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Cold Water Trout
by Robert Sloan

The Galveston Bay system is no slacker when it comes to producing winter time trout. And the best areas to find them are in West, Trinity and East bays. In fact these bays offer the best locations along the Texas Gulf Coast for access to quality wadefishing with or without the use of a boat.

From January through March the weather forecast will include everything from blue northers to bikini-like conditions. Speckled trout are players come what may, as are some fishermen. If you enjoy catching specks there is no time like now to go after them in the Galveston Bay complex.

Nice thing about fishing this time of year is that there aren't too many other anglers to compete with. The majority will opt for stable warm late spring and summer temperatures. That's too bad. Because the trout fishing you'll find on the flats and channels around Galveston are loaded with silver potential right now. You can not only catch numbers of trout right now, but also some wall-hangers.

Of course everybody likes to catch a career fish, and maybe it'll happen to you this spring. But in the meantime when most anglers talk heavy trout, what they're saying is that they are after specks in the four-pound-plus range. A speckled trout that weighs over an honest four pounds is a great catch. A bonafide 6-to 8-pounder is a trophy. Trout in the 9-plus range are career fish that come with bragging rights and command a wall spot.

There are a few great areas here that offer "speck"tacular potential when it comes to hooking into consistent heavy bodied trout.

Some of the best is on Galveston's East Bay. This is a premier trophy trout fishery. Some of the trout you'll hook into could be upwards of 8 pounds and better.

East Bay is classic lure fishing water. Most of the top wadefishing areas offer hard sand bottom making for comfortable walking.

Some of the best water you'll find at this time of year on East Bay will be the north shoreline. That's because prevailing winds this time of year will be northerly, and that means the north shoreline will be flat water. However, it's worth your time to consider fishing windward shorelines, because that's where baitfish will often pile up. And under those baitfish are likely to be some rather large trout.

Much of the time from January through March the north shoreline will be your best bet on this bay. If you look at a map of East Bay you'll see that there is no shortage of north shoreline. Where you want to concentrate is the area around the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the best water will be from Frozen Point and back toward Oyster Bayou that flows out of the refuge.

A whole lot of the water I just described forms one massive flat of 1 to 3 feet of water. It's great wadefishing. The way most anglers work this water is to anchor their boat and hop overboard. From there fishermen will split up and try to find fish. Right now you're not likely to locate a big concentration of heavy trout. They are kind of like loaners. However, where you catch one you are often likely to catch two.

So where do you stop the boat and fish? Well, that all depends on what the water looks like and whether or not you see many baitfish. Mullet are not going to be too thick right now. But where you see two or three jumping is a good indiction of fishy water.

Most of the time it boils down to fishing greenish looking water and hoping for the best.

I feel like the selection of lures is not as important as the retrieve at this time of year. What's important is to get a lure in front of a feeding trout's mouth. However, there are some old salts that firmly believe trophy trout, especially cold ones, don't feed more than once or twice a day. And, when they do feed they prefer a full meal deal. In other words, bigger is better for East Bay specks. The pros on this bay, like Jim West of Bolivar Guide Service will be chunking a lot of mullet-imitation plugs. The type that can be worked along the bottom very slowly, much like a sluggish mullet.

Some of the better lures are about 4 inches long and are floater/divers. This style of plug is very popular on the shallow flats. It's probably among the hottest big trout lures going. We can narrow the selection down to jointed floater/divers. These plugs function best when reeled very slowly. That's when they'll achieve maximum depth. Ideally, they should be bumping bottom.

"Top colors will be silver, bone, chartreuse and orange," says West. "Orange is a good cold water color for big trout. It's not so hot during summer months."

Plastic shrimptail jigs should never be overlooked no matter what time of year you are fishing. These lures represent a top food item for trout. Many fishermen prefer to cast the larger shrimptails towards the end of February and into March. You can find all sorts of shapes and sizes of tails at tackle stores. The thick bodied, long tails seem to be a good choice during March.

Another area of East Bay that can be good for heavy trout during March is what is known as Rollover Bay. This is the water located behind Rollover Pass and the Intracoastal Waterway. There is a channel leading from the pass to East Bay. On either side of the channel are flats that are accessible without a boat. You can park at the pass and begin wadefishing from there.

For guide service on Galveston's East Bay call Jimmy West at 409-684-7162.

Among the most accessible stretches of prime shorelines are Dollar Flats, Seabrook Flats and Sylvan Beach shoreline all located on the west shore of upper Galveston Bay. From the base of the Texas City Dike as you move northward up the shoreline you will find Dollar Flats, Seabrook Flats and Sylvan Beach in that order.

Dollar Flats is located at the immediate base of the Texas City Dike in the north corner. They extend well up the shoreline to Dollar Point. This is one big massive flat of 2 to 6 foot deep water over a hard sand bottom.

The Seabrook Flats are, guess what, directly in front of Seabrook, just up from the Kemah Flats that also provide good wade fishing. Both of these areas are right off the mouth of Clear Lake. They offer various inlets and put-in points that waders can pick from. It's easy wading on hard sand with no tricky drops. However, there are a few rocks to negotiate.

Sylvan Beach, just up the shoreline from Seabrook offers shoreline wading in and around old boat dock and pier pilings. This is a hard sand bottom providing safe wading.

On the various bays mentioned, you could write volumes of books on how, when and where to fish them. They are all notorious for producing some of the best trout and reds from along the upper Gulf Coast. But to put it in a nut shell when fishing them you'll do best by locating green water that has at least some mullet milling about.

Leeward shorelines on high tides will provide best fishing. One of the key points in locating productive areas on the Galveston Bay system is to purchase a good map detailing the four bays and locate some areas that have been out of the wind for a day or two. Believe it or not this is exactly how many of the guides locate fish year-round on these bays.

Among the best known winter fishing holes is off of West Bay. It is called Offatts Bayou and is known to produce decent catches of trout and reds just before and after severe cold fronts. In years past the fishing here has been unpredictable, but is worth a try at times. At the far end of West Bay is Mud Island and San Luis Pass. This is a very good winter fishing area because it offers semi-protected water in a northwest wind. The many guts in this area are where you are likely to find fish.

When fishing the Galveston Bay system you'll do best by locating the water you plan to fish, then trailering your boat as close to that area as possible. Reason for this is wind. These bays are wide open and get rough in a hurry.

Trinity Bay is among the best known big trout fishing areas along the Texas Gulf Coast. It is at its best from now through late spring. The North Flats and Fisher Shoals on the upper northwest area of Trinity Bay will provide notable winter fishing. On the southeast shoreline you'll want to fish the South and North Ridge flats. These flats cover miles of water. But, again, search out green water and visible baitfish for fast results.

Regardless of where you may be fishing along the Texas Gulf Coast during the colder winter months the key to catching more trout and reds consistently is to scout for baitfish and green water. After that it's a matter of using some of the lures suggested. Just remember that working the baits slowly will usually draw better results.