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Boatright custom flats
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Pulled this article out of our local newspaper online. Some great info if interested.

Winter trout catchable, even in the wind
By Bink Grimes
The Facts

Published January 6, 2008

Texans have dodged the bullet for 18 years now. Not since 1989 has the "Golden Crescent" endured a hard freeze that resulted in a significant speckled trout kill. Keep your fingers crossed it doesn't happen in the next six weeks.

The one variable that does wreak havoc on coastal anglers during winter is the wind. Here are a few opinions and patterns from seasoned pros who know where to go when the wind blows.

The border lake which divides Texas and Louisiana provides protection from gusts in the Neches and Sabine rivers, which flow into the north end of the lake. Captain Chuck Uzzle of Orange says the rivers can be fished year round.

"Barring flood rains that freshen the upper end of the lake, I camp out in the river during the winter," he said. "The trout hang close to elevation changes. Depending on the temperature, sometimes they will be in the holes when it is cold, and shallower as the sun shines."

Uzzle likes to jig pumpkinseed or glow Norton Sand Eel Jrs and Bull Minnows when tossing artificials; however, if you want non-stop action, Uzzle says to use live shad.

"We have a warm water outfall where the shad really congregate in the winter. All it takes is one throw of the cast net and you have enough shad for the whole day."

Uzzle Carolina-rigs his shad with enough weight above the swivel to get the presentation down and hold it in the zone with a heavy current. If the trout are there, it does not take long to bend a rod.

"They say specks are lethargic in the winter, but they really thump the shad. There is no doubt about it when they decide to eat," he said.

When mercury readings rise, pluggers wade the backside of spoil islands lining deep channels and often the Intracoastal Waterway. These are established havens for big trout because of their proximity to deeper water.

"The islands are prime in the afternoon when the sun comes out," said Uzzle. "Trout hang in the area because it is close to deep water. When the tide or temperature drops, it is only a short swim to the deeper Intracoastal. When the water warms, specks come out of the deep and onto the sandy flats around the islands."

Another example is the east shoreline of the Seabrook Flats, which provides fishable structure parallel to the Houston Ship Channel. Like fishing any flats area, sufficient tides are needed to flood the shallows, especially during the normal low-tide conditions of winter. Its close proximity to the ship channel makes it a prime winter fishing venue. Fish hold in the deeper, warmer water when the thermometer is low, and head to the flats as the air heats.

Near Port O'Connor and Seadrift, back bay lakes like Pringle, Contee, Power and Twin lake are refuges from blistering winds. Sandwiched between barrier Matagorda Island and the Espiritu Santo Bay, these havens provide drifters a solid trout fishing locale - provided you have the gumption and know-how to cross the open bay to get there.

The Welder Ranch shoreline and the Drum Hole near the mouth of San Antonio Bay are two key winter trout spots, according to Capt. Chris Martin of Seadrift.

"You can wade these areas, but be careful because they drop to deeper water quickly," said Martin. "The fish hang there because deep water is close and they can escape to the deep when the temperatures drop."

Martin prefers using a short shank hook and 1?8 to 1?16 ounce jig head when working soft plastics. He said the light heads keep his baits from hanging on oyster reefs.

"In the winter, the bite is normally light and subtle. If you feel tightness in your line, lift your rod tip. If you still feel resistance, set the hook." he said.

The average depth of the Laguna is three feet or less, and with miles of sugar sand flats, stalking trophy trout on foot is a dream. The wind blows year round. Die-hard anglers learn to cast in gusty conditions or stay pinned to the dock the majority of the year.

Three Islands is the most popular winter trout spot, according to Capt. Danno Wise of Raymondville. Extensive flats adjacent to the Intracoastal produce big fish for sight-casting pluggers. Five- to seven-inch red and black "bass" worms, Norton Bull Minnows, Yum Samari Shad and DOA Shrimp are proven artificials.

Holly Beach, littered with small islands, grass beds and deep channels, is another traditional sow trout hangout. Wise says to work skinny sand behind the island on sunny days.

"Fish work the deeper grass flats, channel edges and sandbars consistently," said Wise. "Trout hop on the skinny flats during midday with good sunshine."

Wise said the spoil islands running from the Queen Isabella Causeway north to Port Mansfield often are overlooked.

"Just about any stretch can be productive on a given day. Look for water flowing between islands, color changes and slicks. During midday, try the deep flats between spoils and the ledge of the ICW."

Texas offers miles of trout-infested shorelines on the lee of winter blusters. The boat ride might be a little brisk, but the possibility of being rewarded with a trout of a lifetime has always numbed my senses.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain. Contact him at binkgrimes(at)sbcglobal.net or www.binkgrimesoutdoors.com.
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