Absence of hard winter hurts waterfowlers, helps salty anglers

Rarely are full plumaged blue-winged teal drakes in Texas in January. However, the mild winter has done nothing to encourage them to move south.

Absence of hard winter hurts waterfowlers, helps salty anglers

 

We finally received a hint of winter this weekend, but it didn’t last long.

And, that’s fine by me.

A mind winter protects our bays and estuaries and gives us another year without a fish-killing freeze.

On the other hand, a mild winter does nothing to help waterfowlers on the Texas coast. With less than a week to go in the 2018-19 duck campaign, many shotgunners would just as soon end it now.

If you follow social media from north, east and southeast Texas, there are plenty of sob stories from that past 74-day season. Some say it may be the “worst season they can remember.”

Except for a few prime properties in Wharton and Colorado counties, the coastal prairies have been fair to poor for ducks.

Sure, there have been outfits with consistent shooting throughout the season, including Prairie Waterfowl in East Bernard/Eagle Lake, Karankawa Plains Outfitters on the Pierce Ranch and Rocky Creek Retrievers Team Waterfowl near El Campo. However, with the exception of these long established hunting grounds, the Texas coast has been devoid of ducks.

Too much rain, not enough rice, too much hunting pressure and lack of a real winter are all complaints when hunters scratch their head looking for answers.

I am not sure what the real answer is, but I do know waterfowl states like Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma are experiencing the same results.

“It has really been steady for us from start to finish,” said Harlan Boettcher, owner of Prairie Waterfowl. “It might be one of the more consistent seasons for ducks we have seen, but many people around me will not agree,”

One thing is certain: Texas waterfowlers are serious about their hunting and have a short memory. The lack of ducks this year will not deter many from giving it another go when September teal season rolls around in eight months.

Many of those disgruntled duck hunters have already exchanged their shotgun for a rod and reel. All those muggy winter nights have made for excellent winter fishing along the middle coast and coastal bend.

Numerous big trout have been willingly biting slow-sinking plugs and soft plastics over mud and shell from Matagorda to Baffin Bay.

Drifting has been consistent in Matagorda with fish to eight pounds coming on Down South Lures, Bass Assassins and MirrOlures. Water temps have been in the upper 50s and lower 60s which has lit off the bite.

“We caught fish wading and drifting this week, back to back seven-pounders while drifting,” said guide Michael Kubecka. “There have been redfish mixed with the trout along the north shoreline.”

Guide Kenny Hauff echoed the same with limits of trout caught while wading, including a 30-inch monster that weighed 10 pounds on a Boga before being released. Similar reports have been coming from the Port O’Connor and Rockport areas as well.

Waders in Baffin Bay have worked mud and grass areas for limits of trout and redfish to boot. That pattern should repeat itself this winter if east, southeast winds hang around.

Until then, I’m going to give duck season a strong finish before breaking out the graphite.

 

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