In cooler weather, changing tactics improves odds
Have you noticed all the mullet fishers in the area? They’re out there, and they are a sure sign that winter is around the corner.
Our first real cold front has sent the local mullet schools to flush out the passes en route to the Gulf of Mexico to “do their thing.” Spawn.
As fishers, we need to focus on cooler weather. With the days shortening up to the winter solstice Dec. 21, we have to take advantage of every opportunity.
As water temps drop, our tactics are changing. Very soon, white bait will be difficult to find. And even if you find it, the fish may not respond as they did on warmer days. The days of buying bait shrimp are nearing. Slower populations and a lot more patience will play a major role in achieving a successful day of fishing.
Locations of fish will be changing, too. Most backwater species will be starting their search for a warmer sanctuary. Canals, shallow bays, creeks and rivers are going to start showing more numbers of fish as winter settles in.
It’s time to start jigging soft plastics under docks. Flounder, reds and black drum will readily respond to a Berkley Gulp in cooler water temps.
Finally, different species are going to enter the area as the water cools. Pompano already are cruising the beaches and also can be found foraging over grass flats in the bay waters. If you’re fishing the bays, expect to pick up blues, macks, jacks and ladyfish, too.
Gags are entering Tampa Bay in good numbers, but season closes Dec. 4.
Just a reminder, snook season closed Dec. 1. The linesiders get a little break until March 1, although there’s no reason you can’t catch-and-release this species.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is producing good number of fish despite strong winds from the recent cold front. Both prior to and after the front, fishing conditions were tough at best. With a little persistence and a lot of know-how, Gross is leading his clients to keeper-size redfish, flounder and spotted seatrout.
For the reds, Gross is free-lining shiners on shallow flats adjacent to mangrove islands. Being able to locate edges on the lee side and out of the wind is aiding in locating fish. Redfish 16-22 inches were the average this past week.
Flounder and trout are being caught on both live shiners and soft plastics combined with a jighead. To find these fish, Gross is fishing deeper grass flats, which contain an abundance of sandy potholes. By casting baits or lures into the holes, Gross is producing keeper fish for his clients.
Capt. Warren Girle was fishing nearshore structure prior to the front with good results on a variety of species. Mangrove snapper are readily taking fresh-cut live shiners, which is resulting in limits of fish up to 20 inches. By chumming with fresh-cut live shiners, Girle is creating a slick, which in turn is attracting hungry snapper to the transom. With a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a small live bait hook buried in a chunk of shiner, snapper are aggressively taking the hook.
With all the commotion, other predators such as gag grouper and kingfish are attracted to the bait. Gags up to 27 inches are being caught sporadically on snapper baits. Skilled anglers are reeling these fish to the boat. As for the kings, the same applies. Kingfish in the 10-pound range can be expected.
In Sarasota Bay, Girle is drifting and jigging for migratory fish — pompano, bluefish, jacks and ladyfish. This is a fun method of fishing, if just for the variety of fish caught — and the pompano make great table fare, too. Small cannonball head jigs tipped with fresh-cut chunks of live shrimp are producing the bite.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is managing to find a bite despite strong winds and tough fishing conditions. During the strong east winds, prior to the front, Lowman was able to locate rallies of Spanish mackerel close to the shoreline, and mangrove snapper were in the mix while anchored over structure.
On the flats, Lowman is finding spotted seatrout and redfish in calm waters. For the trout, he’s jigging with Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead over deep grass flats. For the reds, Lowman is finding shallow flats around mangrove islands are producing a bite.
Lowman also is hooking up respectable-sized flounder around residential docks and structure. Again, he’s casting Berkley Gulp shiner with a jighead under docks to locate the tasty flat fish with the migratory eye. While targeting flounder, Lowman also is putting clients on snook and redfish.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria Island City Pier says while the bay has been rough and blown out, Spanish mackerel are being caught frequently by fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs. Macks up to 22 inches to the fork are being reeled up — three or four at a time by various anglers in some instances.
Mixed in with the macks are jacks, ladyfish and the occasional bluefish. Remember to arrive with an ample amount of lures. These fish are toothy and when the bite is good, you lose a few lures in the process.
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