Take to the inshore waters in winter

Take to the inshore waters in winter

Fishing in February can be iffy at best. Since the wind, weather and water temperatures fluctuate greatly, it is difficult to learn a feeding pattern. There are some days that make trying to go fishing too dangerous. Lighting and high winds in the 25 mph plus zone along with torrential rain make for those types of days. Other than that, there is some really good fish catching available where the weather is less of a deterrent.

We are fortunate hereabouts to have several rivers and ship channels that offer some fishing opportunities that defy the uncomfortable conditions. These waterways are also places to go to when the more popular open-water areas are too crowded. What’s really a plus is that the variety of fish species available is extensive.

During times of drought such as occurred a couple years ago, the specks, redfish, flounder and other fish such as black drum and sheepshead were numerous in the rivers. There were at that time several reports of some of the saltwater species such as Spanish mackerel and ling taken by anglers in the Neches River. These fish were taken consistently all the way up river to the saltwater barrier. That situation was not the norm. Even during normal rain and run-off times, both the Neches and the Sabine rivers hold enough salt or brackish water to offer some good fishing.

It has long been known that the marsh areas and the channels leading into them are fish meccas. On most occasions when the fish are in striking mode and the bite begins, another angler will motor by. The canals being as narrow as they are, this spooks the fish. Most times in those canals when a boat disturbs the bite, it doesn’t commence again for a long time – if at all. That situation dictates looking for more angler-friendly waterways. Are there places where boat traffic and inclement weather would have little or no effect on the fish catching? The answer is yes, if the angler takes the time to locate them.

The rivers and the Sabine Ship Channel will offer at least some areas that are high-wind resistant. The initial places where most folks begin fishing are near the mouths of the channels that empty into the rivers. Certainly these are not bad choices, but there are other places that are also good. By using a depth finder and scoping along the drop-offs, schools of fish may be located. I not only use the depth finder, but I also check what material is on the bank. Places where there is shell along the shoreline will also likely have shell out beneath the water. Since baitfish and shrimp hang around the shell, you can likely find some game fish there also. It is also a major positive sign if there is evidence of bait already being present. These small fish or shrimp show up on a depth finder.

I recommend beginning your fishing by either anchoring or using an electric troll motor to hold in the deeper water. In doing this, it is possible to last on to the shallow water and then allow your bait or lure to drop off as you retrieve it. Most times the specks or redfish will take your offering as it falls. Both black drum and sheepshead will likely be there, too. Flounder will bed down on shell, but they seem to more often choose the softer bottom that is down tidal flow from the reef. Once you go river fishing and have some success, it is likely that those same places will produce the next time that you need a fishing spot in inclement weather.

I didn’t mention structure when you are seeking river fish. There are many places with abandoned boat docks that are too deep for consistent angling. There are also just as many tree roots, shallow bulkheads and such where predator fish wait in ambush. Many times at night the loading docks as well as the lighted boat ramps will be go-to places. Most of the time you will be able to see the shrimp or baitfish popping the surface, trying to escape from a hungry speck.

When the weather is a little too bad for open water fishing, try the rivers or the ship channels.