Winter fishing in our area requires a good deal of patience, as our water temps are usually in the 50’s. The inshore species that everyone loves to target for the table (trout, redfish, and flounder) are all in the lull of winter, and the bites are often well-earned and slow. The flounders that are caught this time of the year are the smaller ones as the larger females have all migrated to their offshore haunts. Trout and reds can still be caught at the jetties in the deeper holes under popping corks with live shrimp as a go-to bait of choice. Trout can also be caught by fishing on bottom in the backwater areas with a moving current. If you are fishing through the slack tide during tide changes for trout, this would be a great time to have a sandwich. If artificial bait is your preference, trout can be caught on small jig rigs. I like the Gulp swimming mullet (white) on a light jig head or Vudu shrimp. The Vudu shrimp have a uniquely shaped lead head that is easier to work through the oyster beds. Sheepshead is also a favorite this time of the year at the jetties as well as the backwaters during the winter months. They can be targeted effectively with fiddlers or bits of shrimp with the shell on during the slack tide phases. Their bites are so slight, that a ripping current can disguise their bite as they leave your hook only bearing an empty shell. Sheepshead can be caught in surprisingly skinny water on the higher slack tides around docks and blow-downs.
Soon we will head out early in the morning wrapped up for warmth to chase down our favorite inshore species. (If you head out to our sounds, put an extra layer on for the early morning air that has been cooled by the ocean!). As we head into the spring, our water temps can rise as much as 10 degrees, thus putting the bites in a better range vs. winter. Reds and trout will get more active, and will follow the bait into the ICW in our area as well as the creeks. Reds avoid water temps at 52 degrees and colder, with their ideal water temps being 70-90. Trout avoid water temps at 48 degrees and colder, with their ideal water temps being 68-78. Now, the ideal temps serve as a guide only with variances. As of Feb 1st, our area waters averaged 53.6 degrees and now the average is 61.3. In fishing, one degrees can make a difference, but we have definitely trended toward warmer temps and better fishing. At 65 deg, the fish that had been located mainly at the end of the jetties will move up the jetties and into the inlets and sounds, followed by the oyster mounds in the ICW and creeks. Fishing should pick up with the warmer temps. This means fishing with faster moving artificials and fishing in more areas instead of just secluded deep holes. Mullet are also starting to move into our more southern areas which means our inshore species should begin to feed soon.
One caution to our area anglers, we have many dredge operations occurring throughout our area in SE GA and NE FL. Caution should be exercised around these areas as the depths that you are accustomed to may have changes drastically. These changes can pose a navigational hazard. Dredging can also have an effect on the water clarity and flow, so clean water can be harder to find around these areas as well. Trout especially are sensitive to clean water, so the cloudy water can have an affect on the bite. If our water temps continue to warm up at the current rate, our area anglers can get ready for an early spring bite and action.
Good luck and tight lines!
Captain Diane Pollock of No Limits Charters LLC 904-966-1922