often more effective to react slowly to a fish. This lets him have time to get the baited hook where it can secure a good hook-set. Neither a spoon, nor a hard plastic lure allows this, and demands a faster hookup.
If fishing a large enough piece of water, such as an open bay or offshore, chumming can be very effective in cold water, as the temperature makes an easy meal even more attractive. Chumming with small bits of fish or shrimp creates a trail of “smell” as well as a visual incentive to get hungry fish moving—and feeding.
Rainy and cold days are not a lot of fun to fish, but when a sunny and fairly warm day does come along in February – and it will—fishing can be good. Such times help us to hold on for warmer, more pleasant days that we know (or at least, hope), are coming in the fairly near future.
Location: February fishing will probably be slow, and “hit-or-miss” about anywhere, but deep waters have more potential than shallow haunts – largely because of temperature. This puts a premium on deep passes and channels, as well the waters of the Gulf from just past the third sandbar to far beyond. A rare warm and sunny day, however, will trigger action in shallower spots and even sometimes on the surface of the water column.
Species: Trout, reds, flounder and various pan fish should all be available, and the black drum run should be ready to begin, if it hasn’t already started.
Offshore action for snappers and groupers can be very good, and big—for the Gulf Coast, anyway – bluefish will often be found close to the beach. Deep-water species such as tuna will probably be abundant, but require a special class of boat and tackle to pursue far from shore.
Bait: Live bait can be hard to find, because of slow-downs by bait-catchers. If you catch your own with either net or trap, however, you won’t have to worry about keeping them alive and healthy due to water temperature. Of course, any bait species caught on the fishing grounds will be a top choice to use at that spot, but there can be exceptions.
Best Time: Even though heat is not usually a problem in February on the Texas coast, fishing early and late in the day still makes good sense. Night fishing in winter is also good—especially around warm water outfalls from various types of industrial units near the water, and also near lighting that reaches fishable waters.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]