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Dressing for the Changing Season

Always be prepared for cold ­weather on the Bay 

photo by Christian Schou Roger Sexhauer and Mike Ebersberger with a 50-inch class redfish caught south of Poplar Island last week.
     For the unprepared, cold weather on the Bay can be dangerous, especially when temps begin dipping below the 50s. On the water, a chill is more unpleasant than almost anywhere else.
     The key to staying comfortable (and out of the emergency room) is maintaining your core body temperature. Core covers your neck down to your waist. You can endure your feet and even your legs getting cold. But when your stomach and chest start to chill, your vital organs are affected. Threat to the vitals generates such symptoms as shivering, clumsiness, confusion, shock and even death when the blood flow to the brain slows.
     The danger is easy to avoid: Wear layered clothing. First, address your underwear, which clever marketeers now refer to as baselayer.
    Don an extra-warm high-neck undershirt under your sporting outfit. On top add a weatherproof coat and you’ll be nicely cold-proofed, at least until the white stuff begins to fly regularly. I find the zip-necked fleece-based undershirts the warmest and most heat adjustable.
     When shopping for cold-weather gear, go right to the expedition-weight products. They are designed for the most extreme conditions, not walking your pup, taking a short run down the ski slopes or doing the shopping. Just to be on the safer side, you want the layer designed for sub-zero blizzard. Plain expedition-weight fleece is remarkably warm.
      Fishing is generally not a high-activity endeavor. Baselayers intended for hunters or wildlife photographers sitting still, mostly inactive, in frigid temps suits it best. So in stores or sports catalogs, head for the hunting section.
      You do not want to get damp or wet when air and water are close to freezing. Sodden clothing loses its ability to hold warmth. It’s the fastest route to dangerous body chills. So breathable waterproof wear is a must. Breathable means the fabric allows moisture- (sweat) laden air out of the garment but does not allow rain or boat spray to penetrate. 
     Outfitted in expedition-weight baselayer and a good foul-weather, breathable, waterproof coat, you may not be toasty all the way from your head to your toes, but you should, generally, be safe from hypothermia.
      Head and feet warmth is more an issue of comfort than of safety. We’ve all heard that 90 percent of the body’s heat escapes through the head. Turns out the study conditions were faulty. The subjects measured for loss of heat as they stood bareheaded out in the cold were otherwise warmly dressed. Their heads were the only part of the body where their heat could escape. You might not freeze without a good hat, but neither will you be comfortable.
      Keep your head and ears warm with a hat, either wool or waterproof, with a good warm lining. Actually on the winter water, you need two hats. Head covers are easily blown overboard, lost or soaked. At least one spare should always be stored close to hand.
     Warm shoes or boots with thick wool socks are also advisable. However, I do still see a few young individuals, hatless, wearing flip-flops or canvas deck shoes and sockless, well into December. They should clearly understand how irritating and unfair that is to older anglers like me, since we distinctly remember, longingly, being among their mindless and reckless number.
Fish Finder
     Feast or famine has typified the bite the last two weeks. Spanish mackerel are teeming here and not there, and when they show up, some are in the virtually unheard of 30-inch class. Cobia have been caught as far up as Thomas Point. Redfish have been blessing anglers all around. Rockfish, on the other hand, have been undersized.
     Trolling spoons of various sizes, bucktails and hoses are the preferred method for all species. Keep casting outfits in the ready for top-breaking surprises. Kastmasters in gold and silver along with Coltsniper-type metal jigs are the ticket there.
    White perch are schooling in water up to 20 feet. Crabs remain on the prowl, but for how long no one knows.