Falling Into Winter Fishing BY: Capt. George Hastick

December fishing is a month that is greatly affected by how much the climate and water temperatures change. If we have a mild December, when the water temperatures stay in the mid-to-high 60’s, you can expect the fish to be very active between fronts in the shallow waters, as they warm from the sun. This holds very true for the snook, especially.

The snook will position themselves near deeper water adjacent to a flat so that they can go there during the night to stay warm and survive. When the shallow water starts to warm up faster, due to the dark grass and being shallow, the snook will migrate there during the day to feed. They will also start going to the rivers for the warmth, and will stack up at the mouths of rivers and work their way further up the river as the days get colder. If we have a quicker colder season, this will happen sooner rather than later, and the power plant outflows will become a haven for snook and many other species of fish. Snook become lethargic below 60°, start to get into trouble around 55° and lose their equilibrium and start to die around 47°. These temperatures are approximate, depending on the speed in which the temperature drops. If we have consecutive harsh cold fronts without warmer days in between, and we get a rapid temperature drop, the snook cannot acclimate or move to warmer water, then they get into trouble. So, watch your water temps and that will dictate where to find the snook. If we are having a bad winter for the snook, it is better to leave them alone and target fish that acclimate better to the cold like redfish, trout, sheepshead and flounder.

Redfish and trout can be found on many of the same terrains. Look for them to be on shallow grass flats with plenty of sand holes and/or oysters that has warmed up from the sun to the canals and docks with dark bottom. Another area that warms up that fish will gravitate to is the metal corrugated sea walls that warm up from the sun. Fish the west sides of the canals first, since the sun will be on them first in the morning heating the water sooner. Live shrimp under a Four Horseman popping cork or a Saltwater Assassin 1/4-ounce jig head with a Lit’l P & V in the brown or green grass minnow color will both work great for covering areas to find fish. Drift or wade the area while fan casting to find the fish. Look for signs like birds or mullet, both of which will point you in the right direction for food source for the redfish and trout.


Depending on the temperatures, you will start to see more and more sheepshead, and larger ones, as it cools even more. Flounder will also start to show up in better quantities. Shrimp and fiddler crabs will work for both, but I like the shrimp for the flounder better and I have caught plenty of sheepshead on shrimp, but they will never pass up a fiddler crab (or mud crab). Look for sheepshead around the docks and on the flats, but the quantity of larger ones will be on the bridge pilings, reefs and rock piles out in the Bay.

Flounder can be found in a variety of places, but you must have a sandy bottom area. This can be inshore on the grass flats with nice sand holes, but it can also be out in the Bay or offshore around rock piles and reefs. The sand around the rocks or dumped rubble of the reefs will hold flounder once they move in. Inshore, use a jig head with a live shrimp or a Lit’l P & V to slow reel along the sandy bottom areas. Offshore, or in deeper water, use a larger jig head or weight just enough to keep you on the bottom. When you think you have a snag, slowly lift your rod tip. If it moves, or even has a slight pull back, set the hook–you’ve got a flounder!

Good Luck this Winter and Tight Lines.