With the cold fronts beginning to reach our area in greater numbers, the waters in our inland lakes and bays have cooled. The hoards of baitfish and shrimp that the north winds push from the marshes and bayous have mostly all gone out by now. With that situation, the anglers that are knowledgeable about fishing the cold water will be exposed to some really big fish. Speckled trout and redfish are the more available varieties, but the flat fish do show up from time to time.
Usually there are fewer anglers that pursue the fish during the colder months. That leaves a better selection for the hearty folks that enjoy going after the larger fish. Since speckled trout are by far the more sought after species, I contacted a true local expert on the subject of catching the larger speckled trout during cold water periods.
Capt. Darren Guernsey is a purist when it comes to speck fishing. In fact, he has taken the time to write a book that I have mentioned before. The book is titled “Turning Tides,” and believe it or not, it is sub-titled “No Wimpy Fish.” Capt Guernsey does not feel that it is necessary to keep his many experiences and consistent success in reading the water and catching big speckled trout a secret. That will allow the readers to perhaps acquire some helpful information that could lead to big fish success. By the way, Guernsey once held the Texas record for redfish
I admitted to the captain that I had experienced limited winter fishing success for speckled trout. I’ve spent little time and effort in pursuit of them, choosing instead to go where I had caught specks earlier. I rarely even changed the lure selection from warmer water to colder water times. It would seem that for consistently catching the larger fish, according to Guernsey, the bait or lure should be much larger than those typically used. For instance, for early morning or near dusk topwater action, a lure 7 or 8 inches long or even longer will produce. Once the topwater action slows or stops, then a lead-head jig with a 7 or 8 inch plastic tail attached should be used. Keep in mind that live bait such as croaker or mullet will be a great choice for the big fish since those are the natural prey of those outsize specks.
So what is a major consideration during the wintertime? The captain says it’s the temperature/oxygen ratio. The colder water holds the available oxygen better than the warmer water. That’s why it is a good idea to begin in the shallower water early mornings. When the water begins to warm even a degree or two, then the fish will likely head to a more comfortable area. Speaking of comfortable, the specks along with all of the other fish are cold blooded. Their body temperature will be the same as the water temperature. During the colder times, their metabolism slows; therefore, anglers should fish more slowly. If you believe that you are fishing the lure slow enough, slow it down some more.
Areas around the shorelines that have sandy bottoms will reflect the sunlight. That will allow it to remain cooler for a longer period of time. The shell bottom is much the same. Mud bottoms will absorb the sunlight and be warmer. The only problem with the mud bottom is during windy times the water will become off color. In such cases it is important to use lures that are darker colored. These contrast with the murky water and make it easier for the speckled trout to see. Don’t hesitate to use or noisy lure in off-color water. Clear water seems to dictate brighter colors. Most experienced big-fish anglers are not chiseled-in-stone color conscious. Bright or dark seem to cover most situations.
Whenever the fish are not in the shallows, then by all means head for deeper water. Any type of structure may be the ticket to fish catching during cold weather. Keep in mind that even in deep water, the fish may not be on the bottom. Guernsey has found that according to where the bait is the, oxygen is there also, and where the salinity is better is where the lunkers will be.
As I mentioned early on, the captain says that the lures are made to appear as the food fish that the predators feed upon. The key words are “made to appear.” The real live baitfish or shrimp are what the big fish are after. That means that live bait will be superior to fakes nearly every time.
These tips are only a few tricks that Captain Guernsey shared with me. The speckled trout fishing in “Turning Tides” is much more in detail then there was room here. You can order the book at www.nowimpyfish.com .