A pre-frontal scenario so common for this time of the year along our Texas coast: Fishing has been sensational for the past several days, and you could not have asked for better water conditions and tides. But, you awake the next morning to what seems to you as a whole other world. Before getting out of bed you hear a harsh wind pulsating against the side of the house and hear it inflicting repeated blows upon the palm trees out in the yard. You think silently to yourself, "Maybe I'm not awake. It may be that I am still sleeping and that this is all just a really bad dream." You hoist yourself out of your bed and make your way over to the nearest window in an effort to either verify or disqualify your initial beliefs. Except for the velocity of the wind, you can't make out the true outdoor conditions by solely looking out of the fogged-up window, so you head on out to the deck through the back door. As you step out onto the deck you're instantly met with a spine-chilling air temperature. You look out over the bay in the pre-dawn light only to discover that the ideal tide of just yesterday has now dropped overnight by more than one foot as a direct result of the wind pumping hard out of the north, and that the water is now similar in color to that of your morning cup of coffee when cream is added to it. That which was previously perfect and beautiful fishing conditions has suddenly turned out to be your worst dream imaginable. In dismay, you pinch yourself to make certain you are, in fact, not still asleep. Yep, you're awake! Well, what to do now?
As I sit down to write this edition of Guides Lines, there currently are four low pressure weather systems stacked-up off the Pacific Northwest coast readying themselves to pump down much cooler temperatures upon us, with air temperatures in our area forecasted to be in the upper thirties to lower forties within the next ten days. In preparation for the arrival of these cooler weather patterns, I'd like to spend some time discussing with you the strategies I normally prefer to utilize in the face of their approach. Now, I know a lot of you have heard folks speak often of a highly anticipated trout feeding frenzy before and during stronger cold fronts, but very few people speak much about the revered post-frontal trout bite. While it is true that I have, at times, encountered and witnessed some spectacular catches just ahead of and during strengthening fronts, it has generally become an effective practice of mine to wait to fish on the backside of these stronger frontal passages. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. First, fishing just ahead of most of these stronger fronts normally means facing stiff southerly winds which often carry with them what can become some very unpredictable wind gusts, even along some of your otherwise protected shorelines. Secondly, and a no-brainer to even the most novice of Texas coastal anglers, is the severe weather conditions one often has to put up with when fishing in the midst of one of these passages. Lastly, and aside from the standard discomfort of what can many times be some very downright fowl weather, there is also an aspect of safety that must be taken into consideration when attempting to chase trout while a frontal passage makes its way across an open bay system - although not highly publicized, many a human life and boat have been lost on area bays when caught in the onslaught of frontal passages or while attempting to run an open bay during a strong front...simply put, it can be unsafe.
I personally prefer fishing the second and third days following a frontal passage, with the third day being my absolute favorite. This waiting period allows frontal winds to subside substantially and most often gives the skies ample clearing time from their previous frontal overcast conditions. Where do I start my search for the post-frontal trout bite? Well, in that the barometric pressure and water temperature undergo the changes that they do during these periods, the trout are in search for areas offering cover from the weather and protection from danger, so I like to locate leeward shorelines holding deep green water. Locating natural fish passes between open-bay reefs and islands are both good choices, but I have also managed some truly fine trout out of back lake area cuts and passes that possess a water depth of five to seven feet. These areas tend to hold marvelous water conditions after the passing of a front, and the make up of the bay floor at these points are, for the most part, mud and silt which is another prime objective of the fish during periods of cooler weather - mud is capable of absorbing warmth from the sunlight and is able to hold that warmth much, much longer than sand or shell. Deeper guts that snake in and out of coves are also good target areas for post-frontal trout, but just as soon as the morning sun begins to heat-up, I move out of the cove and on to area flats consisting primarily of grass and mud. My preference is to use a slow and deep presentation no matter what lure I happen to choose, and I like to use lightweight jig heads to prevent snags over shell or grass when slowly retrieving my lure. In reviewing my fishing records of years past, I've found that I have caught good trout during the mornings and late afternoons while working a slow sinking lure like the corky devil. I'll focus on areas containing less floating grass, or will wade reefs with deeper drops or cuts, always keeping a sharp eye on my line while concentrating on what my lure is doing. Just because the bay looks ugly, don't give up or wait until a better day presents itself in order to go fishing. No one said it was going to be easy, but fishing "post-front conditions" has proved to make many a fisherman a better angler.
The past couple months have marked impressive fishing results for us - exceedingly when compared to the past few years, and one thing I believe may be contributing to this fact is this year's lack of Texas rainfall. Many of the rivers leading from the Hill Country are very low, and the salinity levels of Texas coastal waters have maintained an all time high this year. Because of this, dark-colored plastics (Mardi Gras, Black Magic, and Morning Glory) should continue to pay off in the reef areas of San Antonio Bay, but don't shy away from your focus on soft, warm mud with some dark grass mix as well, and don't forget the necessity for you to use a slow retrieve if you are working soft plastics or slow-sinking plugs.