Cold Weather Fly Fishing On The Gulf Coast

Local Fishing By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

Where can I fish when it gets cold and yucky outside? That’s the question buzzing in our head while we sit around on our butts getting flatter and flatter staring at the ‘boob tube’ . Fortunately living on the Gulf Coast gives us the opportunity to go fresh or saltwater fishing during this time of the year. Hey, at least we are not breaking ice! So let’s talk about what’s available…

Let’s start with fresh water, plenty around and easy to access. Every farm pond, country club lake, drainage ditch, and apartment complex accessory pond has fish in it. Bass and bream don’t care about the esthetics, just water and food. So, what type of food is best for this time of year? Bass in the winter don’t want to work hard to find food so the food needs to find the bass. In cold weather the bass will be deep or extremely shallow. The deep ones are moving slowly if they move at all so sinking the fly deep with the help of a weighted line or fly gets into their strike zone. A slow strip feeling for subtle nibbles can pull these guys off of the bottom. For the shallow water fish coming up to get a little sun, the top water flies will work. Sometimes the fish will hold just subsurface, that’s when you want to throw a diver or a gurgler. Often the smaller bass will hang in the shallower water and can be really aggressive . 

Bream on the other hand only care about one thing, eating. If you can’t get them to hit a bead head nymph, they are not at home, period. Using a slow sinking weighted nymph is the best way to scan the water for bream. Even in the cold weather the bream will often hit a floating fly. The specific type does not seem to matter.

Saltwater fishing can sometimes be the best when the temp falls. Don’t lose faith in your go-to-flies of summer, they work just as well in the cold. Some of our local saltwater fish change their habits a bit when it turns cold. They may become more active as in  the case of redfish or less active like speckled trout. You just have to figure it out yourself.

However, all fish have to eat. YOU need to be there to ring the dinner bell. Check out the salt water flats for redfish in 1 to 3 foot waters. Trout may be deep so the sinking techniques may be necessary. Don’t neglect the nite kites on the piers. They draw the trout in the winter as well as in the summer. Look for them to be popping the small shrimp that glide along the surface.