Trout and red fish go deep in the winter and the only way to catch them is to fish deep. This is a very common misconception by coastal anglers. Yes, during the coldest months they do seek the warmth of the deep channels but let the sun come out and they will be right back on the flats.
In Houston and most coastal parts of Texas, January provides an average high temperature around 64 degrees and that means plenty of warm sunny days. Most fishermen catch their biggest catches between the 25th and 31st.
When the winds are lying low and the sun is shining bright three to four days after a cold front, you can be assured that this is the best time for flats fishing. You’ll find big sow trout as well as reds and trout lying up in the warm shallow water a foot or less deep. Make sure to look for deep water access as well as areas with soft mud and grass. The best spots to cast for big trout are in shallow flats with pot holes. This is where you will find them lying just around the edges of the pot hole along the bottom.
There really isn’t a need to hit the water at the crack of dawn during the winter because the fish aren’t going to be there since they are waiting for the sun to come out. Theory has it that until their body temperature equalizes with the water temperature, they won’t eat. Also, most of the larger fish need more time to reach that optimal temperature so take your time unless you’re looking for the little ones. It’s perfectly fine to head out around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning which also allows the sun to be higher in the sky, giving you a helping hand in sight fishing.
You need to fish a big bait to catch a big fish – another misconception. Small crabs and shrimp suffice in the winter; even for big trout. A white and emerald Foxy Clouser with small crab patterns or lead eyes or a size 4 or 6 Boone Butter Rum Sand Flea work too. Take your time finding the speed the fish want by beginning with slow strips since the fish are still a little lethargic.
Lure presentation is another thing you will have to experiment with. Some like slow sinking lures and when the fish are a little spooky, you can switch to a smaller lure like a Texas Flats Killer Minnow rigged on 1/16th ounce jig head.
Keep something in mind when fishing the shallow flats during the winter – it’s also duck season. Make sure to look for duck blinds and decoys when you’re drifting or poling a flat and try to avoid them at all costs. Most duck hunters are out in the early morning and are heading back in as you’re heading out to fish – another good reason to start your fishing trip a little later in the day.