Winter Waters to Fly Fish in TX - Part 4 - Lower Laguna Madre (LLM)
Contrary to logic, one of the best times to land sow specs, decent-sized redfish or even bulky black drum on the fly in TeXas is in the dead of winter. These species' predictability during cold snaps can be your golden ticket to locating and landing fish. But first, we'll explain why winter is considered one of the absolute best times to fish the bay.
1. The weather on the LLM can get damn cold. But typically, the sub-tropic environment rebounds rather quickly and you could be fishing in your t-shirt and shorts just a few days or so after a Northern. Fishing during or right after a cold snap is a great time to be on the water simply for comfort reasons. In summer it can be sweltering and not much fun. And even when it’s cold, it’s not like Fargo cold.
2. Because the bay is so shallow (typically averaging only 4 feet deep or so) the water temperature fluctuates rather rapidly. It doesn’t take too many warms days to warm it back up, nor does it take much of a cold front to cool it down. This makes for a fairly predictable fishing situation, which we’ll get to in a sec.
3. True, during the spring and summer the bay can seem like Wal-Mart on Christmas Even, dotted with recreational boaters, jet skiers, and guided fishing charters all over the place. You really gotta have your head on a swivel in those warmer months. But in winter it’s far less crowded and only the most dedicated adventurists are out. Less people = more fish for you.
So, back to the fishes’ predictability… Aside from the largest of the large redfish (who actually leave the bay for the Gulf of Mexico to spawn during the winter), most other reds, specs and black drum will spend the majority of their life cycle lazing around in the bay. When the winter weather cools the water, these fish will typically congregate in large pods and move to deeper, warmer water. Sow trout may be isolated, but will still be found in warmer pockets. That might be the bottom of the Intercoastal Waterway, deeper guts draining into the ICW, the low-lying troughs between spoil islands, or any other significant depression they might find. YOUR MISSION: (should you accept it.) Find the deeper, warmer hole-ups during and just after the snaps, and chances are you'll ambush these species lurking in these types of hideouts.
[Pro Tip] The murkier, muddier water in the bay's innumerable flats also cools slower as well as retains heat longer. During some weather fronts, some fish will gravitate to these dirtier areas to warm their fat little fins, so leaving the clearer water in the rear-view mirror and casting weighted flies in the opaque flats can also be a sure-fire cold-weather tactic on the LLM.
One of our favorite LLM tactics is to cut the motor and drift quietly down one edge of the ICW to surprise the fish coming and going into and out of the cut. Experiment flicking flies like Clousers, Dorsy's Kwan, deer hair sliders, Dupree-style spoons, and Merkin crab variants near drop-offs, into obvious pot holes and also around the warmer, off-color flats. Give flies time to fall, and mix up your retrieve until you find what they’re wanting. During these cold snaps fish can be a bit pickier, but we think you’ll find that, although you may not catch fish in the numbers you might in summer, the size of fish you net may put bigger smiles on your face.
Novice casters caveat: Often, presentation is preferred by skittish reds over fly size, color or style. So, if you’re targeting reds, work on your casting skills over all else, and find those warmer pockets of water to toss them there flies into. Good luck and hope to see you out there on the "Mother" of all bays - The Lower Laguna Madre!
If you don't have your own skiff or flats boat, below is a list of recommended Guide Services:
Capt. Andrew Marikos - @ Andrew Marikos In-shore Fishing Charters - (956) 434-9890
Capt. Gencho Buitureira Jr. @ South Padre Bay Fishing - (956) 345-8299
Capt. Adrian Flanders @ www.gofishsouthpadre.com - (956) 572-0130
Capt. Clifton Smith @ Hot Doggy Charters - (956) 642-7362