Staying ahead of cold fronts will keep you on top of the action
December can be really cold, or it can be pretty mild. Most of the time, it affords a blend of both. If there’s one thing anglers can count on, it’s that there will be changing temperatures and varying wind directions depending on how frequently cold fronts pass across the upper Texas coast.
With that being said, excellent angling opportunities are plentiful during the final month of the year. Those willing to put a little thought into their game plan will enjoy rod-bending action all the way through the last few days of 2020.
It’s no secret that cold fronts bring strong northerly winds. These frigid gusts tend to trash the southern parts of our bays as they turn waters upside down. That means during the days after the passing of a cold front, anglers should look for fishable waters in the upper parts of bay systems and in areas protected from north winds.
North winds also tend to push water out of estuaries, creating extreme low tides. Often, these low-water situations occur immediately after a strong front passes through, and gradually subside as winds begin to turn back around to the southeast, which allows the water to return.
Anglers can use the tidal effect produced by fronts to their advantage. Fish will tend to stack in deep holes and channels adjacent to shallow flats as tides fall out. Bayous leading to and from the marsh, creeks and rivers all are great options during these times.
Baitfish and gamefish will return to shallower flats and marshes as southerly breezes push water back into bays several days after a frontal system has passed. When this happens, anglers can expect to find fish moving back toward the shallows to feed. Aggressive action will abound.
Another wintertime variable that needs to be considered is barometric pressure. Barometric pressure usually drops as a front approaches and bottoms out right as the weather system passes. Then, it gradually increases and stays high for a couple of days after the front is gone.
Anglers can catch fish during both high and low pressure situations; however, species will behave much differently depending on where the mercury resides. High pressure scenarios typically coincide with blue skies, sunny days and decreasing or calm winds. They can provide quite pleasant conditions to spend on the water, but they don’t always produce the most aggressive behavior from speckled trout, redfish and flounder. High pressure tends to make the fish a little more sluggish and finicky. In my opinion, speckled trout are probably the hardest to catch of the three species during high pressure conditions.
When high pressure prevails, anglers will be more productive using subtle lure presentations worked near the bottom and around structures. The fish aren’t as likely to be roaming or on the prowl during these conditions, so it’s more important to spoon feed them, if you will.
Soft plastics with a fluid action and slow-sinking twitch baits usually do the trick. Sometimes, a strike on these types of lures during high-pressure situations might feel like just a slight tap. I’ve caught some monster trout that felt like nothing more than a mosquito bite when they hit my bait. Don’t let this fool you. If you feel anything out of the ordinary while retrieving the lure, go ahead and set the hook.
When the pressure is low or falling, it’s a whole different ball game. There’s usually an intense feed associated with falling pressure and most of the time it occurs just a few hours before a front hits and up until the time it passes through. Fast-moving presentations that cover a lot of ground will work well during low-pressure or decreasing pressure scenarios.
I like to chunk topwater baits when the pressure is low. Some of the best surface action takes place under low-pressure conditions, and the ferocious strikes that surface walking plugs produce are incredible. When topwaters won’t work, I’ll throw a suspending twitch bait, but work it swiftly like a topwater. Soft plastics rigged on a light jig head are a great option as well.
Timing is everything during this time of the year. Those able to hit the water at the drop of hat can enjoy world-class moments during the small windows in which the fish are willing to eat nearly anything thrown in their direction.
The fact is, though, most of us just can’t go fishing any time the stars align. That makes it especially important to take note of the conditions when an opportunity to hit the water occurs, and plan accordingly. There’s an abundance of upper coast fortunes to be found for those willing to play the fronts. Stay safe and go catch ’em.