Cooler temps are finally here in the great state of Texas. For many, this means trips to a deer lease and a break from fishing. For the dedicated kayak angler, this means less pressured fisheries and no lines at the boat ramps. The cooler weather doesn’t get bitterly cold for long and most days a single layer of warm clothing is enough to get you on and off the water comfortably. For kayak anglers the fishing opportunities are abound. From the coast to the Panhandle, there are fish to be caught and memories to be made. With a little planning and proper gear your fishing season can go year ’round.
In many of my articles you will find that I emphasize the importance of safety. In the warmer months, it’s sun safety and hydration to counter the heat. In the cooler months the importance of sun safety and proper hydration is still a factor, but we now have to take into consideration cooler temps and the risk of hypothermia. When fishing on cooler days the best advice is to layer up. Start with a good moisture wicking base layer and build on that. Keep in mind that you need to be mobile, don’t pile it on too thick. The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true.
The cost of a good set of base layer clothing and wind stopping material to finish out your wardrobe will be worth it. You don’t need to have more than two sets of each, and the second set is a backup in case you happen to need a change of clothing in emergency situations. A good cap, gloves, and socks will cover your outer extremities. Since most heat loss is through your head, a beanie or insulated hat will do wonders. Quality gloves will also make your hands and fingers feel much better and allow you to have full feeling as you paddle/fish through the day. Last but not least are socks. Take my word for it, you do not want to be on the water with cold feet.
Dry, moisture wicking socks that don’t make your feet sweat are a lifesaver. Always carry an extra pair and change them out throughout the day. Your feet will sweat, even on the coldest of days. Another good idea is to get a quality set of rain bibs/ jacket and boots. Water and cold temperatures combined can be a very dangerous equation. All of the layers and proper gear will serve no purpose if you get wet. Brands like Frabill, Magellan, and Columbia, all have a line of outer gear that have wind stopping properties. A brand that I am familiar with is Onyx Outdoors. They have a full line of PFD’s, but also make a great set of rain bibs and jackets. The Thunder Rage bibs and jackets look great and are the newest set available online at www.onyxoutdoor.com.
To finish up on the outer shell of your winter apparel line up, a good pair of water- proof boots will keep your feet dry and help to keep them warm. Muck boots are great. They offer a model that floats and comes in a variety of colors . . . brown, green, camo, and even purple and pink for the ladies.
Moving forward, let’s talk a bit about the fishing opportunities available to us as kayak anglers. Texas has about 20 or so lakes available to anglers year round. Not all plants are being utilized, therefore not all lakes will have warmer water temps, but more often than not the plants are operational. To find out info on your local lakes, the best advice I have is to take to the internet. The lakes are run by different entities based on their geographic locations.
The two most popular lakes in the San Antonio area are Braunig and Calaveras. These lakes are utilized a lot due to their close proximity to the city. Despite the heavy fishing pressure, the lake produces consistent numbers of fish. Both lakes have redfish, hybrid stripers, channel catfish, blue catfish, and largemouth bass. Although each species has a time of year at which each is more readily caught, all are available year-round. Two other nearby options are Coleto Creek Revivor and Decker, or Walter E. Long Lake. Both offer better odds of catching largemouth bass, but also offer the opportunity at other popular species. The few lakes mentioned come from a list of lakes available throughout the state.
If your preferred fish is of the saltier variety, the coast has hungry fish feeding on a mud flat or ditch within paddling or pedaling distance. Slowing down and often times working large baits can produce some of the largest trout of the year. Baits like the legendary Corky for subsurface applications and Zarra Spooks for some unbelievable top water blow ups can turn a chilly day on the water, into a day to remember. Many salts prefer to wade fish their favorite areas once they have reached their destination, but that is completely up to the angler. A pair of trustworthy waders and a warm layer of clothing makes this possible (again, a base layer and moisture wicking materials for comfort and warmth).
PFD’s are always recommended, but when kayak fishing with waders a PFD and a wading belt are a must. The belt, when worn properly will minimize the amount of water going into the waders should you happen to fall over. The kayak community has lost far too many anglers due to accidents while wearing waders and kayaking. Please don’t take any chances.
Last but definitely not least are the rivers and streams that many of the fly fisherman hit on a regular basis. Temperatures will begin to draw out the trout that survived the warmer months, and stocking programs begin to kick in. Even though fly fisherman in the surrounding areas mainly wade from spot to spot, a kayak may come into play. When this is the case the same precautions and planning apply.
Take advantage of these less pressured times on the water. All day kayak fishing without sweating or wake boats and wave runners buzzing by you. Do so with safety in mind and always pack a change of clothes and a lighter in case an accident happens. Conditions may not be cold enough for ice on the water, but the dangers of hypothermia are still very real. Always wear your PFD and let somebody know your float plan (where you will be fishing and what time you plan to be off the water).
Remember to wear your PFD, and be safe on the water.
Eugene Mora III
Wilderness Systems Kayak Pro Staff
TFO Rods Pro Staff Stinky Pants Pro Staff
P-Line, Owner Hooks, WOO! Tungsten Pro Staff
Yak Attack Regional Fishing Team
Onyx Outdoors (PFD) Pro Staff