Are you fretting the coming cold weather and the extremely low tides in the Louisiana marshes? As we know, anglers look for the deeper bayous and “holes” during these wintertime trips, mainly because that is where the water and fish are now located.
Well, don’t despair: You will not waste a fishing or duck-hunting trip, and you can really improve your year-round fishing by using your GPS and depth finder during your wintertime trips.
Low tides in the marshes are compounded by the numerous weather fronts that sweep across the marshes during this time of the year. Most of the passing cold fronts come from the north or northwest direction, and are accompanied by substantial winds that usually last for several days.
The cold and sustained winds can wreak havoc within the marshes.
Coastal marshes consist of a myriad of lagoons, ponds, small bayous and canals that look like a plate of spaghetti tossed on a large platter. Most of the water depths in the area are downright shallow.
So any wind either sustained or fast from the same direction can cause fishing nightmares to the boaters.
I remember several guides last year having to cancel trips because there was not enough water to launch their boats from their lifts. There were only inches of water where there should have been 4 or 6 feet.
Think of a fan blowing strongly over a plate of water. You will see that the water piles up on the far side of the plate, and if there were an opening most of the water would be pushed out of the plate.
This is exactly what happens to our marshes as they react to the sustained or high winds blowing over the marshes.
Yes, the published tides do have an effect, but when the interior marsh tidal range is 2 feet or less, these winds can delay and even prevent the predicted tidal times and depth range.
Be aware of both sources when you are planning a trip.
With that stated, let me explain how an angler can use these conditions to their advantage.
Well, sometimes you can’t, but when you are traveling in the area, you can use your GPS to help you during other normal water-depth trips.
First, get an older map of the area. Yeah, I know, you just laid out big money for the latest and greatest mapping for your GPS, but these maps — or aerial photo maps, if you are lucky — show the water bodies as they are as seen at this time.
To do the job right, you should have a map of the area as it was 20 or so years ago. These maps will show the deeper water of the marsh as bayous, canals, lakes and lagoons. Some of these same areas are now shown as open water on current maps, but — and there is always a “but” — some of the open water shown on the current mapping is only a foot or 2 deep.
It is not recommended that you navigate across these areas, because they might now be shallow water. I know people who damaged a prop or other equipment when they ran aground in these waters.
The older map features for water is generally deeper and safer than running across the open waters. Use these older maps to show a safer passage.
Don’t give up on your new maps; just be aware where the older channels were located.
Now use your GPS for improvements for later trips. First, get one of the data-transfer programs offered by the manufacturer of your GPS unit to move the data from your GPS unit to your computer.
These programs will let you review, name and edit your routes, tracks and waypoints and save them in your computer. These files will become your backup for your data.
Now, clear your GPS of all tracks prior to leaving the dock. Then run your routes to your fishing or duck lease areas. You will now probably be running where these older maps indicated a bayou or deep water.
Note the conditions of the shallow water, reefs or obstructions, and save those positions by marking them in your GPS unit. These locations, along with your track in the unit, will offer you a very big advantage when later navigating those waters.
Naturally, conditions will change in the springtime or summer months, but that is to your advantage. Mark as a waypoint the points, reefs and other features, and review them later on the computer program.
You will now have the drop-offs between the shallow water and the deeper areas. These are prime fishing areas later in the year.
It is much like a hunter using his GPS unit to mark antler sheds, scrapes and rubs in a hunting area. Knowing these locations will give you a big advantage on your next regular-water trip.
These underwater features are the base of the Captain Paul’s Fishing Edge of GPS Waypoints. Knowing where they are located will greatly improve your fishing later in the year.
This data can be saved and later transferred to a thumb drive, CD or DVD disk and even given to your buddies as an email attachment.
Make use of the shallow water and mark those locations and, if helpful, take a depth-finder reading or (as some units allow) record the info. The depth of the water, the type of weather and especially the wind speed and direction will be a big help in your later trips.
Keep safe, and run your courses at a slow speed under these conditions so that you will not damage your rig and equipment.