Productive winter fishing patterns start now!
by Capt. Greg Stamper
December fishing can be productive! Winter has officially begun in Southwest Florida officially, and although we don’t see snow or even much lower than fifty, it can cool off from time to time. Fishing patterns have now moved full-swing into a winter pattern. Typically, water temperatures will stay somewhere in the 60’s. With that said, we’ll still get some awesome weather for parts of the month that makes everyone else north of us jealous. We’ve got all kinds of options both inshore and nearshore to target during this time. Depending on what mother nature dishes out, we’ll figure out a plan.
There’s a lot going on nearshore around here during this time. Seasonally we still have plenty of bait around for the fish to follow through the end of this month. With that said, when the big pods of threadfin herring move south of us, so will several of the species that eat them. Cobia, breeder redfish, kingfish, and bonita are a few of the targets still plentiful during this time. Trolling large deep divers around the schools of bait or over hard bottom is a sure-fire way to get action during this time of the year. Paying attention to flocks of birds diving up and down will also give anglers a bunch of help on locating schools of fish. When running from place to place or doing my favorite on calm days, which is tripletailing, you can come across all kinds of cool targets. Always have a bucktail jig or swimbait rigged up and ready to go, as you never know what you may stumble on.
The backcountry bite is now in a true winter pattern. Last month the snook showed up in and around the beaches and passes as they began their push back to the creeks and rivers. So, if it’s snook I’m looking for, that’s the place I’ll be this month. You can use artificial lures of many varieties for snook, I prefer something that’s plastic and rigged weedless. Redfish magics, money minnows, and DOA jerkbaits are a few of my favorites. As water temperatures cool off, and you begin throwing these types of rigs, start slowing down your presentation. Varying your retrieve can make a big difference as things cool off.
Redfishing will still be good, although typically I only find over-slot fish around the nearshore wrecks and reefs, and smaller fish 15”-27” in the back bays. Trout fishing should be excellent the entire month as they tend to like the cool off and can be found typically in 3-5 feet of water over grassy bottom. A standard popping cork and live shrimp or DOA will get it done. Sheepshead fishing becomes very good for us throughout the region during this time of the year as they begin to spawn. Sheepies can be found typically up to 7lbs in this area regularly for months to come. The sheepshead is a nipper of baits, so smaller hooks and smaller offerings of shrimp, fiddler crabs, and even barnacles will work fine.
Capt. Greg Stamper