AS ALWAYS, January will probably be a mixed month for coastal Texas. Often this month brings us the coldest weather our admittedly temperate climate will have to offer.
Still, there is always a chance of warm temperatures and calm conditions. As is often said about Texas weather, if you don’t like it, be just a bit patient, and it will likely change—rather quickly!
Normally, however, this month will require waders in the cooler waters, and a stiff breeze blowing off the Gulf will encourage wearing warmer clothing anytime we are near the water. I have spent many hours fishing the surf shirtless in various Januaries. Yet, have also been forced to bundle up snugly at the start of other New Years.
Good fishing can be had this month in most years for those who plan carefully and think up a reasonable game plan.
Because conditions can change rapidly, the wise angler will keep informed on both current weather and expected local changes. Of course, fish can be caught in “bad” weather, but a warm, pleasant day usually makes the fishing more enjoyable.
Regardless of weather conditions, it is always important to watch for signs of bait activity. This can range from actually seeing baitfish in the water, observing fish feeding activity, or observing birds diving on bait.
Sometimes a cast net put into use in nearshore waters may reveal quantities of baitfish species that were otherwise unseen. Because bait will usually be less common than in warmer water, “fresh” dead bait could be as good an offering as any other.
Winter fish often feed as much by smell as by sight, maybe even more so. Dead shrimp, cut squid, and cut baitfish such as mullet or shad will all attract the interest of feeding winter fish. Of course, if live shrimp or small baitfish is available they should certainly be given an honest try.
Even when fishing a line or two baited with natural offerings, casting with artificial lures is worth the effort. Small soft plastic lures and soft jigs or shiny spoons will often work best—especially when fished slowly. However, shallow running plugs can be good as well. If conditions seem to favor it, even surface plugs might produce well on any given day.
Offshore, when water conditions allow it, artificial lures might be even better than in inshore waters. Lures cast around rigs or buoys are a good bet, and bottom bouncing a jig might also pay off. If schools of mackerels or bluefish are sighted working bait, slow trolling with appropriate lures might be a good technique to try.
Something I have mentioned before, an “unexpected” bait, such as live shrimp in winter, will often draw the interest of fish that have otherwise not shown much desire to feed. Because anything tried this time of year will probably be on a “hit or miss” basis, why not give something a bit different a try? Most fishing effort in any but exceptional weather will be a gamble, so why not shoot for the moon?
Most fish found in more favorable conditions could possibly be found in January’s less than perfect waters. Speckled trout, sand trout, redfish, flounder, drum, sheepshead, and other inshore species are always possible. Offshore “fields” might yield snappers, groupers, or amberjacks.
There are also spots less than 30 to 40 miles from shore known for holding king mackerels in winter. For those with the ability and/or desire to search waters farther out, tuna might be added to the possibilities!
Location: Beachfront piers, inshore pilings, jetties and rock groins.
Species: Trout, reds, croakers, flounders, and an occasional black drum.
Baits: Cut natural baits such as mullet and squid, live baitfish or shrimp when available.
Best Time: This time of year, temperatures should be better for fishing during the day, although night forays under lights could also be productive.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]