Inshore with Capt. Rachel

by Capt. Rachel

Best predictor for weather this month is write down on strips of paper all the possible seasons and species and toss them in a hat.  As we enter into the month we may be dealing with freezing temperatures and soon face summertime conditions.  So, with this erratic temperature fluctuations how do you decide what and where to fish? Water temperature is key.  Often fish will want live shrimp in the cooler morning but come afternoon fish are popping white bait.  My preference is often start with picking up a few dozen live shrimp and then always be looking out for schools of whitebait I can cast-net.  If water temperature is in 50’s to low 60’s with a chilly forecast and very little sunshine, it is highly unlikely water temperature is going to spike in the afternoon.  In this case you can probably fish with shrimp all day.  You may be thinking I’m spending too much time discussing bait but it is such an important element to winter fishing.

Skip & Janet Warner from Pennsylvania, fished often in the winter
with Captain Rachel. May you Rest In Peace Skip.

Current and tide is another element, must have water to hold fish so look for deeper areas on super low tides.  I learn so much in the winter when tides are out, you get to see bottom topography when exposed.  Current helps fish to be more active when it’s cold as well as a natural moving food buffet.  Anytime there are extreme changes in weather fish can turn off, helps to target more cold tolerant species such as sheepshead, black drum, red drum, flounder, pompano and seatrout.  Fortunately, all of these fish eat live shrimp, usually water temperatures are too low for pinfish to hang around and steal your bait.  If you are getting your shrimp picked off then usually the tide is off so move to more fishing spots. If your fishing heavy bottom structure, docks or bridges it always helps to increase your leader to 30# minimum with smallest hook possible.  Circle hooks are designed to not snag inside the throat of a fish which helps with reducing the number of snags on structure.

Captain Rachel Cato has been a fishing guide out of Palmetto since 2005. She is
on the pro staff with Evinrude through Gulf Coast Marine in Port Charlotte and
specializes in catching many species year-round with live bait for up to 6 anglers. To
book your next fishing adventure call (941) 524-9664, go to, or
find her on Facebook at CaptainRachelCharters