Cowtrap Lake - A Winter Hot Spot

Fishing Techniques, Redfish Lures -

Cowtrap Lake - A Winter Hot Spot

WINTER. North winds and low tides. Beneficial? Detrimental? I'd venture to guess that most anglers aren't a fan of low water - winter is the time of year for hunting and football...not fishing, right? However, If you're like me and you dig sight casting reds in 10" of water, the winter can be an amazing time of year.

One of my go-to spots for winter fishing is Cowtrap Lake. Located in San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Cowtrap isn't the most convenient spot to fish if you live in Houston, but if you commit you get rewarded. Here's some local knowledge for fishing Cowtrap that you won't find on the keep-it-close-to-the-chest/hush hush fishing forums. 

THE PLACE: Cowtrap Lake/Cedar Lake.

    If you're in a yak, go to Cedar Lake, as Cowtrap will be a haul. Cedar Lake has the same habitat and there are cuts into Cedar Lake that are far closer to the launch. If you have a boat, make the run.


    THE TARGET: Redfish (although I've caught my fair share of fall flounder here).


    • Time of year - This is a fall/winter spot. I particularly like it during the winter because the north winds and low tides concentrate the fish. The fall is good too, but more water means you'll have to work harder to find the fish. Plus, you don't get the best part (as often) - the sight casting!!!
    • Time of day - Contrary to what I do (and believe) during the rest of the year, getting on the water before sunrise is unnecessary. The water is so shallow that it's subject to large temperature swings. The water on the flats will be coldest at night/early morning, making it a bad hangout spot for reds; however, as the sun rises and the heat is absorbed by the dark mud on the flats, the water temperature rapidly increases. The flats then become warmer than the deeper channels, thus causing the reds to move to warmer water for both warmth and feeding purposes. I usually hit the water around 10:00 AM. This varies based on tidal sequence, but 10:00 AM has the sun in a great place for success.  
    • Tide - This is a big one. Incoming tide is king here. Especially when the tidal coefficient is high and a lot of water is moving. If the high tide coincides with a high sun and warm water temps on the flats, you're destined for success! I've found that the fish really turn on about 2 hours before peak high tide. This is purely anecdotal, but my hypothesis is that the reds move in just before peak high to ambush the crustaceans that are hiding in the oyster beds. This phase of the tidal sequence allows for just enough water for the reds to trap the crustaceans in the oysters, but not too much water for them to escape further up into the flat.  

    SPECIFICS: You'll want to target long shorelines with linear oyster beds adjacent to deeper water. Use Google Earth to find these locations. They are plentiful in Cowtrap and Cedar Lakes, and will be visible on aerials. These are the corridors that the reds use to move on and off the flats. Also target points, especially if they have oysters beds on them. As much as I wish there wasn't, there IS INDEED such as thing as too shallow. There is no need to push back into 6-8" of water. The reds will be on the deeper side of the flats. Plus, if they were in 6-8", you'd see 'em, so don't waste time poling/paddling way way back - just bring some binos and peep way back there. Smarter not harder is what they say.

    LURE: Do I have to say it? Is it not obvious? BOCA CHICAS BABY! You can't go wrong with the Chupacabra.

    Here's a YouTube video that shows technique and the conditions to look for when fishing Cowtrap/Cedar Lake

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    1 comment

    • Marc Stephen Ramirez

      This is really helpful. I have a new powered SUP rigged for fishing @finactivewear . Want to explore some new areas and mouth of San Bernardino looks perfect from maps.

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