With the weather being so fickle, neither the fish nor the fisherman knows where to be. The flats around St. George and Dog Island may hold trout one day and not the next. Usually, this time of year they move into the river systems and congregate in the warmer water. When I say warmer waters, it can be 3 or 4 degrees that makes a difference. A good way to locate schooling trout up the rivers is to slow troll a diving plug. When you get a hit or catch a fish, mark the spot and return to drop a jig tipped with shrimp or a strip of mullet. More than likely you have found the congregation of fish and it can be a big payoff. When the wind is up, the rivers are a comfortable place to fish and you don’t have to run far. Try the oxbows where there is a sharp bend like it is on the New River in Carrabelle. In some of these places the depth can be over 20 feet and have a spring welling up from the bottom. Remember that when the water is cold the fish are slower to take the bait so a slow smooth hook set will work better than a hard strike. This is where a true circle hook is much better than a “J” hook. Circle hooks set as the fish clamps down on the bait and begins to pull; this causes the point to embed at the corner of the mouth. If you pull too hard, the point just slips through. This is where finesse works better than power.
Redfish don’t always care if the water is in the 60 degree range or even colder. The large bull reds, which are actually females, love to sit in ambush positions at East Pass and over at Bob Sikes Cut. We have caught 30 pound plus reds on the beach of Dog Island when it was so cold that the crew was decked out in snow suits. Schools of offshore reds will cluster around the inside of sand bars along the beaches. A good way to find them is to look for schools of mullet flipping in the surf. Both fish will be running together, moving up and down the beach. Try throwing a jig tipped with shrimp and don’t get discouraged if one spot isn’t holding reds since they tend to move all along the beach.
Offshore, the game is black sea bass. The hump head males will be there in large numbers and they are on the feed! Double hook rigs work very well. The easy way to rig a double hook rig is to tie a 4 ounce sinker at the terminal end of the leader with 2 hooks spaced about 12 inches apart. Use a double surgeon’s knot to secure the hooks. Remember to use circle hooks when fishing with bait. These are great fish to eat so catch em up!
Good luck out there and be safe.
CAPT. CHESTER REESE
Natural World Charters