It was one of the shortest fishing trips I have ever been on, but I wasn’t complaining about the early quit. After maybe twenty minutes of squinting against the cold rain and missing a single decent trout that inhaled an unattended Maniac Mullet, Ryland Joyce cranked up the big engine and we headed back north up Cow Bayou.

“You have on the thicker Toad Skinz, but these are the original skinny Frogg Toggs I’ve got on and I am too cold to enjoy any more of this,” he pointed out while shielding his eyes with a water soaked glove.“I am going to buy you a shrimp Po Boy on a jalapeno bun at Peggy’s on the Bayou for your trouble and you can show me this technique on a drier day.”

We never should have launched his new rig in the first place. The wind that was supposed to get here a day earlier was howling at daylight, but the weatherman said it would quit by mid-morning. I reminded him that was the same guy that said it was going to be here a day earlier, but we launched just the same.

We might squeeze a couple of more easy trips out of the gulls, but the latest north wind and temperature drop pretty much changed the game. The boat trailers you see at area launches over the next two or three months will belong to fishermen that are really mad at the fish. This is not the time of year when “I just enjoy getting out on the water” is a valid reason for even hooking up the boat.

In all honesty, I fish far more days in the winter than I would if I weren’t getting paid and more often than not, I still try to talk clients out of bucking the elements for a swing or two at a trophy trout. Ironically enough, most of the folks that will not take no for an answer are not better conditioned younger men, but middle age guys that claim to enjoy sloshing around in forty-eight degree water for a handful of strikes.

It was only this past year that I finally accepted the fact that the cold miserable fishless days of winter far outnumber those of even modest success. I always knew that, but I must have been tougher and I truly believed that I was going to catch that coveted trout every time I launched the boat.

In spite of the degree of difficulty my records reflect, I already have 10 or 12 days booked for January and as a rule, anyone that books that far in advance for that time of the year is weatherproof. Today’s cold weather fishing gear is surprisingly warm and dry, but icy cold fingers and soggy mud bottoms still take their toll after several hours of standing in waist deep water.

For years the wind rather than the cold was the ultimate determining factor, but that was prior to discovering that at least a few of those big trout hid out in the deeper waters of the river and ICW and I initially started “scratching the wall” as a Plan B. On even the windiest of days you can vertically fish the semi-protected water and still have a legitimate shot at a bragging size fish.

It is a boring technique, but a big trout is a big trout and it is not unusual to find more than one sharing the same small piece of structure. The key is to keep your nose in your depth finder and locate suspended schools of baitfish holding along the 12 to 18 foot breaks. Once you find them, lower a lure over the side and hope that some of that clutter on the screen is actually a fish.

I rely on a Corky Devil or Maniac Mullet most of the time, but I have caught them on a half ounce jigging spoon and five inch tails like the DieDapper, TTF Trout Killer and Split Tail Mullet as well. While I prefer to vertical fish, which I call “scratching the wall” because I try to keep my lure in contact with the break, I have also found these fish by simply strolling on the troll motor just like we do for crappie on the lakes.

I feel certain that I will still burn lots of daylight wading the shallow flats over the next few months, but Talon and Power Pole anchoring systems now enable us to spend more quality time fishing out of the boat than ever before. The ability to anchor instantly and quietly affords you the opportunity to make multiple casts to a piece of structure or group of fish without scaring them or blowing over them.

Like it or not…winter fishing is here and simply catching numbers does not merit the associated discomfort. Both of the approaches we have discussed are most effective when your nose is running and you can’t feel your fingers, but they will also improve your odds of at least getting your lure in front of the trout that enticed you to abandon more comfortable digs. Should you discover that you are not that mad at the fish, Peggy’s is a warmer alternative and the Po Boys are hard to beat!