Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No. 1 - Page 27

Winter Structure (Continued from page 22.) result can be like “shooting fish in a barrel.” Other changes in the bay bottom can be discovered on Google Earth, as well. Flats containing grass and shell show up in different color schemes, too. Grass will often be found as light green patches in sand colored stretches of water on the satellite images, and shell will show up in dark, near black splotches. A transition from grass and sandy areas to water containing shell and dark splotches on these images can also indicate where soft, muddy bottoms are located. These areas are important, because a muddy bottom tends to hold warmer water than a sandy one. This small, sometimes just a degree or two, temperature change can make all the difference in the world when the water is cold. The best part about Google Earth is that it gives viewers GPS coordinates that are compatible with most marine GPS’s and chart plotters. Once an area that looks like the ideal winter spot is found, anglers can take the GPS coordinates straight from their computer screen, tablet, or phone, and input them into the GPS onboard their boat. Talk about some serious scouting, without ever burning fuel! Approaching Winter Structure When pursuing speckled trout and redfish along these structures, slow and erratic moving plugs that imitate a wounded mullet work the best. Baits like Egret’s Vudu Mullet or Paul Brown’s Original Corky by MirrOlure are hard to beat. The classic 52MR MirrOlures, and large paddle tails rigged on a light jig head, will produce strikes, too. Retrieve these baits erratically giving them lots of twitches and pauses. The bite often comes on the pause. What Else to Expect Trout and reds are not the only species that will be wintering in these areas in search of food. Flounder, sheepshead, black drum, and sand trout will all be in the mix as well. In fact, the colder it gets the more these less publicized species will tend to stack up. Not only are these fish easy to catch, but they taste great, too! Drum and sheepshead will be found feeding anywhere there is shell, pilings, rocks, or other hard surfaced structure available. Sand trout and flounder will be holding along the ledges and dropoffs of significant depth changes. Although all of these species will strike a lure from time to time, natural baits tend to work better. Almost nothing beats a freshly peeled, dead shrimp slowly bounced off the bottom. Cut bait, squid, cracked crab, or other natural baits will produce as well when shrimp is not available. As dark blue clouds roll over one another from the north and Old Man Winter begins to show his ugly face, stay focused on the key to winter fishing. It’s structure, and the Gulf Coast is loaded with it. From channels, to shell reefs, to small depth changes and variations in bottom composition, there are areas everywhere that will hold fish when water temperatures begin to plunge. Concentrate on finding these areas, and do some scouting with the computer before ever putting on a jacket to brave the elements. The short amount of time and small effort will be worth it, paying off in large dividends in the form of bent rods and happy memories. When the cold stops to sting and your fingers stop feeling stiff and numb, it’s not because you’re so cold you’re going into shock, it’s because you’re catching fish! Spring can wait. Find some structure, and winter your baits and lures there—you’ll forget all about the cold! GCF OFFSHORE FORECAST On the scale, the figure 10 represents average speed and time duration of approximately three hours of movement. This movement is followed by a three hour period of diminishing current speed and feeding activity. Each number above, or below the average number 10 represents an increase or decrease of 5 percent in strength of flow and fifteen minutes in additional or less time. As examples, a speed rating of 15 shows a current flowing 25 percent stronger than average and lasting one hour and fifteen minutes longer than average currents. This 15 rating will have four hours and fifteen minutes activity out of each six hour period of tidal cycle for that day. A speed rating of 6 shortens the time of activity by one hour and has 20 percent less strength than an average current. The longer and stronger current action always indicates the better fishing days offshore because of increased bait movement. There is no clearly defined line to indicate where the rotary currents become onshore tidal currents. It is generally accepted that waters over 5 fathoms (30 feet deep) will have rotary currents. For more information on these tables visit: http:// gulffishing.com/rotary.html. JANUARY DA Q()d()MA((