by Capt. Brent Bensmiller
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you guys are taking advantage of the cooler weather and getting some time on the water. I’m sure you’re eager to test out those new fishing reels you received over the holidays, so get out there and see what’s biting! As you head out to your favorite fishing spot, stop at your local bait shop and pick up a few dozen live shrimp. Many gamefish will be keyed in on big shrimp during cooler months. Rig em’ up free-lined if you are fishing moderate current or with a small weight if the tide is ripping. Another very effective way to rig shrimp is by tying a popping cork towards the top of the leader. The rattling cork attracts more fish as you pop it every so often.
You can count on sheepshead biting throughout the inlets and along mangrove tree lines. There will be bigger sheepshead inshore as spawning season nears in February. Some of these convict fish will be pushing 20″ and can put up a nice fight on light tackle. They are more than willing to eat live shrimp but will also strike jigs or flies tipped with a piece of shrimp. Redfish and snook will be in the mix too, but may be tougher to catch. If you want a shot at landing one during the winter, you will need a big bait to grab their attention. Since the water will be in 60’s these fish will be very lethargic, putting in minimal effort to hunt. Weighted baits on the bottom will be best, keeping them in the same place. Finger mullet or huge shrimp will be perfect baits for snook and reds and will also work well as cut baits. You can continue to catch these game fish in the passes and throughout the bay in the winter months.
Kayaking the winter low tides will allow you to get into those tight spots that bigger boats can’t squeeze into. Take advantage of the low tide bite in your yak and look for tailing fish feeding in the bay. You should be able to kayak most spots in the bay even on a negative tide. You will see things you haven’t seen before and learn more about the area and great spots to fish during these low tides, so I recommend giving it a shot. Good luck out there and tight lines!