The beginning of March is the latest that one can expect to find fish in the shallow-water-near-deep-water pattern that is so productive in the winter. These areas are best described as smaller bayous through areas of broken marshes and ponds. Thomason looks for 12- to 18-inch deep water on the shoulders of bayous 8 to 13 feet deep. A key tell is the presence of oyster shells on the bank, giving away the presence of oyster shells in the water.
Thomason will fish the deep drop-offs early in the morning, when the water is still cold and the trout are holding deep. The fish will often hold right at the edge of the drop-off.
If it is a sunny day, the shallow waters on the flats will be warm, either due to the black mud bottoms or the oyster shells absorbing the sun's rays. This time of day, Thomason shifts to fishing the shallows. If it is overcast, the shallows typically will not warm and he will keep fishing in the deep.
Thomason uses two types of lures for this fishing. Paddletail plastics, mainly in two colors: glow/red tail and purple/chartreuse tail, are used when the fish are deep. Jig heads are 3/8-ounce, with any brand or shape being acceptable. These are fished by being cast generally upcurrent, allowed to sink to the bottom and then slowly twitched back in.
Hard baits, primarily Mirrolure Catch 5s, are favored when the fish are up on the flats. Favored colors are purple back/chartreuse bottom, hot pink, black back/white belly and green back/white belly. These suspending lures are retrieved just fast enough to be kept off the bottom. The lure does all the work for the angler.
The first half of March, like in the month of February, will also find speckled trout suspended in schools in waters 13 to 18 feet deep in bayous. There, they will move up and down in the water column. He uses a depth sounder to find the concentrations of fish, which will typically use that same spot for 4 to 6 weeks.
The best baits to target these suspended fish are paddletail soft plastics on 1/4-ounce jig heads tied to a 4-foot long 14-pound-test monofilament leader. Thomason often uses TTF (Texas Tackle Factory) Red Killers, but he says that any brand of paddletail will work. Favored colors for fishing for suspended fish are opening night if the water is clear or black/chartreuse if it is stained. These plastic-tipped jigs are fished without a cork.
During the second half of the month, speckled trout movement toward major bays and lakes becomes pronounced. The appearance of foggy days signals the time of the change. Specks are scattered and the month is windy, so drift fishing in lakes becomes a productive technique that will work well into April.
A productive tip of Thomason's is to look for the white PVC pipes that oystermen use to mark their leases. Within the boundaries of the pipes, oysters and shells are scattered and fish are scattered over them. But oystermen can't dredge between the closely-spaced poles, resulting in natural accumulations or humps of oysters. Trout will hold over or near these.
A good tactic is to position the boat so that the wind, with perhaps a little help from the trolling motor, will drift the boat parallel to a row of poles. Anglers should cast soft plastics, set about 2 1/2 feet below popping corks, into the pole row where oysters have accumulated.
In the second half of March and all of April, topwater plugs will be productive in areas that hold schools of mullet along current-swept banks. The key is to find the mullets, which will be on the surface and easy to see. Substantial-sized coves along the marsh edges of Black Bay and Lake Fortuna will produce large trout that can be caught with topwaters.
The shores of Black Bay islands also become productive in late March, heat up in April, and become red hot in May. Included in these are Stone Island, Pelican Island, Belle Island, Iron Banks and a host of un-named islands.
On calm days, Thomason prefers Top Dogs or Top Dog Jrs. in bone, black back/white belly and chartreuse. On days with more surface chop, he tosses He Dogs or She Dogs in chartreuse, blue back/silver belly and chartreuse back/gold belly. The lures are worked in a "walk-the-dog" fashion that twitches the nose of the bait first one way than the other.
The boat should be maneuvered with a trolling motor and casts should focus on the point where a drop-off from the flat to deeper water is thought to occur on the edge of the cove. Mullet often hold in this area.