The weather dictates where the best fishing will be this time of year, so success comes to those who pay attention to what the weather will be, as well as what the weather “was.” Florida, we only have January and February to contend with. December isn’t usually bad. March is usually the start of spring. This applies mostly to the first two months of the year.
If conditions are mild and consistent for a few days in a row, the fish may be roaming their normal locations. If conditions are harsh, the fish seek shelter just like people do. The creeks and rivers become the better places to go.
When the water temperature plummets, savvy anglers adjust to the conditions. Among the most critical adjustments is selecting the fishing location. Water on the open flats can get cold, so the canals, rivers, creeks or the outflows near power plants become better target locations. The rule of thumb: Find areas with warmer water and you will find game fish.
Also important is when to make your fishing trip. Most of the year, just after sunrise or before sunset are the ideal times. However, in the middle of winter, particularly after nights with low temperatures, fishing later in the day is more productive. The sun heats the water a few degrees by mid-morning and the fish become more active. Overall, the tides are more important than the position of the sun. Moving water will usually translate to excellent feeding activity.
The next part of the equation is getting fish to eat. Trout, snook and redfish all hit lures, but when the water temperature drops, they often won’t chase down a lure if it is moving at a steady to fast speed. Slow the retrieve or got natural. Shrimp is the most versatile bait. A lot of the inshore species feed on crabs and shrimp this time of year. A medium to large live shrimp with the fan of the tail pinched off works extremely well, but fresh dead shrimp kept iced down will also get devoured. Use a 1/0 hook and a single split shot. It becomes a simple matter of putting the bait where the fish are and patiently waiting for the offering to be eaten.
Knowledge of the varying species’ wintertime habits makes a difference as well. Redfish are not as sensitive to the cold as most people think. There are plenty of redfish in their normal warm weather locales. Choose a low tide and the rising tide that follows. A kayak is ideal for accessing these shallow water areas. Redfish collect in the pockets on the outside of the flats and move up on the flat with the rising water.
The same pockets of deeper water that hold the redfish on the lowest tides will hold large trout when the water reaches the middle part of the rising tide.
Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at 727-692-6345