Well, it’s that time of year when cold fronts bring days with wind and a little too nippy to get out on the water. For those days in between getting out, use this time to go over your fishing gear. Oil the reels, fix those eyelets, re-spool the lines and any thing else you’ve been putting off. Also, go over your boat, service the motor, fix that pump you’ve been meaning to, check the PFD’s, flares and fire extinguisher dates, check how old the battery is and make sure its always charged up. Doing this will save you time and money. In our area, Blue Pelican Marina or Hernando Beach Marina can be very helpful if you have questions.
The season for gag grouper closed on December 31st, but you can still catch and release them. Red grouper are open all year and are being caught in the deeper waters (20-inch minimum size). The wind, at times, can stir up the water, so the grouper bite can be hit or miss. By this I mean you can hit a spot and get nothing–move to another and catch fish. Try to search for clean water if you can. I recommend chumming a little and then dropping down–if nothing after a bit, change spots. You sometimes don’t have to move far to find them. We’ve been getting some 30-inch plus fish on trips. If fishing is slow, there are always plenty of white grunt to be caught on almost any structure. These are great fish to eat and easy to catch. There are still hundreds of stone crab traps out; so, keep an eye out not to run over them and end your day with a rope wrapped around your prop.
There has also been some kingfish being caught. This is a migrating fish, so the time is limited on these line screamers. Trolling spoons, plugs or free lining a live bait will hook these line screaming monsters.
Inshore fishing has been good. Look for redfish, trout and snook to move into shallow areas at low tide for the warmer water. You don’t have to get out early. Let the sun warm up and start with some top water plugs and, as the tide comes in, try some jerk baits on a ¼-ounce jig or a large shrimp under a strike indicator. Try to read the waters. Look for movement and wakes made by mullet and for small openings that could be small creek channels. Work any and all baits and lures slow this time of year. The fish are cold and not overly aggressive.
Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!