by: Capt. Greg Stamper
There’s a lot of changes that begin happening both inshore and offshore starting now! We now begin seeing the change in both what we’ll find and where. Fish that we haven’t been seen much, start showing up all over Southwest Florida’s waterways. Temperatures begin to fluctuate as cold fronts begin touching Southwest Florida slowly dropping water temperatures. We’ll have some gorgeous days and some windy ones, so for those planning offshore trips paying attention to forecasts will be important.
Clients start flooding down from up North and the phone rings constantly. Anglers that haven’t booked ahead by now, will be stuck fishing the slower tide days as all the good tide days will be booked up for the best guides. Tides also begin to drop down lower than in the Summer and can help or hurt fishing based on the winds.
It’s time to start fishing early Winter patterns. This means watch your winds, pay attention to the tides, and be ready to improvise if need be. You’ll have options when fishing, for both action and perhaps trophies. Some of the fish we’ll be targeting this month include pompano, bluefish, bonita, tripletail, cobia, redfish, and black drum inshore. The Offshore guys will be focused on kingfish, cobia, red & gag groupers, and snappers when they can get out.
Redfishing will continue to be good. For over a month now fish have been caught from 18”-35”. The closures on species in our area have greatly helped. Redfish will be found in typical areas this time of the year and can be consistently caught during the lower tides around docks and the outsides of oyster bars, as well as up in the mangroves during the higher water. Baits will typically consist of pinfish, cut mullet, ladyfish, shrimp, and other minnows. Water clarity will become a factor when choosing your bait, as well as where you’ll want to fish. Artificial baits such as paddle tails, topwater, flies, and jerk baits will work well also. Should we encounter considerable cool offs of the water, working baits slower than usual will be a must.
Snook have now made their way off the wrecks, reefs, and beaches to the back bays and rivers. Snook are Floridians, so they don’t like cold weather. I’ll only target them when its warm or the water hasn’t changed much in temperature from now through March. Cold snaps will give snook lock jaw and even up in the rivers it will make things challenging at times. Snook do have to eat through, so being at the right place at the right time can be epic this time of the year.
A cool part of moving into Winter, no pun intended are the different types of fish that show up. Through-out the area bluefish, bonita, flounder, kingfish, cobia, and other pelagic species start showing up. Depending on how and where your fishing, anglers can run into all kinds of surprises. The offshore guys will have to plan their trips on less windy days, but there definitely going. There’s gag grouper that will now come into the shallow waters as well as snappers, black drum, AJ’s and kingfish to target.
Tight lines, Capt. Greg Stamper