Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Fin & Fowl

Calm before the storm best describes the Seadrift beat today. With upper Texas getting their teeth kicked in by the approaching cold front, it is only a matter of time before we’ll be seeing its effects.

The forecast is for 20’s along the Texas coast by as early as Friday. Well, I’m rolling out the red carpet for this blast and I’ve got the fisherman and hunters lined up to do the “hand shaking”. When it comes to Redfish, nothing gives me that “Bowed-Up” feeling like cold weather.

Here is a “mind set” for you to remember when fishing the winter months along the Texas coast. When temperatures plummet below 40 degrees, post frontal water temperatures will sink out of the low 60’s well into the low 50’s. The breaking point here and the benchmark is 58 degrees. Between fronts, in water temps over 58, Redfish will emerge from the deep lake and bay holes to feed on the flats. Intercepting them mid-morning into the afternoon is a given. The key is this, the fish do not stray far from the safe harbor of the deeper holes. As water temperatures plummet, approximately the second morning of the cold front, the fish will stack in the deeper holes.

Knowing this, has allowed me to narrow the focus when fishing winter months. If the weather has warmed after a front, I’ll wait until mid morning to begin fishing, say around 10:00am. This allows the flats to warm and it keeps the anglers fresh from an un-productive “pre-dawn” grind that has them worn out when the fish are ready to eat. I’ll drift the flats working dark baits in off color water like Red Shad Bass Assassins; purple/white; plum blue flake/chart; purple/chart with 1/8oz. jig heads, ¼ oz. gold spoons, etc. Off color water has been the key to many a successful trip during the winter. What little bait remains in the bays during winter months will concentrate in off color water to avoid being eaten. Having said that, YOU KNOW WHERE THE FISH ARE! Varying the action on the rod tip will help you figure out what they want on any given day.

Find me with frost on the windshield and I’ll be making a BEE LINE for deep water. As the temperatures fall below the targeted 58 degrees, the fish fall off the flats and head to their comfort zone in thermoclines of the holes. With an average bay system depth of 7’ in our area, you have to look deeper. Finding holes of 10 to 14 feet will be the ticket but the key is that they have to be near the flats. Use ¼ oz. jig heads to get deep and be SLOW with the retrieve bouncing the lure near bottom. Redfish will tap the baits lightly. I often pause once feeling the tap and watch for the line to tighten up before setting the hook. These fish will hit just about any color combination but my stand by has always been strawberry with a white tail.

One thing is for sure when fishing a cold weather pattern, you won’t have to be fighting any crowds while you are doing it!

About The Birds

Our Rye grass farms have been loaded with geese here lately. One particular stretch of 120 acres of grass went from 4” tall and emerald green to ½” tall and muddy brown as we fought to keep some 40 to 60,000 Snow geese from destroying the plantings. Early grass planting has helped us and we have an excellent root structure this year to avoid total destruction. With new or soft ground plantings, the birds will pull the grass up by the roots thus killing the plant or they will stomp and pack the ground damaging re-growth. The birds are moving in huge groups early under mild weather which has made killing them a challenge. Once they settle from the morning flight, all you can do is hope for an air plane or some other disturbance to creat “artificial air traffic”. On hard weather, the birds move in smaller numbers which has led to some heavy straps.

With the latest flooding here on the coast, we again find our plowed ground inaccessible until things dry out a bit. The last week and a half, the plows have been running full bore in an attempt to turn the crops and kill the greens which are growing in unattended fields. When this happens, it concentrates the birds on Rye grass fields. When they want to “green”, it is their only option beyond emergent grasses in fallow fields.

One thing is for certain, when it comes to late season Snow Goose hunting, we are in perfect position for harvesting large numbers of these birds using electronic callers. One thing we do with the callers that you may want to try is this; use a minimum of two callers per spread. Some days, we will use four. Position them throughout the spread in various positions. You must, however, work in a team on the volume. If the birds are veering to one side of the spread on a certain caller, shut it down and then apply more volume to the far side caller to pull them over the spread. Using high volume at a distance has proved itself in attracting the birds. However, on the approach, you must reduce the volume to avoid spooking the flight. Don’t be surprised, if after you call the shot, that you can apply more volume to hook the birds up for another pass.

It is the sincerest wish from all of us at Coastal Waterfowl, that the happiest of holidays is shared by you and your family. Take a little extra time on your hunts to “double check” the safties and establish your safe zones of fire.

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Capt. Kris Kelley
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