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How to Fish All Winter Long

ftd-winter fishing
Flickr/Tony Rod

On the Texas coast you can fish all winter long. 

If you have ever fished the south Texas coastal areas in the summer, you know how good fishing can be. What you may not realize is that the winter doesn’t mean an end to fishing season. Fishing the surf or jetties can still reward you with glorious battles and delicious dinners.

What’s Biting?

The Spanish mackerel and speckled trout may have left the beachfront, but there are still plenty of fish to target during the winter months.

Pompano:

These fish can be found all along the Texas coast, but your best bet for a regular hookup will be from Corpus Christi on south. You will want to use smaller bait since most weigh in at about two pounds. The pompano will hit natural baits like shrimp, squid, ghost crabs, and sand fleas but will also take artificials such as small spoons, jigs, and swim baits. A medium light rod will give you an exciting fight from these tasty little guys

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All at Sea

Black drum:

These are another common catch. They may not be pretty but the big ones will put up a monster fight, and the slot fish are delicious. The best way to catch them is on natural bait weighted down. Live or dead shrimp and cut bait are your go-to baits. You will need medium to medium-heavy rods with plenty of line on them because the slot fish can fight and the lurking monsters will peel line like there’s no tomorrow.

Bull reds:

Contrary to popular belief, Bull Reds have not all left after the late summer/early fall heavy season. There may be fewer in numbers, but luckily they will take the same baits you are already throwing for their cousins, the black drum. You can still throw artificials at them, but unless you are in clear water and know they’re there, your catches will be few and far between. A lot of the reds you catch will be oversized so be prepared to throw some back but also be prepared for an epic battle. You should use the same heavier rods you would use for black drum.

Whiting:

In my humble opinion, these are the king of the fish fry. They are small, averaging out at about a pound with the good ones reaching two. What they lack in size they make up for in fun, numbers and hunger. They will eat just about any natural bait you throw, and are usually close enough to shore that you won’t even have to get your feet wet.

If they are around they don’t usually keep you waiting long, and on a light rod the will put up a decent fight. I call them the king of the fish fry because there are no size or bag limits on them, so you can stock up on the tasty little guys. An added bonus is they also make great cut bait, even for catching more whiting. Just grab the smallest one and cut it up to turn one small fish into a few (hopefully) bigger ones.

whiting
Savannah Now

Gag grouper:

These can be found hanging out near rock jetties on the lower half of the Texas coast. They love natural bait, but will definitely take a swim bait or diving plug if the opportunity presents itself. Like all grouper they will stick close to cover and near the bottom, so you wont need a long distance cast. Although most of the gags you will find inshore are juvenile, they are still tough and you should use a sturdy rod to make sure you can get them out from cover.

Mangrove snapper:

These are another fish that can be found near the jetties, and are wanted just as much for their fight as their flesh. Recent warmer winters have let the fish spread from the lower parts of the coast to cover around two-thirds of the Texas coast. The most common method for catching is freelining live shrimp or fingerling mullet, but they will just as readily take jigs or swimbaits.

graysnapperMedium
Texas BBQ Forum

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When do you fish?

Short answer, often. To add to that, both rough and smooth water will yield fish. You just have to adjust your target depending on the conditions.

For rough water, the key is to use baits with a strong scent to make them easier to find and a big weight to keep it down. You might try using a surf weight  which has metal wires sticking out of it to help it anchor down to a sandy bottom. If you are in an area with a rocky bottom you should probably avoid these weights as they will get hung up easier. A rough day may keep the pompano away, but red and black drum love to feed in the turbid waters.

On a smooth day everything is in play. The thing to remember is, the clearer the water the better your chances for pompano or mangrove snapper. If you like using artificial lures, your best chances will be on a clear day.

I think the moral of this story is that no matter what time of year, there are fish to be caught, so why are you sitting at home when you could get out there and get some?

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How to Fish All Winter Long