by Capt. Joe Garcia
With February approaching cold weather, winds and low tides are common this time of year, affecting even our deepest southern boundaries. Our fish will adapt to this and act accordingly, so to be successful we to must adapt. The manner in which we approach our fishing can change day by day but generally during the colder months a slower approach and smaller bait presentations will yield the best results. Generally, reds and trout will be the most resistant to cold and probably the most abundant in our area.
Best bet for tackle, I am a huge fan of soft baits because of the ability to rig them weedless and I use them year-round. The patterns that have proven best are whites and the Houdini, both have worked extremely well in our area. My wintertime approach will be with the 4” paddle tail or shad styles on either a 1/8 oz. or unweighted jig or 2/0 soft bait hook. Keep in mind now that juvenile tarpon and snook have been abundant in these areas, so leaders of no less than 30lb or 40lb not uncommon on my rods. With this set up, throwing these baits aggressively into the mangroves, over oyster beds or flats will cause fewer hang ups.
This time of year, you’ll notice fewer bait fish in cooler waters but you may see small pinfish and shrimp as they tickle the surface. It is best to work the edges of this “nervous water”. Your goal is to have that bait in front of the fish as long as possible, in the least aggressive manner and let him decide when it’s time to strike.
In the backcountry it is crucial to look for tide flow whether from channels, bays or creeks and something I’ve always said is “we fish the tides not the clock”. Be conscious that tides in the back will generally run one or two hours behind the outer areas, so adjust your runs to be in the best position. The water in these creeks and muddy dark bottom shallow bays will also warm up sooner, helping increase the fish’s metabolism and turn them on. Historically, we’ve been taught that the top or bottom of the tides can yield the best results, but further in the backcountry mid tide may actually work best since it will have the greatest potential for moving the most water.
Weather permitting, the beaches and open grass flats of the outer islands can also be top spots this time of year also. When fishing the shorelines throwing a 1/8 oz jig head with a white paddle tail will be solid for those snook cruising the shallows. The deeper water on the grass flats will hold trout and some stud reds. A good choice of tackle to use over the grass flats are the white soft baits or a Gulp Shrimp under a popping cork rig. Work them aggressively, with pops every couple of seconds and work them all the way back to the boat, never give up on a cast!
Captain Joe Garcia
Southern Glades Charters