Pick your days, dodge cold fronts for prosperous fishing
As we settle into January, you’ll see that fishing between the cold fronts can be prosperous. With an average water temp in the mid 60s for January, our water has the potential to really chill down during and shortly after extreme cold fronts.
To see water temps in the low to mid 50s is not uncommon here during a cold front, especially if it lingers and there’s little to no sunshine. These are the days you want to plan something else to do. It may be doing chores around the house, straightening out your fishing tackle or, if you’re on vacation, it might just be lunch and shopping, or a lazy day of watching TV and relaxing.
In any scenario, wait for the warming trend. In a day or two when the water temps rise to normal, the fish will bite again. Not to mention, it’s more enjoyable fishing when it’s warm and the sun is shining on you. Sometimes I think the fish feel the same way.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with some interesting results. By using both live shrimp and cut shiners, Girle’s clients are reeling up limits of mangrove snapper, as well as throw-back gag and red grouper. What makes this bite interesting is that between snapper and grouper bites, clients are hooking into over-slot redfish and an occasional snook. Yeah, that’s right — 30 feet of water and he’s catching reds and snook.
While both of these species are known to frequent reefs on occasion, it’s just a case of being there on the right days at the right time. Is the catch targetable? Not really, but it sure is fun to luck into a bite like that.
Moving inshore, Girle is hunting migratory fish in Sarasota Bay. Pompano, the primary target, as well as jacks, ladyfish, bluefish and mackerel, are being caught on shrimp-tipped jigs. Drifting is Girle’s method of locating the bite.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says between cold fronts, action remains consistent on Spanish mackerel, jacks and blue runners, although trying to fish during or just after the cold fronts is challenging. Pick your days and you’ll find success, he says. For baits, try small white crappie jigs or white buck-tail jigs. Macks and jacks go crazy for them.
Mangrove snapper, flounder and sheepshead are also worthy adversaries when pier fishing. Again, warmer weather conditions are in your best interest, although sometimes the sheepies like it better when it’s cold and the water is all stirred up. Try dropping live shrimp around the pilings under the pier to target these structure-oriented fish.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says sheepshead and black drum are busting on the scene, thanks to the cold fronts of this past week. As water temps drop, these fish are seeking refuge in residential canals, especially around rocks and docks. The slightly warmer water in the canals creates a safe haven for these fish, as well as an abundance of foraging on small crustaceans. Canal fishers using live shrimp for bait are finding decent numbers of both sheepies and drum. Along with those, canal fishing with live shrimp can produce snook, redfish, flounder and trout.
Along the beaches, pompano action remains steady. Goofy jigs or traditional jigs tipped with fresh shrimp or a sand flea will get your rod bent. While targeting pompano, expect to hook into jacks, blue runners, macks, ladyfish and bluefish, but carry some pliers. They come in handy when removing jigs from the blues and macks.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing redfish during the incoming tides around small mangrove islands. Using live shrimp or Berkley Gulp shrimp, Gross is producing a steady bite for his clients. Redfish in the slot are common, but expect to catch some shorties, too.
Next, Gross is dock fishing with live shrimp for bait. In these areas, Gross is catching sheepshead and flounder. Keeper-sizes of both species are being reeled up, although you have to weed through the smaller ones. Along with sheepies and flounder, expect to catch black drum and more redfish.
Finally, Gross is moving out to deeper grass flats in search of spotted seatrout. For these fish, Gross is drifting over the flat, instructing his clients to jig the potholes. By casting Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead into the sandy potholes, Gross’ clients are cooling down decent numbers of trout.
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