Fishermen – Trout Fishing May Benefit From Freeze
I know, I know. It seems rather odd that Trout fishing may be the benefit from this freeze. January saw the worst freeze in perhaps a century. Lots of snook died. It’s all been rather dreary and the winter continues. But there is some good news out there. With the freeze came a purging of algae and old dead grass from the flats. The cold cleared up the water as it always does when such frigid weather and overcast days prevent algal growth.
There was a lot of loss to mangrove trees. Many of these valuable marine building blocks saw freeze damage that destroyed the leaves, and fallen mangrove leaves make up the first link in the marine food chain.
They grow bacteria (organisms also inhibited by the cold) which in turn is fed upon by microscopic plankton that provides food for juvenile baitfish. The denuding of mangroves also means a curtailment in structure for mature gamefish to hide amongst.
Blue crabs migrated upriver to escape the chill. Stone crabs hunkered down in muddy burrows on the grass flats. Meanwhile, many species of marine grass, notably turtle grass (Thalassia species), do not grow in the winter; particularly not during frigid ones.
This all sounds like gloom and doom but it does have a silver lining. Migratory whitebait could be found between the bouts of cold weather. But this bait source moved offshore or migrated south when the majority of the cold occurred. That’s one less food source for the estuary.
There are still tube and blood worms that stayed safe and warm beneath the mud of the grass flats. Snapping shrimp took refuge under old logs or man made structure like tires or concrete blocks. Barnacles, clams, oysters and mussels endured as did the small oyster crabs that live inside such shellfish.
Shrimp buried in the sand, the way they always have. They sustained the cold weather. Meanwhile, despite all the snook kills reported there was virtually no mortality among spotted sea trout.
These popular gamefish range much further north and can withstand temperatures that snook can not. They continue to flourish, particularly after a harvest closure in November and December. They might as well have also been off the catch list in January due to the chilly weather. Few anglers ventured onto the water last month.
That means great trout fishing could be the panacea that winter weary anglers need when the weather begins to warm.There are still plenty of trout out there and they have precious few places left to hide; a paucity of foods to eat. That amounts to some really great trout fishing when the weather does let up.
Crevalle jacks, snook, pompano and even trash species like snake, or lizardfish, died during the freeze and that means few gamefish left to compete with trout for the meager food supplies left this winter. Baits will be easier for trout to see with the clear water and the lack of grass. Meanwhile, the grocery list remains below par. That should equate to hungry trout when the days warm enough to perk up appetites. Trout become targeted on non-migratory food sources in the winter anyway. Hence, it won’t be unnatural for them to eat a lure that resembles a marine worm, shrimp or small crab.
Best baits will be a live shrimp fished below a popping cork or free-lined. With the lack of grass you may not need that cork but trout will still be found around structure. It may not be lush turtle grass beds but look for shell bars or hard bottoms where turtle grass doesn’t grow anyway. If you fish this kind of structure, in shallow water, that cork might come in handy to keep the shrimp off the bottom and away from the trash fish that did survive the freeze.
Live shrimp will probably outshine lures until the water really warms up. Best rig to use is a 2/0 long-shanked hook. This is important because the long hook shank makes unhooking trout easier and results in more successful releases. The best leader for trout is a 15-20-pound test piece of fluorocarbon about 18 inches long. You might find the fish to be leader shy in the clear water and need to scale down accordingly. Unless there is a lot of tide a weight shouldn’t be needed. If you have to add one make it a small quarter-ounce rubber core sinker or split shot. You probably won’t need that except when fishing near the passes.
If you insist on using lures than the watchword is slow down. Winter lures simply can’t be fished too slowly. Jerkbaits, jigs and the smaller DOA lures all work well when fished very slowly. Next to a live shrimp these will be the baits of choice.
All indications point to spectacular late winter trout fishing. Now if only the weatherman will cooperate and provide a few days of sunny skies and seventy-degree temperatures. When that’s the case forget all about the freeze. It’s in the past now and there is good fishing yet to come.
So what do you think? What are you catching now? Let us know.
By Guest Writer: GB Knowles