Don’t put up your fishing gear!
The Winter fishing season is upon us, Trout and redfish are commonly found in schools this time of year. Targeting deep holes or drop offs using adjustable floats can be extremely effective. Once you find some fish you can usually pick up several in the same area.
Not only is this a great time for trout and redfish, but the sheepshead have moved in. Vertical bottom bumping with an oyster or fiddler crab around trees, rocks, docks, and other structures is the most effective tactic for these pesky convicts.
I suggest a 16-18” 20-25 lbs. fluorocarbon leader tied either directly to your mainline with an FG knot or secured to the mainline using a barrel swivel. To finish the rig I highly recommend a Reel Habit Jigs 3/8-1/4 oz. sheepshead jig. This jig is a game changer and allows an angler to feel even the slightest bite from these delicious bait burglars.
Captain Joseph Stover
Lo-Joe Charter Co.
Fishing an Incoming Front
Cold fronts equal cold air, cold water, and BIG pressure changes. The experts claim that fish will feed more aggressively ahead of a cold fronts. Cold fronts generally mean storms in which the water is stirred up, and bait becomes harder to locate. Therefore fish tend to feed more ahead of a cold front because it is easier and fish are lazy. The pressure will drop as a cold front approaches. Each storm has a mini low pressure of its own so as the storm front approaches, the air pressure begins dropping. Fish can sense this pressure drop and instinctively know the water is about to get soupy. Keep an eye on the weather and plan you trip a day or two before the cold front. You should catch more fish during this time.
Warmer Winter Days
On sunny winter days, the shallow water flats will warm up faster than the deeper water in the channel. Bait fish will move into the warmer water, and so will the predatory fish. Mud flats and grass flats along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) will also tend to warm up faster. Look for days where high tide is around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. That gives plenty of time for the sun to warm the grass edge and mud, the fish will linger in these areas until the water cools or drops out to low tide. With the warmer water temperature the fish will get excited and albeit briefly forget that it is winter time and will become somewhat more aggressive. During this time you may be able to switch up your lure selection for good results. Sight fishing will also come into play here, you will be casting baits that match the local baitfish – shrimp, crabs, mud minnows etc. If the dolphins show up you might as well move to a new spot because all the fish will leave quickly.
Cold Cloudy Days
Most of the time, deeper water inshore will equal somewhat warmer water. Fish are lazy but they are not stupid. Fish know when to migrate to deeper channels and warmer water. Deep holes in creeks mouths, channel cuts, bends etc, basically anywhere the water is deeper – you will find fish congregated in groups. Because they are staying in the deeper and warmer water on a cold cloudy day. The same reason people go indoors on a cold day. The bottom line for cold cloudy days is for you to fish deeper and slower.
We know that fish are cold blooded, and as the water temperature drops so do their body temperature, therefore they slow down. Fish do not feed as frequently in the cold winter days because they don’t move very quickly. Feeding habits turn from aggressive pursuit to slow ambush. When extremely cold Speckled Sea trout will try to bury their belly in the muddy bottom seeking insulation from the colder water. When they do feed, it will be a slow motion process. As such, a slower bait presentation is required. When fishing an artificial lure, or a jig fished on or close to the bottom, fish slow and methodical.
Retrieval speed is a major factor when working the lure in cold water. A trout warming his belly in the bottom mud might think the bait he saw swim by was just a dream if it is moving too fast. Maybe it is just to much effort to chase a bigger bait. Consider this, during the winter months the inshore creeks and sounds are filled with more rats and dinks than gator trout or bull reds. The big gators and bulls are out past the surf zone to near shore reefs. Therefore downsizing your bait size to match the smaller fish may be wise. A smaller bait combined with a slower speed might be what takes your catch ratio to the creel limit.