By: Eric Fey
The winter months of January and February are two of my least favorite months to fish. The wind is always howling and the water level is so low that most of my summer honey holes are inaccessible. The mornings are cold and the fish are lethargic. The launches are packed with duck hunters and boats taking advantage of stacked trout. But through all of these challenges, I will experience growth as an angler every time I float out into the marsh. Every adventure presents an opportunity to learn about how the marsh changes with water level extremes and heavy winds. Opportunities that allow you to learn about how the fish change, or rather, how their patterns change. Being able to adapt and mold your game plan to fit the changing environment will mean the difference between slime on the deck and an empty chest.
Here are two inevitable facts about fishing in the winter time: 1) The wind will be strong and the water low. Strong winds and low water often means muddy water and low visibility. 2) Big fish come out to play. Most of what I write about is personal experience and my own observations. This is no different. So far January and February of 2016 have been challenging months to fish. January started out really hot with Minimalist Challenge in Leeville and 1200lbs of fish weighed. Afterwards I refocused back on Delacroix. Plenty of reports were coming in from boaters about loads and loads of trout. While I wouldn’t mind catching a few specks, reds are always my primary target. I made two trips down to Delacroix and both were almost identical. I peddled an average of 12 miles to find clean water and never could. Now I am not a numbers guy. I would rather sight cast a few good reds than blindly catch two limits of 18”ers. The hunt is the best part and the take is even better. So I would still consider those two trips successful purely on the fact that I was able to land a few impressive fish. But those few catches were not where the learning took place. The low water, although dirty, gave me an incredible opportunity.
On those days the water was over a foot lower than I am used to fishing. Using my 12’ Yak Attack Park n Pole that I got from The Backpacker, I was able to pole the extremely shallow flats and make invaluable notes. I was able to see structure and channeling. I was able to find new flats that had just enough grass to hold bait which will in turn attract reds. I was able to force myself to scout rather than blindly cast around for fish because I knew the conditions were not ideal. It is extremely important to take the time to scout to find new hunting grounds and the low, dirty water days are perfect for it. And even though the bulk of what I accomplished was my scouting, I was still able to land a few quality fish.
This past weekend I went back to Leeville with a couple new buddies from the forum. When we stepped out of the truck the wind almost knocked me off balance. It was for sure the windiest day that I had fished in awhile. We had a plan, a good one as it would turn out. The plan was to take the guys to a flat that I had fished for Minimalist Challenge. Given the direction of the wind I knew the flat would likely be protected. I estimated the water to be a little lower than MC so the flat would have still had plenty enough to sight fish around. As long as the wind hadn’t beaten it up, the water would be clean. Given that the temperature was in the low 50s and the water temps in the mid 50’s, we knew the sun would need to come up and warm the flats before the fish became active. We worked our way to the area that we planned to fish and fought the wind the entire way. It was brutal to say the least. We fished around on the way there without a single bite. We reached the flat a bit before noon and only saw one redfish for the first hour. But the water was clear and this is what we expected! The sun got high in the sky and I could feel my self beginning to get warmer in my hoodie so I knew the water was feeling the same way. Not long after noon I spotted a red slamming some bait fish up against the grass on the edge of the flat. I slowly peddled over and stood up. I saw him sliding off of the bank back down into a deeper underwater channel. I threw my Spartacus Vortex Shad about ten feet past him and time the retrieve to be about a foot ahead of him once they met. As soon as I could tell it was in his view, I let the lure sink straight down to the bottom. Before it could hit the mud the fish inhaled it and turned right towards the kayak. I quickly picked up the excess line, buried the hook, and muscled him into the net.
After the first couple of fish, the reds started pouring onto the flat. Groups of 2, 3, 4, and even 5 were seen cruising along together. Many of the reds appeared to be over the slot limit. We chased them around while frequently changing color patterns trying to figure out what they wanted to eat. As it turns out all of my fish came on the same Spartacus color. Even though the water was clean and the sun was up, the reds seemed to prefer the darker pattern. All in all I would consider the day to be extremely successful given the conditions. In fact, it was one of my more successful days of this winter. Rest assured that I will be visiting that flat again. Tight lines!
The following video is a compilation of a few of my better reds from January and February of this year. ENJOY and come see us at the Backpacker!!! There is no better time to get into kayak fishing than RIGHT NOW!