Cold fronts are now beginning to cross our area with a more frequency. Many of these early season fronts won’t have too big an impact on fishing. What is the best approach to picking the right winter days to catch fish now and as they get stronger?
Theoretically barometric pressure should not effect larger gamefish such as speckled trout, flounder, and redfish. Even a move of several feet below the surface is a larger pressure change than the change in barometric pressure during even some of the strongest cold fronts. However, we still see an affect on the fish and feed aggression. Post frontal days are almost always a tougher bite.
Early season frontal passages, if you are in the right place, can increase catching. The fish right now are poised to receive bait flowing out of marshes, bayous, and rivers in upper bay systems. If you find this scenario with plenty of bait and shrimp coming out of a mash drain flowing over structure where predators are lurking, you can have an amazing day on the water. Add to this an early, weak or moderate, cold front that pulls the tide lower, reducing the amount of water in the marsh system and further pulling out more and more bait out of the safe confines of the marsh, and it can be extraordinary. Think like a lazy predator; let the water movement bring the bait to you. Where is it coming from and where will they expend the least amount of energy feeding while still having a lair to ambush from, and to have safety. That’s where you’ll find your early fall season fish.
What about as it get’s colder and the fronts become stronger? By the end of November and into December, cold fronts will bring heavier, denser air masses and increased winds. No one knows specifically what these do to the fish. It may only affect baitfish which in turn affects the mood of the fish, but what we do know is that fishing in post frontal conditions (beyond 6-8 hours after a cold front has turned the winds to the north and gusty) is much tougher.
Telemetry tracking of speckled trout has shown that high winds above 25 mph in open water will move fish to deeper areas (greater than 12 feet deep generally). Fish in protected areas tend not to move as much, but still tend to look for deeper water for refuge from cold. Baitfish will push further down into the water column and not readily show themselves on the surface. And fish have no eyelids causing increased discomfort by the super clear bright sunny skies. This scenario tends to frustrate even the most seasoned anglers. Look for fish in deeper areas, that are not in the open bay, and fish the lowest light conditions you can safely.
Tobin created the TroutSupport.com Trout and Redfish instructional DVD series. Tech Support for Trout and Redfish Anglers.