by Chris Martin
It's now the middle of November, and many coastal anglers who get to fish on a regular basis will have already begun to gear-up for cooler weather by layering their clothing, adjusting their tactics, and then by planning each of their consecutive fishing ventures based upon prior successes from previous days. But for others who may be forced to wait for a holiday, or for a day off from work, before being allowed to spend time out on the water, late November and early December can often throw some definite obstacles directly in the face of what they hope will be a prosperous fishing trip. The major obstacle comes to us in the form of the seemingly constant changes in the weather (shifts in wind, tide, and temperature). None of these weather changes occur on a schedule, so it's only to our benefit that we learn to handle any given fishing situation, especially at this time in the year when weather changes can, at times, be somewhat abrupt and drastic in nature. From a safety perspective, there are some simple measures you can take ahead of time to help alleviate problems should you encounter them during the onset of inclement weather…things like leaving a float plan with friends or family members prior to you departing, letting them know where you plan to launch, where you plan to be traveling throughout the day, and what time you expect to be back at the dock at the end of the day. Other good ideas include having a fully charged cell phone aboard that is stored in a dry location with the power turned off unless in use, an extra set of dry clothes in the event you get wet, and the use of a personal flotation device, or life jacket (especially if traveling alone). If you do decide to endure the wintertime elements, prep for the worst and think of safety first. And always try to remember that the fish will be there next time, so don't ever be afraid to postpone a trip across an angry bay at the last minute due to extremely bad weather conditions – it's always better to be safe, rather than sorry.
But even after you have all the safety procedures in place and accounted for, there's yet a secondary chief obstacle presented at this period of the year to coastal anglers that's directly resultant of foul wintertime weather. What I'm talking about here are the post-frontal passage conditions and the hurdles they can present to those of us who may be restricted to fishing on a particular date rather than being able to fish whenever we please. The day immediately following that of the passage of the latest front is still generally "rough" in comparison to the days that will follow. The wind on the first day after a front is usually still pumping strong out of the north, the tide may have dropped by more than a foot overnight, and the water quality may have been reduced to nothing less than dirty brown. I'm not a huge proponent of fishing the first day after a front. The conditions are tough, and they make it even tougher on the fishing. But when I have to do it, locating area shorelines offering protection from the wind instinctively becomes my first priority. It's on these days that I'll anchor as far away from shore as possible while still being able to get out of the boat without flooding my chest waders. Keep in mind that the water has fallen-out away from the bank with the receding tide, and that the fish have fallen with it. If conditions allow, I'll start with a slow retrieval of a surface walker to see if I can draw strike, but the majority of my bait offerings on this day will generally be of larger, dark-colored plastics worked slowly across the bay floor in deeper water (regardless of the water color). Weather conditions will continue to improve with each passing day, and on the second day after the front the winds will have subsided a bit and there may even be brief signs of bait activity as the sun begins its slow warming process upon the water temperatures. On this day I'll still head for protected shorelines, with the only difference being that I will now look for patches of clear water that have once again been allowed to settle since the time of the initial onslaught of the stiff winds. I'll anchor a good distance from the clear spots and wade slowly into them, concentrating on those which are in deeper water first, and then progressing later to those which may be situated in shallower water. In that I have caught fish in the past on the second day after a front, I do definitely like it much more than I do the first day. However, I've found that the true ticket for me catching some really great fish is for me to be fishing the post-frontal passage conditions presented to me on the third day following a front. It's on this day that the warming process truly begins to kick back into gear. By this point the winds have usually shifted back to a southerly influence, and the sand and silt that previously clouded the water has once again settled to the bay bottom. The sun is shining strong and the rising tidal waters are now being allowed to warm the shallows quite rapidly. Targeting that warm, shallow water will be multitudes of baitfish and trout alike, all jockeying for a spot to warm themselves following the brief chill. And just so they don't get lonely, I'll be waiting there to greet them all. I hope you can make it, too!
This year's waterfowl season began November 5th for those of us in the South Zone, so let us know if you're interested in having our team of professional guides show you the hunt of a lifetime with an action-packed day of waterfowl hunting, fishing, or maybe even both. Our "Blast & Cast" packages include morning shooting for ducks and geese followed by a relaxing afternoon on the water while bay fishing for trout, redfish, and flounder – or, returning to the blind to finish-out your duck limit with an afternoon of hunting. And don't forget that you can always stay informed as to the latest that Bay Flats has to offer by signing-up on the Bay Flats Lodge website to receive your daily newsletter. Until next time, remember to practice CPR, "Catch, Photo, and Release", whenever possible on trophy Trout and Reds.
Guide Chris Martin, Port O'Connor/Seadrift region. www.BayFlatsLodge.com. 1-888-677-4868.