by Captain Terry Fisher

It is that time of year when the area ‘lights’ up with numerous visitors and home owners alike, returning from their summer habitats, to enjoy some of the best climate and pristine waters that North America has to offer. It is also a time to reflect on another year gone by, of wonderful experiences on and off the water, with clients returning to enjoy another Christmas and the New Year. Recalling seasonal changes and the inherent challenges that require constant adjustments to guarantee clients had a good time on the water, catching fish. This December should be no different than others, except for any new challenges, to make ‘Memories of a Lifetime,’ for clients and their families on the water.

December is a transitional month in regards to current strengths, water levels and water temperature, which for the most part, determine the species that myself and other guides will target. This is crucial to success on the water and is most important for the recreational angler to understand.

INSHORE, low water levels not only restrict access to numerous areas for most boats, it also changes the location of fish. When this occurs, I begin to fish areas around docks with current flow and deeper water, than those or spoil islands with little depth.

OFFSHORE, reef fish and migratory species are affected mostly by water temperature. Fish temporarily relocate to areas that sustain their basic needs for food, spawning, and survival. That is why in winter months, fish such as, mackerel, permit, tarpon, tuna and cobia migrate south, while in the summer months, they reverse their migratory pattern. If not migratory (grouper and snapper), they simply move into depths that meet their needs. Our job is to find them. Regardless of one’s preference to fish inshore or offshore, water temperature is the main determining factor as to where the fish will be found. As the baitfish change location, (due to water temperature) so will the target species. In my opinion, ‘baitfish will not follow game fish so they can be eaten’, as it is more likely than not that, ‘game fish follow baitfish, so they can eat them’!

The question becomes: which fish will provide the better opportunity for anglers throughout the month of December and where will they be? The answer depends on water temperature. As the temperature cools, offshore species (grouper, snapper, sheepshead) will likely move in to shallower waters, while many of the inshore species (redfish and seatrout) will move away from seasonal shallow haunts, to deeper waters that suit their required body temperatures. All but the pelagic species such as wahoo, sailfish, tuna and dolphin, will utilize both inshore and offshore estuaries sometime throughout their lives.

Inshore, this month I suggest that, as the cold fronts come in from the North and Northwest, concentrate on sheepshead and mangrove snapper around docks and old piles using shrimp and fiddler crabs on small hooks. Fish the canals and passes for snook. Big Jack Crevalle will be found in the rivers, especially at the mouth of feeder creeks.  Look to catch black drum, redfish, snook, sheepshead and mangrove snapper on incoming and outgoing tides around the structures at Redfish, Captiva and Boca Grand Passes. seatrout will hold on the grass flats. Redfish and seatrout will also hold in deep potholes on the flats providing opportunity for anglers with shallow running boats. Fish for Spanish mackerel and ladyfish where the birds are diving.

Offshore; I suggest that anglers with boats unable to go to reefs and structures far offshore, capitalize on the fact that the cooler water temperature should push the larger reef fish within ten miles of the coastal islands. This may provide opportunity to catch larger grouper and snapper that have recently been holding 40 to 60 miles out. Wind velocity will be the dominant factor as to whether or not one goes. Look for baitfish and diving bird activity on the surface. These are telltale signs of fish, such as mackerel feeding.

Fishing can be very productive in December as long as one concentrates on the species that provide the most opportunity ‘of the season’. This is Captain Terry Fisher wishing everyone Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a safe New Years Celebration and TIGHT LINES! Check out my website at for all services offered. Feel free to call me direct at 239-357-6829 or email to book a charter. I am also available as ‘Captain for Hire’ (by the hour) on your vessel (including Boat Club Member Vessels) to assist with safety, navigation, fishing techniques and secret locations that will make all your fishing adventures a success. More fishing reports with pictures of clients and catches may be found at under the fishing section.