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submitted by Michael Fiorenza

Winter brings low tides, and winds that empty our marshes and bays here on the Texas coast and choosing the right time and day to be on the water can be either a very rewarding experience or can turn treacherous quickly. One of the advantages of kayak fishing is the ease of access, and the ability to launch almost anywhere. This includes launching from roadside drainage ditches that lead to deeper channels across a flat. While some waters may be inaccessible even by kayak, other locations are filled with fish begging to be caught. Now is the time to plan ahead, and to become aware of wind and tide, so that you can return safely to where you started. Most of us that kayak fish inshore and coastal waters have been in a situation where water levels have dropped dramatically from back lakes and marshes. This often forces us to drag our kayaks either into a back lake that is holding fish, or out to the waters that we launched from. One of the most overlooked, and potentially dangerous, issues with venturing into hard-to- reach, remote areas with low water is the uncertainty about getting out safely. If you have any doubts, please listen to your gut, and go only where you know you can safely return. But what if conditions change? What can you do to prepare?

Working For Winter Redfish
After wearing your PFD, the next precaution is to be aware of weather and tides for the areas you plan fish. There are plenty of online and mobile resources for this. Find a trustworthy source that is accurate. I consult certified weather stations on Weather Underground. Usually, you can find real-time weather data that list conditions near your target area. These are the most accurate, because weather stations record conditions you will find if you’re fishing close enough to the device. Save those stations to your favorites lists, and check them before you hit the water. If you start to notice a big change in wind or cloud cover, signaling severe weather coming in, recheck the weather station. It is better to be safe than sorry. Also, research the tide charts, and make note of the delay times for tides in the areas you fish. Most sites collect data on water levels from specific stations, such as a major pass. The actual tide change where you’re fishing could be an hour or more behind the reading at a faraway station. It is important to know the length of this lag time. What if you end up stuck, and are forced to call for help, or to spend the night in the marsh? A little preparedness goes a long way.

Working For Winter Redfish

Winter is my favorite time to fish for redfish, especially in hard to reach back marshes. An area I return to fish yearly on the upper Texas Coast is perfect in the winter for an adventure, and exciting nonstop fishing. That is, if you are prepared to put the work in to get there. We have been known to drag our kayaks in and out of thigh deep mud, over oyster reefs, through a grass covered marsh island just to access the water that is holding fish. I enjoy going as light and as simple as possible to fish these areas, one or two rods and limited tackle. Having the Torqeedo 403AC rigged up helps get to those areas a little father away.
After the last front that came through, I ended up in a channel that connects two back lakes, with multiple oyster reefs, scattered mud, and shell. The channel between the lakes essentially functions as a funnel, directing the flow of water draining in two directions. One direction flows into open water, while the other leads to a secondary drainage channel, running parallel to the shoreline, and following a crescent-shaped reef. This offered a deeper location, with water accelerating through the narrow channel. During a falling tide in winter, baitfish will be concentrated in the current. If you can locate these areas, you will likely find feeding fish in good numbers. But a word of caution. Become familiar with these types of areas in all tide levels, so you don’t get grounded and forced to await an incoming tide to escape. Water can evacuate rapidly from an area, stranding you in a remote marsh, forcing you to endure a long drag through mud and shell.

Working For Winter Redfish
With not enough water to float the Jackson Kraken 15.5, I anchored my kayak and set out on foot, carrying only one rod with a Kden Lures swimbait tied on a Texas Rattler jighead. I walked quietly on the exposed reef parallel to the channel. Once I was positioned to cast in multiple directions into the water flow, I went to work. Having a shoreline, a reef, a point, and two directions of water flow, I consistently caught fish for nearly two hours. I could easily alternate between the different conditions within 10 steps of each other, allowing me to rest a specific area within the area. The makeup of this area allowed fish to reposition, and to continuously cycle through, while actively feeding. These are the moments when you know you made the right decision. I was prepared to strategically target feeding fish, because of my previous experiences, plus I offered a presentation they could not resist because it looked natural in the current, and was near the structure they were ambushing bait on.
Success on the water starts long before you actually arrive at your fishing location. Use your logbooks, and experiences to guide you, and capitalize on fishing conditions in the here and now. Conditions change, but you can dramatically boost your odds of success with a little preparation.
Get out there and explore. Take notes, and photos, and start filling up those logbooks with new information about obstructions, structure, and other conditions to help you locate these spots within a spot in the future. Remember, while you may not see it there during the higher water levels of spring, summer, and fall, those features are there to fish year-round.