by Gritter Griffin
The title of this article may seem a little strange at first but when I tell you that I am talking about locating and catching reds in the really cold weather months it may make more sense to you.
Redfish, like every other warm weather critter on the planet, have an inherent tendency to slow everything down in colder temperatures. Their metabolism slows, their pursuit of food slows, their digestion slows, their movements slow. They seek deeper waters which are relatively warmer. Here, where everything has slowed down for them, they seek slower moving, smaller, food choices.
This information can be used to great advantage during the colder months because where you find one redfish you will likely find dozens or even hundreds. They tend to congregate in areas where there is protection from the elements, a constant food supply, and a warmer environment.
This phenomenon has been noted for many years in the Louisiana coastal areas where, during a really cold snap, you will see dozens of people lined up along the shores of the more inland, protected bayous. They can be seen hauling out red after red after red from the deeper pockets in the bayou where these fish have retreated for shelter from the cold and to take advantage of the more abundant food choices in the warmer mud of the deeper bayou bottom.
But, these inland bayous are not the only places you can find reds stacked up. Check out the bayous you normally run through to get to your favorite fishing zones. Use your depth finder to locate the deep holes and pockets that occur at bends and intersections of the bayous. These deep holes will almost never be recognized or utilized by the vast majority of anglers but can frequently be a bonanza for the astute winter angler. Aside from holding large quantities of reds, these deeper pockets and holes will also contain debris that has lodged there over the years so be prepared to lose some terminal tackle – the results are well worth it.
Other areas to inspect along your usual running paths are long stretches of bayou with steep sides and deep water along the edge which remains relatively protected from the worst of the winter chill. These areas usually serve as travel zones for the reds during the warmer months but are used as a protected home when it gets really cold. Redfish can lie in the waters along that steep drop and easily snap up food debris and smaller prey as they drift by on the tides both incoming and outgoing.
Other areas that you can find concentrations of reds are large docks where big boats and tugs push off at high rpm. Their prop wash causes a significant depression in the bottom structure in front of the docking area and will often be loaded with reds during those really cold winter days.
Your choice of bait isn’t as broad as it is in the warmer months since the reds don’t need as many calories during this time of slowed metabolism. They will still feed but usually do not forage as far nor use as much energy to chase a potential meal. Fast moving baits like spinners, swimbaits, and crankbaits will be ignored in favor of smaller, much more slowly moving, presentations. These cold fish have no desire to chase anything and are looking for an easy meal that won’t use too much energy to catch or to digest. So, your presentation needs to match this need.
I like to use 1/8 oz to ¼ oz jigs with small curly tail grubs that can be slowly bounced along the bottom or “jump-dragged” through the mud and debris in the deep holes. Sometmes, in the right conditions, I will tie on a 1/16 oz jig with a very small grub or shrimp and throw the lure up-current allowing it to simply drift along the edge of the hole or dropoff. This presentation realistically presents the lure to the fish as though it were a small meal drifting along on the current. Scented plastic, especially the smaller “critter” shaped lures, work very well in these circumstances.
If you aren’t a “purist” the best option at this time of the year is to use the real deal. Small pieces of shrimp or cut bait allowed to drift along the deeper reaches of these areas is irresistible to these wintering reds.
One more thing to remember is that you, too, need to move more slowly. Patience is the key to finding and enjoying those winter hotspots.
As usual, when you understand what the reds are doing and why they are doing it catching them becomes a whole lot easier. So, add this thought process and search technique to your winter arsenal. Your success will be your reward.