Hernando County By: Capt Joel Gant

I don’t know which I dislike the most, the peak cold of winter or the peak heat of summer. At these times when I open the door to the outside, I close it and stay inside where its more comfortable. With this in mind, I believe fish are very similar and not much different from us. Most fish don’t overexert themselves–they try to conserve energy. This is partially why the bite can be very slow at these times, less activity and less food needed. So, now you ask, “Fishdaddy, when and how do we fish this?”. When: watch the weather. When we get a few days of a warming trend, the fish will start to get more active and start eating. As soon as another cold front comes through, they will hunker down (reverse this for summer). How: look for any kind of structure. Offshore; look for rocky or swiss cheese bottom. Inshore; look for shallow spots that may warm up as the day goes on. One good tip is, when the bite is slow, fish slower. Just try to think about where, when and how you will fish these times of year and you will be more productive.

Some of the species that I’ve caught on recent trips were white grunts, mangrove snapper, sea bass, grouper and even some redfish offshore. This time of year, when bottom fishing, we will usually pick up some pretty big redfish. I use the same rig as when fishing for grouper, along with cut bait, live bait or frozen baits. If you think grouper fight hard, be ready for a long hard fight with these bruisers.

That’s right, it’s that time of year to look for the convict fish aka “sheepshead.” With the colder waters, these fish can be found anywhere there is structure. Look around the rock piles, docks and channel markers. I use a #1 hook with a small weight and a piece of shrimp along with cut up shrimp for chum. The size limit is 12 inches and 8 per person to keep. The bait to use–shrimp, crabs or barnacles. You can also catch mangrove snapper while fishing for the sheeps. Just remember, they have to be 12 inches in Federal waters (10 in State).

I’m always looking for reports and pictures. You can email me or stop by my website and become a “FISHHEAD.” Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!