Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No. 1 - Page 10

Wild About by Nate Skinner Winter Structure T he frigid air felt like sharp, stinging needles during our short trek across the bay. At the helm, my eyes watered as the windshield just seemed to be doing absolutely no good. The wheel felt like ice through my neoprene gloves, and, although we were nearing our destination, the last few miles seemed like days as the cold wind engulfed the boat. Finally, the throttle found neutral and it was as if someone turned the heater on as the vessel came to a halt—it was dead calm. “Remind me why we are out here again?”, I muttered as we began to thaw out. My counterpart seemed to have much thicker skin. In the time it took me to get the feeling back in my hands, he had already shed gloves and a heavy coat and was now casting towards some wooden pilings. A few, slow handle turns later, he hooked up before I could even grab my rod. “Now, I remember,” I chuckled, netting one of many overfive-pound trout that were brought to the surface that day. That narrow strip of wood and shell laden water was wall to wall with solid fish, taking advantage of an easy meal, ambushing from structure. Structure made the trip that day, and it’s what will make many between now and springtime. Once again, it’s time to pull out heavy jackets and to dress in ensembles suitable for a snow skier when preparing for an on-the-water adventure. The harsh elements of winter can be just that, hanging over our heads as a reason not to get out and pursue the salty creatures we love during the coldest months of the year. Fortunately for us, the entire Gulf Coast is chock full of honey holes and hot spots that can make some of the most fair weather of fishermen (and women) forget about the extreme conditions. Every winter gold mine has one thing in common, drawing fish from miles around - structure. Identifying Winter Structure Areas that hold fish during the winter provide a refuge for fish to take shelter during extreme cold snaps. Strong cold fronts and gale force winds turn bay waters upside down and inside out, leaving fish fleeing for a place to weather the storm. Just like you and me, they need an area not only to protect them from the weather, but also one that will provide sustenance in the form of an easy meal. Therefore, winter hotspots are not just mass expanses of deep water. Deep water is a key ingredient, but there is so much more to the recipe. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist, Bill Balboa, most fish are “opportunistic feeders,” and will take an easy meal over one that will require more effort at any given moment. Try offering your best friend the option of ordering a steak at a restaurant or giving them a healthy cow that needs butchering and processing, and the instant gratification of a grilled steak will win every time. Fish are the same way—they prefer to spend their time in areas where prey is easy to catch. This is even more so the case during the coldest periods of (Continued on page 22.) The author with a trout found feeding along pier pilings which provide fish some of the best winter structure for ambushing prey. 10 GULF COAST FISHERMAN Photos by author. W W W. G U L F F I S H I N G. C O M