January is one of our trickiest weather months to figure out. It could be 80 degrees with light winds, or it could be 50 degrees with 15-20 knot north winds! You just never know, and having to work around the damages of red tide only makes it more challenging. Learning where fish spend time this month will make your days on the water both more plentiful and rewarding. If water temps are down in the upper 50’s to low 60’s, which is common conditions this time of year and the winds are high, use the residential canals and intercoastal waterways to your advantage. They give you protection from the cold winds and plenty of structure to hold lots of fish.
Concrete seawalls radiate heat into the water from the sun and can be great places to look. Speckled trout, sheepshead, jacks, snook and ladyfish will all find refuge in these man-made estuaries. Fishing live shrimp, either free-lined or under a cork, will work great in these conditions–as will your favorite plastic jigs. Shrimp digest faster than pilchards or pinfish, so gamefish tend to feed better on them in cooler conditions.
Find those canals with really dark mud bottoms, as they will heat up fastest from the sun. Even a slight uptick in water temp could make a difference in your bite. If we get lucky enough to have another very mild January with water temps staying closer to 70 degrees, the bait will remain thick. That means kingfish will be on hard bottom areas and nearshore wrecks. Snook, redfish and trout will remain on the flats near river and creel mouths–feeding with a vengeance.
Artificial baits will definitely work well as mild water temps keep fish aggressive and feeding. These mild conditions also make it much easier to get offshore for black fin tuna, amber jack plus red and gag grouper. All of which move in to shallower water in these cooler months. January on Florida’s west coast can be unpredictable when it comes to the weather. But, you can still find success as long as you know where to find them and fish accordingly.