January is the beginning of Texas’ truly cold weather. Savvy anglers however realize in Texas the fishing never shuts down, it just changes. That means the beginning of the year offers overlooked and in some cases awesome opportunities for reds, speckled trout and flounder.
Here are some strategies and techniques for catching Gulf Coast’s Big 3 during the coldest months of the year.
Redfish action runs hot and heavy especially around the jetty systems from Sabine Pass to Surfside.
“A lot of people think the big bull reds can only be caught during the fall run but there are always fair numbers and sometimes good numbers around the jetties in winter,” said Marcus Heflin of Christian Surf Fishing Adventures.
Heflin said anglers should target deep holes and boat cuts and be aware of tide swings and the presence of mullet.
“You typically get the best action when a tidal switch occurs especially on that incoming tide when water that is a little warmer starts coming in from the Gulf. If you find a bunch of mullet you should have reds. If you don’t see them on the surface dolphins are a good sign. They feed on them and are actually a pretty good sign of reds.”
A medium to deep running crankbait fished tight to the rocks or a live mullet fished on a Carolina rig can produce reds up to 40 pounds.
“If you can’t get excited about catching reds that size…well…I just don’t know.”
Can you catch flounder in the winter? You bet!
Most of them migrate out through the passes in the fall to spawn in the Gulf but a remnant stays and with the highest flounder counts in recent history there are more to be caught right now than even hardcore flounder anglers may realize.
The southern tier of bay systems in close proximity to passes and the Intracoastal Canal are key spots to see flounder. Look for flats with muddy bottoms close to drop offs and water flowing from canals into the channel and passes for the best results.
Small shad imitations and curl-tailed grubs tipped with shrimp and fished on fluorocarbon line are the ticket. Natural colors like shad, smoke and salt and pepper are the best when the water is running clear and pink when the water is running stained.
Drag slowly and pay close attention for any kind of pressure on the line. During winter, flounder often bite very lightly so it is important to be very aware of any strange feelings on the line. If you think you have a strike, count to 20 and set the hook. That might sound extreme but I have found waiting a long time on light bites makes a difference. If you happen to feel the classic hard “thump” count to five and set the hook.
The ideal days are when warm afternoons meet up with incoming tides. Any moving tide will work as their feeding behavior is almost totally related to water movement.
January is not the peak month for trout fishing by any stretch of the imagination but there are some big fish caught by anglers with great patience and prowess.
Much like flounder, anglers can find them where mud flats intersect with channels, especially on sunny days. The mud retains heat and baitfish and in turn trout move onto the flats to feed.
Swimbaits that imitate mullet are great for fishing these spots because they allow anglers to cover water and still work a good portion of water in a slow determined fashion. If you find fish, it might pay to switch to a slow-sinking soft or hard plastic lure and pick apart key areas like small shell reefs and transition zones from deep to shallow.
Also like flounder, big trout hit light so pay close attention and feel free to set the hook on anything that feels unusual. Do not wait 20 seconds however as the big trout will be long gone by that point.
Winter fishing is typically more slow-paced than our tremendous fall opportunities but there are fish to be caught and in typical Texas fashion many of them are big.
Chester Moore, Jr.