For many this is a given, but this time of year its always worth considering. Chasing Trout and Redfish through late Winter and early Spring is going to include a key ingredient, soft mud bottoms with grass or lightly scattered shell. I've seen small slash guts with a mud bottom on hard sand outside beaches hold every fish in the neighborhood. Feeling is the mud bottoms hold warmth and offer a greater comfort zone relative to coolder hard surfaces like sand or shell. "Mud bottom" is a general term and not all of it is going to produce. The focus on mud bottoms is an important one and there is little question it is steering the angler into the right direction. Studying Trout and Redfish in the back lakes of Matagorda Island and other marshes, I've noticed as temperatures warm, there is a sizeable migration off of mud heading toward sand/grass and shell leaving the warmer mud environment. Year after year, like clockwork, as temperatures warm in April, the size of fish holding over mud tends to get smaller and the fish seem to scatter. When it's cool with water temperatures in the 40's & 50's, mud is going to be the place to be.
There are a lot of muddy bottoms to choose from, and in the back lakes the choices are endless. There are other considerations such as mud bottoms off the taper or on the quick dropoff side of oyster reefs. Mud guts on hard sand outside beaches may be few and far between but make a mental note of their location for future reference.
Focus On Water Levels
Another thing to keep in focus on this time of year is the correlation between water levels and fish movement. When there is little water in the bay due to a passing cold front or lingering low tide, there is no doubt the fish are going to be in the deepest part of whatever shallow water environment they are holding in. Over shell, expect the fish distant from the crest of reefs and farther off the shell taper. As water levels increase, expect the fish moving shallower and nearer to shorelines or the crest of shell reefs. The correlation between fish location and water levels was never more evident than here lately.
With very low tides, I came off a duck hunt looking to bend a rod on some Redfish with some guests from Florida. As I left one lake and ran through a gut entering another, I noticed a couple of Redfish shooting off near the mouth of the gut. As I headed farther into the lake (on slick calm glass conditions) there was no mistaking the concentration of large Redfish from the mid-slot into to the lower 30" class foraging, pushing wakes, and kicking mud. We don't get much respect from the boys over there when it comes to fishing, but when they got a look at our Redfish they just about flipped. The fish had positioned themselves in the deepest "swale" or depression that the area in this lake had to offer. What happened next left the Florida boys with a Texas Redfish experience they won't soon forget. Days later, I made another run at these fish but strong overnight storms had piled up a bunch of water on the Island and in the back lakes. Without hesitation or slowing down, I guessed that the fish wouldn't be located in the deeper area where they were but guessed that they would be foraging closer to the shorelines. My first guess was correct and sure enough that's where they had relocated (within about 300 yards from the low tide conditions and deeper area from days before). The push shallower and retraction deeper as water levels rise and fall is a pattern I've witnessed time and again, year after year.
Keeping a muddy bottom focus through March will get in proximity of concentrations of Trout and Redfish, recognizing water levels and how the fish are relating to them will narrow things down even further.
The last push of duck season saw us doing a little bit of fishing. As of Sunday, Capt. Doug reported slow Redfish action in upper SAB with overcast skies and chilly temperatures. Redfish concentrations on the island dumped into deeper areas with fish pushing the upper end of the slot on low water conditions. Trout reports are pretty scarce as of right now.
Good luck in your fishing and stay safe out there!
Capt. Kris Kelley
Castaway Lodge, Inc.