DECEMBER IN TEXAS—one day it might be in the mid to high 80s. The next day it could be snowing. I have experienced both.
Aransas fishing guide Dean Thomas said it can still be 90 degrees in December and really doesn’t change till January or February.
“The first week in December is the best schooling action for tailing redfish on flats,” Thomas said. “The fish are still in the same places we caught them in August, but the better locations will be close to drop offs into deep water. If the temperatures flip, the fish need a place to slide off into deeper water.”
Guide Paul Marcaccio is hunting for big speckled trout in December when the water temps go south. He and his anglers are wading shorelines early, searching out mud and shell mix bottoms.
The mud bottom absorbs heat when the sun beats down on it; the trout snuggle down into it to keep warm. The shell provides a hunting place to pick up some “serious impaired” live mullet that has tossed all caution to the four winds.
Whatever favorite spot you’re fishing—if the temperatures have taken a nosedive—slowing the bait/lure presentation way, way down is critical. The fish are like us; we are not too energetic when the temps start dropping.
“Finding some bait action will increase your chances for a hook-up. If you only find an occasional mullet flipping the surface, that’s okay; there’s a predator fish in the area that has the mullet excited,” said Marcaccio.
Wading really helps because you can sit there and make a presentation of 360 degrees. You can change the lure color, or go to a different bait that presents a different look. His favorite December lures for big trout are soft plastics, MirOdines, Corkys and the Catch 2000, worked just below the surface, targeting drains till mid-morning and late evening.
Favorite soft plastic colors are black, plum, pumpkin seed in off-colored water. Dark colored baits cast a shadow underneath the bait. Under sunny skies, a Pearl, Fire Tiger or Limetreuse-colored bait reflect the sun providing a highlighted target for a curious trout.
“Before you move, change colors to see if it makes a difference, or change bait styles. If you don’t get a bite in five minutes, move on,” says Marcaccio.
Thomas provides fly rod wading trips or kayak fishing trips. “When we’re fly fishing, we’ll be sight casting for redfish using poppers, spoon flies, or Clouser Minnows. Get the bait in front of them and shake it. Fishing from a kayak allows the anglers to get closer to the fish.”
For an accelerated case of high blood pressure, go after flounder with a fly rod, working shallow water. From December 1 to 14 the daily bag limit increases from one to two fish, an early Christmas gift. If you don’t mind the cooler, or maybe colder temperatures at night, gig for the flatfish.
A light or medium-spinning rod is the most versatile pole for inshore flounder fishing. The “perfect” spinning rod and reel for flounder is a light, seven-foot spinning rod with extra-fast action. A spinning reel with a low gear-ratio is appropriate with 12- to 14-pound test line.
Tried and true for catching flounder on rod and reel include ¼ ounce jigs, live bait fish including mullet, mud minnows and shrimp, 3-4 inches long if possible.
Two cold weather flounder fishing trips stand out in my mind. One trip was along a large, shallow flat next to a deep-water ship channel. My fishing buddies and I were in waders, layered clothing, and water resisting hooded jackets.
It was important to have the jacket bottom cinched up tight on the outside of the waders to prevent an occasional wave from putting cold water in the waders. I remember saying we looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Presenting your lure or bait to a flounder is a slow retrieve, no matter whether summer or winter. A flounder bite is more like a slow tightening of your line. Let the fish have the bait for a few seconds, then set the hook.
On another trip I was fishing from a boat that had an enclosed cabin where we could retreat from the cold. We were anchored under a bridge, soaking cut bait along the bottom close to the bridge pilings.
I can truthfully say that the action was non-existent that day, but for one bite that woke me up out of my reverie. It was the biggest flounder I ever saw when I got him to the boat. My buddy knocked him off the hook while attempting to bring him onboard. It was my fault for not setting the hook better, but it makes for a great fish story.
I hope everyone has some time to get out on the water during December. It can be a challenge to carve out some time with all the Christmas parties and shopping, but it can be a great time to spend time with family members and friends that maybe you don’t see that often.
May the Jolly Red Man stuff your stocking with a lot of good things. Remember the angels’ message on that blessed evening, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Peace and Good Will to all.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]