Its winter. Hunting season is winding down, the holidays are over and it’s a long time until spring. It can be a frustrating time for surf fishermen. The call of the beach is strong, and besides, cabin fever can set in if you don’t get outside and unwind from the stresses of life.
Wintertime can be tough for saltwater surf fishing. Typically, cold weather and winter storms make for rough water, little to no feeding activity and just generally tough fishing conditions. Having the good fortune to live in south Texas, the winters here are much more mild allowing some fair weather windows that can be great fishing, even in the dead of winter.
Watching for Weather Windows
There are so many weather tools available to the fisherman today. Long range forecasts that can give you a heads up when a “weather window” of nice calm winds and warming temperatures will allow for a winter time beach fishing trip. Sites like “marineweather.net“, “weatherunderground.com“, “accuweather.com“, and “weather.com” will all give you weather forecasts that can help in trip planning.
Sites like “surf-forecast.com“, “swellinfo.com“, and “surfline.com” will give you an idea of wave heights, water temperature and condition as well as tide information. You can go to sites such as “saltwater-recon.com“, and view live video of current surf conditions. These are all great tools that didn’t exist too many years ago. Now if you get caught on the beach by a blue norther or winter storm with tides to the dunes, it’s on you. 😉
Gearing Up for Winter Fishing
Winter surf fishing gear is much the same as any other time of year, except for you’ll need more clothes, a jacket, and maybe a good pair of waders. Of course, in the deep south, you can still catch some days when shorts and t-shirts will still work.
You’ll still need the sun screen for the exposed skin, even in the winter. Rods, reels and baits will depend on what species are present. The long rods and heavy reels for bottom fishing with live and cut baits. Medium heavy spinning or bait casting rigs for chunking artificials when conditions allow. Some 6/0 circle hooks, double drop leaders, and surf/spider weights should take care of the Redfish, Black Drum, and Sharks. Smaller 2/0 circles rigged with fishbites or dead shrimp will be the ticket for Whiting and Pompano.
Live bait is harder to come by in the winter months so you will be looking at cut baits or synthetic baits like “fishbites“. If the fish are there, and if they’re hungry, these will work just fine. A selection of soft plastic mullet or shrimp imitations as well as the old stand by, gold or silver spoons will cover most plugging needs. You might throw in a couple of top waters just because nothing compares to a 20 plus pound jack Crevale blowing up on your top water.
Texas Winter Surf Fishing – What can you catch?
In our area of deep south Texas, winter surf fishing will focus primarily on Redfish and Pompano. There will be black drum, whiting, blue fish, the occasional shark, and the ever present hard head catfish. Part of the allure of fishing the surf, is the anticipation of not knowing what might grab your bait and make a run for the open ocean.
If the weather window lasts for a few days in a row and the tides push clear green water to the beach with warming sunny days, we can see schools of Jack Crevale or Bonita. There is always a chance at some solid speckled trout as well when the surf allows for plugging.
Bottom fishing with cut mullet or whiting will catch the Reds and Sharks. Dead shrimp and or fishbites will catch the Pompano and Whiting. Of course, everything eats shrimp so don’t be surprised when you snag a bull Red or Black Drum. Just grin and hang on. 😉
When it’s Right, The Bite is On!
Recently, January 4th, 2020 to be exact, we had one of those winter time “weather windows”. The winds were forecast to be light and the surf calm with temperatures climbing into the mid 70’s during the afternoons. When it’s right, you go. No time for excuses, gear up and hit the sand.
So a couple of buddies and I loaded up the 4 X 4’s and headed down Padre Island National Seashore just south of Corpus Christi Texas for the weekend. The weatherman got it mostly right for once, and we had calms seas with clear green water to the beach.
It didn’t take long, at our second stop along the beach we set up on a point where the first gut pinched off and the water sucked out into the second gut. We found the Pompano hungry and added a few to the box before the Redfish began to pick up our cut baits and run.
It was a good time and a great trip. Boxed some good eating fish and released the rest to fight another day. Managed a couple of small sharks, plenty of whiting, a small blue fish and, of course, a few hard head catfish. The cool nights made for good campfire weather and comfortable sleeping in the trusty tent cots.
Winter fishing Padre Island National Seashore (PINS)
Fishing Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) is an adventure anytime of the year, but the winter can be a special time on the beach. Typically, you won’t have near the crowds which can be good or bad. If you have mechanical or medical issues, there won’t be many passers-by to seek help from in the winter. You won’t have near the competition for the best fishing spots either, so it’s a good trade off.
PINS is 60 miles of barrier island, most of which is four wheel drive only, there are no camping facilities down the beach. You will be “roughing it” Just be prepared, remember to be safe. There is no cell service on the island so you won’t be able to call for help and it’s a long walk back.
Make sure to check the weather and tide forecasts before you head down island. Wintertime tides with a strong northeast wind will push the water all the way to the dunes and you might be spending an extra night on the beach waiting for the next low tide. Saltwater is rough on vehicles and equipment. Unless it’s an emergency, I would avoid driving in the water. Wait for low tide, or better yet plan your trip so you’ll only be driving during the low tide.
Where ever and when ever you go, please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. Pick up your trash, and while your at it, pick up some of the trash left behind by those less courteous than yourself. IF you happen to be in the Corpus Christi Texas area the weekend of February 29th 2020, come out to PINS and volunteer to help with the “25th annual Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Clean-up“.