Having just finished a seminar at the Houston Boat Show Thursday night, I found myself visiting with a handful of fishermen that stuck around with a few more questions. The focus of my talk had been centered on a number of things that have worked for me when targeting trophy trout in the winter.

While “big trout” is a relative term, most folks are in pursuit of a speck that eclipses the seven- pound mark on Sabine Lake. In most years, we catch a few trout even heavier across the winter months, but that is still a very good fish.

It is a rarity to catch numbers of fish during the coldest months of the year, so die-hard trout fishermen justify their increasingly expensive recreational outlet by targeting that trout of a lifetime.

Like it or not, there is an additional cost incurred in order to pursue that coveted fish.
While you can just grab a few bottles of water, throw on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and hit the water most of the year, you now have to invest in cold weather gear, waders, a wading jacket, and a select group of lures that you seldom use any other time of the year. Not only are you in pursuit of fewer fish, but more costly fish as well!

The last gentleman I talked with after the show, posed a question that I was pleased that he waited to ask. His question was, “What if my wife and I just want to go fishing and could care less about big trout…do we still have a chance to catch anything in the winter?”

My answer was a resounding, “yes.” I enjoy switching gears for a couple of months and chasing big fish simply because it is a diversion from the norm. I like to catch big trout as much as anyone I fish with throughout the year, but the allure of fishing is still the bite and the more that happens each outing the better!

For all the folks that still enjoy eating fresh fish in January and February or simply want to get out and practice catch and release, a plunging thermometer does not doom you. You still have to bundle up and change your tactics somewhat, but there are plenty of fish to be caught right here in the river and local bayous.

There are two factors to consider that will put the odds in your favor this time of the year. The first is to start your trip a little later in the morning and fish the warmest hours of the day. The second is to try to fish an incoming tide if possible. Any tide change is better than none at all, but an incoming is far more productive when it is cold.

Depending on salinity levels this time of the year, speckled trout are probably not going to be that prevalent in the river or bayous. They are there, but they are usually suspended in deeper water and do not feed on a very frequent basis.

Fortunately, a number of other species do hang around, feed every chance they get, and are very good to eat. Redfish, stripers, flounder, catfish, and drum can be caught in these waters year round. On most days, while live bait will out produce artificial lures, it can be very difficult to find. The solution to that minor problem is usually frozen shrimp.

Any of the new scented soft plastic type tails are very effective as well. Blurp, Fish Bites, DOA shrimp, and Gulp all work very well on a variety of fish, but I have not personally seen anything that works better than Gulp. It is, however, expensive, dries out very quickly, and fish with teeth will tear it up pretty quickly, but it is the real deal!
Any questions I had in regards to the effectiveness of Gulp were answered last August during the Oberto’s Redfish Cup. I was shocked at the number of tournament anglers that hung their hopes on a Gulp shrimp fished on a two-foot leader under a popping cork.

When I am not targeting magnum trout with customers, I downsize my soft plastics and concentrate on any kind of structure that creates a break in the current. We have added swim baits like the Crème Spoiler Shad to the arsenal, but for the most part we are still fishing shorter plastics like the Assassin Sea Shad or smaller curl tail grubs on a 1/8th ounce jig head.

Applying any of the spray-on scents like Bang or Smelly Jelly also help the cause. If the scent does nothing else, it usually gives you a split second longer to detect the bite, as the fish do not turn loose as quickly. I think that most any flavor will work at one time or another, but I am partial to garlic.

Last, but certainly not least, slow your pace even more when fishing colder water. The fish are not nearly as aggressive in colder water, but they still have to feed. The longer you keep the lure in front of their face, the better your chances of catching that fish. If the potential meal is not worth the energy expended to chase it down, they will watch it swim away.

The real bonus in fishing this time of the year is that most of the fish that we mentioned school very tightly when the water temperature dips below the sixty- degree mark. That means that when you catch that first fish there are usually more nearby.
In addition, if that illusive “big trout” should happen to come your way, she didn’t cost you any extra money!