"Cold Weather = HOT Fishin" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton We are now in the coldest period of the year and were all waiting for the spring warm up to head back to our favored waters in quest of bass, catfish and stripers, right? Granted, many anglers do wait for spring and warming weather but, with a little knowledge and preparation, theres some line sizzling action to be had, and RIGHT NOW! If youre looking for a cure for cabin fever and the very real opportunity to catch some of the biggest fish of the year, let me introduce you to my top winter fishing destinations. The fact that winter fishing has the potential to produce some of the biggest fish of the year is well established. The temptation to partake of this exciting fishing is sometimes overshadowed by the fear of spending time on the water in frigid temperatures. If you watch the Weather Channel closely and fish between blasts of Arctic air, dress in layers and keep your face and hands covered when underway on the water, winter fishing can be quite comfortable. I never venture forth on a cold day without a Thermos filled with something hot; hot chocolate, coffee or even soup will help keep you warm on a cold day. Truthfully, I much prefer fishing in the winter to spending time on the water during the dog days of summer. If youve got the itch to fish and are willing to abandon the deer or duck blind for a few hours, let me introduce you to a few of my favorite winter fishing destinations. I will include contacts for the guides that can help you plan your trip. STRIPERS AT TEXOMA - Guide Bill Carey with Striper Express has been putting anglers on big winter stripers for a quarter century and Bill knows something about planning a winter fishing trip. In a recent interview, Bill says those big sow stripers are on a good pre-spawn bite. We caught stripers up to 16 pounds the past week. says Carey. Stripers are feeding on shad, big time now and weve actually witnessed fish blowing up on baitfish on the surface. This is pretty rare for this time of year. Texoma has a heavy concentration of gulls through the winter months and locating actively feeding birds is key to finding and catching stripers. Carey and his team of guides run pre-determined routes when fishing for winter stripers. We usually begin fishing the backs of creeks with a good concentration of gulls. When the birds raft up in open water, its a good bet that baitfish and the accompanying predatory stripers will be close-by. If the birds arent actively dive bombing the surface, its time to study sonar closely and look for big pods of shad. The guides favorite winter baits is the Roadrunner jig with a worm trailer, color preference is white or chartreuse, or a combination thereof. On windy days, Carey uses jigs as heavy as two ounces, when targeting stripers close to or on bottom. On calm days, one ounce jigs will usually suffice. When asked which areas of the lake he favors this time of year, Carey says stripers are well dispersed, lakewide, but a good place for newcomers to the lake to begin their quest is the submerged Red River Channel, a mile or so either side of the Willis Bridge. Carey and the guides at Striper Express prefer tricking stripers with artificial baits, and so do many of their clients but, live shad dunked along the submerged river ledges is a preferred method for anglers not accustomed to casting. Texoma is well known as a producer of big blue catfish and its not uncommon to connect with a trophy blue or two on a striper trip this time of year. Carey can be reached at www.striperexress.com or 877-786-4477. FRESHWATER REDFISH AT LAKE FAIRFIELD - A trip to the coast is not necessary for folks wishing to experience the exhilarating runs of a big redfish. Lake Fairfield is well stocked with this saltwater transplant and guide Cory Vinson who heads up Guaranteed Guide Service says fish in the 15-20 pound class were put in the boat this past week (see accompanying photo). Vinson fished Richland Chambers for trophy hybrid stripers during the warm weather months but he and his team of guides switch to the redfish at Fairfield when the weather gets cold and the generators at the power plant there begin warming the water. Fairfield is a very healthy population of reds says Vinson. Through the fall, we caught lots of fish in the 5-10 pound range, which are very respectable size redfish but in mid December, when the cold weather set in, the big bull reds (actually females) went on a dependable bite. Big Rat-L-Traps work on these brutes when they are actively chasing shad or perch but large shad fished under balloons is the most effective method of catching the spooky, trophy class fish. When there is enough wind to float the balloons out from the boat, they serve as a very effective conveyance of placing baits in undisturbed waters, often a hundred or more feet from the boat. When a big redfish picks up a bait, he usually hits it hard and the balloon will be towed across the surface several feet, until the redfish sounds, then the balloon pops off and the angler finds himself hooked solidly to a fish that is capable of creating some lasting fishing memories. Fairfield is chock full of tilapia, one of the best tasting of all fish. Vinson and his guides are more than willing to throw the cast net a few times for their clients and collect several pounds of these good eating fish. There is no limit or regulations regarding taking Tilapia, which were stocked as a forage species for the game fish. Vinson offers lodging in his Redneck Hiltons located at Richland Chambers, 30 minutes away. Contact guide, Cory Vinson at www.nofishnocharge.com or 469-867-4299. Photo courtesy of Cory Vinson TROPHY BLUE CATFISH AT LAKE TAWAKONI - Now, usually through mid March is prime time for catching the biggest blue catfish of the year and I know of no better spot than Tawakoni to target jumbo size blues. Ive fished here with guide George Rule many times during the trophy winter months. Catfish in the 15-35 pound range hardly raise an eyebrow of locals and Ive been in the boat when fish up to 60 pounds were caught. Rule tips that fishing shallow water can be especially productive, especially after two or three days of constant wind from the same direction. When the winds been blowing a couple days out of the south, says Rule, baitfish stack up in the shallows on the north or northwest banks and we often catch some of the biggest catfish of the season from water as shallow as 3 feet. During periods of high pressure with little wind, we drift fish humps and ridges in water 20-30 feet deep with big pieces of cut bait (shad or perch). Ive also found that filleted pieces of carp, buffalo fish or drum are also productive, when fishing from a stationary position or drifting. he concluded. Wind speed is very important when drifting and Rule suggests using a drift sock to slow drift speed when the wind is strong enough to move the boat too quickly over submerged structures. Targeting the area around cormorant roost trees is another very effective method of catching a combination of blue and channel catfish during the winter months. Locate roost trees by seeking out dead trees that appear to have been whitewashed (from the birds droppings). The natural chum created by the gregarious cormorants attracts and holds good numbers of catfish. Rule says the trick to catching the spooky cats is to sneak up within a long cast and, making long casts, allow the baits to the water with a splat, mimicking the sound of the bird droppings hitting the water. Strikes often occur within the first 3 feet of water. George Rule can be contacted at www.trophycats.com or 214-202-6641. OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK: Deer hunting is still underway in most areas of the country. Regardless where you hunt, consider filling your remaining doe tags as quickly as possible. Adult deer eat several pounds of food per day and the quicker excess deer are removed, the more food for remaining animals. Acorns are becoming scarce in many areas and deer are hitting food plots on a regular basis. Its definitely not too late to fill that buck tag. The same green fields that doe are frequenting also attract bucks, especially late in the afternoon. The second rut occurs in late December. During this period, doe fawns born early in the summer come into their first period of estrus and bucks are in strong competition for breeding rights. Ive seen as many as four bucks trailing the same doe this time of year. Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com We have a virtual library of Luke's stories here on the BOC; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!