The beauty of East Matty is the hidden reefs smack dab in the middle of the bay. They are not really hidden anymore. Maps and GPS coordinates make them available to everyone. Long Reef, Three Beacon Reef and Drull’s Lump are big trout magnets but fished effectively only by wading.
“The tides get low, and all those big trout go to the middle of the bay,” says 2012 Guide’s Cup Champion Tommy Alexander. “The mullet go to the middle and the trout follow.”
East Matagorda Bay oysters have long been cherished for their sweet, salty savor. Watch for oyster boats dredging shell; harvested reefs are especially good the next day when waters settle after being overturned by the raking.
“Most of the time, the best trout will be off the edge of the reef,” says Alexander. “Wade as far as you can without filling up your waders, cast to the deep water, and work the lure slowly along the mud and shell.”
Alexander says braided line is the difference between feeling a subtle winter bite and thinking the bait is hung on shell. “It’s winter, it’s cold, you are bundled up, and the fish don’t always thump it like they do during summer.”
East Bay’s greatest depths are a little more than five feet at the highest of high tides. Since winter normally sees the lowest tides of the year, most of the bay runs three to four feet deep in December and January.
The biggest of big-trout catchers are waders. There is no substitute for stalking a muddy bayou with a mullet imitation and a sensitive graphite rod. Mud bottoms on the east end of the bay are my favorite winter hangouts for trophy specks. Boggy spots like Brown Cedar Flats, Catch-All Basin and the Duck Blind test your cardiovascular stamina but reward you with breathtaking, arm-length trout.
North winds, gray skies and low tides typify a Texas winter. For those willing to brave the chill and deal with red earlobes and chapped lips, plenty of big speckled trout roam the fertile waters of East Matagorda Bay.
Rods: 6- to 7-foot Waterloo HP Slam Mag, Salinity, or equivalent
Reels: Shimano baitcasters: Core, Chronarch or Curado
Lines: 20-pound braid
Leaders: 25-pound fluorocarbon
Lures: Corkies, Maniac Mullets, MirrOlure Catch 5s, Bass Assassin Sea Shad and Gulp! Jerk Shad
Note: The daily bag limit for speckled trout in Texas is 10 fish, 15-inch minimum, with only one allowed more than 25 inches. Conservation-minded anglers release fish that are five pounds and larger.
Plan A Trip
It doesn’t happen every year, but in two out of the past three winters, the birds have worked in East Matagorda Bay through the middle of December. Look for laughing gulls spinning over trout pushing shrimp to the surface. Never discount a gull sitting on water either. Many times the birds can see the fish and are waiting for them to push the shrimp to the surface.
When the wind really blows, the nearby Colorado River saves the day. Low tides drain the delta at the mouth of the Diversion Channel and funnel all fish into the deep channel. Anglers drift across the channel with plum, black or glow soft plastics or troll with DOA TerrorEyz. Nighttime is even better under lighted piers as fish seek the warmth of the deeper river.
What: Big winter speckled trout
When: December, January, February
Where: East Matagorda Bay
Who: East Matagorda Bay is easily accessed by numerous ramps if you choose to fish it on your own. For a complete listing, go to stxmaps.com.
To learn the lay of the land, and get a leg up on local knowledge and practices, go with an expert the first time or two:
Capt. Charlie Paradoski
Capt. Lee Warmke
Capt. Tommy Alexander