It’s officially wintertime. Hunting season is winding down. Football season is finishing up and the weather is unpredictable at best. If you’re an outdoorsman like me, this is probably your least favorite time of year. Hunting season is over and, more often than not, the weather makes fishing tough to impossible.
If you live along the Gulf Coast, or much of the coastal regions of the southeastern US, you can still get out and do some surf fishing. Fortunately for me, I live in south Texas and have easy access to the Padre Island National seashore (PINS). When the weather is right, the surf fishing can be a great way to beat the wintertime cabin fever blues.
We were fortunate enough to catch one of these weather windows recently, and put together a quick trip down PINS south of Corpus Christi Texas. The weather and water conditions were ideal for a surf fishing trip, and the fish were there and they were hungry.
Watch the Weather
Winter weather in Texas can vary from sunny and 80 degrees to gale force winds and 30 degrees, all with in 24 hours in some cases. When surf fishing weather swings like this can dramatically affect not only your fishing, but your safety as well. A sudden change in wind velocity and or direction, can push water to the dunes and strand you and your vehicle and gear.
Cold water and rough seas can make for tough fishing conditions. In this day and age with all the free weather apps available, you can avoid most of the unfriendly weather. Sites like weather.com, wunderground.com and accuweather.com can give you forecasts and current weather conditions.
For Beach surf conditions, sites such as surf-forecast.com, surfline.com and swellinfo.com are good sources for the latest wind, wave and tide conditions along the beach front. This time of year, you have to go when the conditions are right. They won’t always line up with when you would like to go however 😉
My home waters along the south Texas gulf coast, we normally get great conditions the second or third day after the passage of a cold front. The winds and seas calm and the sun warms the waters ( and the fishermen) and the fish become more cooperative. Keep an eye on the forecast weather and surf conditions, and when its right, GO!
What’s Lurking in the Wintertime Texas Surf?
Winter surf fishing in Texas means redfish (red drum) and big ones. Mostly oversized spawners that are not great on the table, but a blast on the end of your line. Depending on water temps, various other species will be present as well. The Florida Pompano shows up on clear water days and is a great eating fish. Gulf whiting are available year round and sharks of various species can show themselves.
Black drum will cruise the guts along the beach front and will take a variety of baits. Of course, the ever present “hardhead” catfish will be around. There can be speckled trout in the surf in the winter and they tend to run larger than in the summer months. The beauty of surf fishing, is you never know what might pull on your line.
Where are the Best Areas to Fish the Surf?
When surf fishing, remember its very similar to any other type of fishing. It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing a farm pond or along the beach front fish will relate to bait and structure. Bait in the surf can range from mullet and menhaden to crabs, shrimp and coquina clams.
The clams you can often find washing out and then reburying themselves right along the waters edge. Bait fish such as mullet and menhaden are more scarce in the winter but you can look for them jumping or swimming in the waves. If you find diving pelicans and or seagulls, there will be bait present, and if bait is there, so will the predators.
Structure along the beach front will primarily be guts and sandbars. The guts will be the deeper channels running parallel to the beach and the sand bars are the shallower areas in between guts with the waves breaking on them. There are occasional wrecks, buoys, trees etc that wash in and provide additional structure. In some coastal areas you may have rocks in the surf that will provide fishable structure.
Fish will travel the deeper water of the guts looking for a meal. Areas where the guts narrows or becomes blocked off by a point or sandbar, become good ambush points for predators to trap the bait. Also, washouts or suck outs in the sandbars between guts pull bait out and over the bar into deeper water beyond and fish will stack up waiting for an easy meal to get pushed out by the current.
Blocked guts and suck outs are good places to set up and fish. If you find one with bait activity, you are likely in for some great action. Deeper guts in close to shore, particularly at high tide are also good spot to try. If you find coquina clams along the shore, pompano could be in the area. When surf fishing, you can drive or walk the beach looking for these signs for places to try your luck.
Gear and Tactics for Wintertime Surf Fishing
Wintertime surf fishing gear is not much different from summer, except you need to prepare for cooler weather and cooler water temperatures. This mean a good pair of waders and a good waterproof jacket. If you are unfamiliar with the beach you are fishing, a good PFD (life jacket) would be a good addition as well. When surf fishing, waves can come along and wash you off your feet, and rip currents can drag you out to see, so a life jacket is always a good idea.
Long 9 – 15 ft casting or spinning rod and reel combos with strong 5/0 – 7/0 circle hooks and surf (spider) weights will do the job for redfish and black drum. Cut mullet, menhaden, half a blue crab, or of course, shrimp will all do for bait. For whiting and pompano you can go lighter on the gear and much smaller with the hooks. Shrimp and fishbites will be you best bet for these fish.
If you like throwing artificials, the old standard gold or silver spoon is hard to beat as well as any number of soft plastic baits. When the surf is calm to flat, you can have a great time with slow walking a top water bait. You can expect to catch redfish, bluefish, and speckled trout this time of year surf fishing with artificials.
Always check with the local bait shops and internet message boards to get the latest information on baits and what’s biting. That’s there business and they will be glad to help.
Don’t just dream about it – get ya some!
It’s a great time of year when the weather window allows. If you get a couple of days with light winds and calm surf, grab your gear and head to the beach for some wintertime surf fishing. It beats sitting at home dreaming about fishing. Besides, you might just catch some fish. At the very least you’ll get some fresh air and sunshine. A good day at the beach is better than 30 in town.
And, as always, be safe and enjoy the journey. Please try to leave the beach cleaner than you found it. Good luck and good fishing. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7 or Twitter: @AnglerBeach