February is a great time to study the waters and fishing grounds
February is a month that upper coast anglers can approach in one of two ways: They can either wait to hit the water when the stars align and hope everything falls into place to produce a feeding frenzy, or they can take the hand they’re dealt and make the most of every opportunity and situation. In my opinion, the latter is the best strategy.
The shortest month of the year can produce a roller coaster of conditions and scenarios. Mother Nature might rear her head and show her ugly side, resulting in wet, nasty and frigid weather. On the other hand, the second month can present mild temperatures that give us an early taste of spring. Without a doubt, this yo-yo type pattern can make consistently staying on the fish an arduous task.
For those who can hit the water at the drop of a hat, some of the best action of the year for trophy speckled trout awaits them during February. But the conditions that cause these giants to feed don’t always coincide with anglers’ busy schedules. Despite this fact, one thing we can all make an effort to do over the next 28 days is perfect our craft. Gaining knowledge and creating on-the-water game plans now will increase the odds of future success.
It’s hard to make it through this month without enduring at least a couple of late season cold fronts. These strong weather systems bring gusty, northerly winds that blow water out of our bays, producing some of the lowest tides of the year. This gives anglers the opportunity to learn more about what lies beneath the surface in the areas they target.
Hitting the water a day or two after an intense front can provide invaluable information about a specific stretch of water. It might not result in an immediate memorable catch, but the long-term results will be exponentially more beneficial.
In shallow regions, shell reefs, mudflats and bars will become exposed, revealing where uncharted fish-attracting structures are located. These same areas will be covered with water later in the spring and summer when tides are higher and can be revisited to successfully bend some rods.
The extremely low tides that follow the passage of a cold front also can help anglers pinpoint sites of navigational hazards. Obstructions that might usually be just below the surface are visible and their locations should be noted.
This also is an excellent time to check out several boat ramp options. Certain launch sites become inaccessible to larger bay boats during periods of low tides, while others contain underwater obstructions that can damage the bottom of a hull or the lower unit of an outboard. Simply driving around and observing the state of a variety of boat ramps when tides are low is time well spent when conditions are tough for catching fish.
Wind is another variable that should be on every angler’s radar during this time of year. Some of the windiest conditions will occur over the next several weeks and months and knowing how to handle these breezes is essential for staying safe and hooked up.
Now is the time for anglers to become very familiar with the lay of the land surrounding their fishing grounds. Knowing where protected waters are in association with specific wind directions is key. Having planned navigational routes that fall within a vessel’s safe operating limitations also is vital.
Studying navigational charts and satellite images is a great way for anglers to acquire this knowledge. Paying attention to as many variables as possible when on the water is a good practice, too.
One of the best strategies for catching fish right now is simply to target whatever species is willing to bite. Live shrimp and freshly peeled, dead shrimp will produce strikes from sheepshead, black drum, sand trout and redfish around the jetties, pier pilings, shell reefs, areas with riprap and other deep holes and channels.
The best speckled trout action will occur during the major and minor feed times as indicated on solunar tables and charts. I often use the solunar tables found at tides4fishing.com to plan when I will focus my efforts on pursuing specks.
Whether it’s for the immediate future or several weeks down the road, there are plenty of positive actions that anglers can take to increase their success. Make the best of February and take advantage of all the opportunities. Because planning to catch more fish just makes sense.