Winterize your boat? I must admit I do not even know how, or what all that entails. I have waded with painfully numb toes and fingers more times than I care to mention, all the while creating some of my best memories.
It is not always full stringers and pictures of trophy trout. There are, without a doubt, those days mixed in of walking what feels like miles in search of a speckled trout or standing, casting at a reef for hours with nothing to show for it.
I tend to learn much more from the slow days, and they definitely make me appreciate the days full of catching so much more. The popularity of wading on the upper Texas coast and in southwest Louisiana has grown exponentially over the past 15 to 20 years; however there are still many that believe we are flat-out crazy to jump out of a perfectly good boat, especially when the mercury plummets. This is when I believe it is that much more critical to actually be wade-fishing to be successful with those bigger, sow speckled trout.
I used to wear so many layers that by the time I got to my waders, I could not bend well enough to tie my shoes. As I eventually was able to afford higher-quality clothing, the number of layers has decreased; comfort and maneuverability have both improved. A great buddy and fellow guide turned me onto alpaca socks to help prevent my toes from turning into ice cubes. I also wear insulated pants from Simms, paired with some of their fleece layers and an insulated wading jacket, and I am set. Comfort on the water, or in this case, comfort in the water, cannot be emphasized enough.
I have walked many a mile and fished for countless hours around the mouth of the Gator Hole at the southeast corner of Sabine Lake, targeting gator trout. The Gator Hole is a well-known area among wade fishermen who frequent Sabine. It is the first large cove you run into just south of Madame Johnson Bayou. There are a handful of small drains that connect into the Gator Hole, enhancing the location. The flat to the north of the Gator Hole is much shallower than the area to the south. For the most part, it has a very firm and smooth bottom to walk.
As with most areas on Sabine, the closer to the shoreline, the more difficult it is to walk, as the bottom is very uneven and slick. There is a little shell close by, but not much. I prefer the north flat for an incoming tide.
Keep your eyes peeled for fleeing mullet — and slicks if you are lucky. The south shoreline next to the Gator Hole provides more structure in the form of both shell and fluctuations in topography. However, it does get deeper quite a bit more quickly when walking away from the shoreline than it does on the north side. I prefer to fish the flat south of the entrance of the Gator Hole on an outgoing tide.
Larger lures for larger fish
Speckled trout in January tend to feed much less frequently and on larger prey. Pay attention to the Solunar tables and make sure you are casting during the major and minor feeding times, not running from spot to spot. I use larger lures such as Super Spooks, Yozuri Crystal Minnows, Corky Fat Boys and MirrOdines. Color is largely dependent on water clarity: darker colors for dirty water and lighter, more natural colors when the water is clear.