Everyone asked for a cold winter in Florida and it looks like we got it.
Last month air temperatures dropped well into the teens some days and then got back up to the mid 60’s in between. That sudden exchange of high/low temps affects our fishery significantly. Subtropical fish like tarpon and snook make their way offshore, down south or as far up the nearest rivers or creeks in search of warmer water. Some don’t make it.
Parts of Florida suffered a small fish kill, and amongst the snook and tarpon, redfish were also found dead. As sad as it sounds it’s actually only Mother Nature’s way of cleaning up the environment. One fish that seems to withstand extreme rigid temps are speckled trout.
The seatrout bite has been phenomenal here in Tampa Bay since the fronts started rolling in. Fish of all sizes have kept my clients busy the last month. We have been catching many trout in the grass flats using soft plastics like my new favorite, the Smackbait series by Unfair Lures. I have been setting all of my clients up with either lure in the series, (mostly the Smakshad) ,with an eighth of an ounce PvR Turboset jig tied on with 15-20 pound fluorocarbon leader and a light 10 pound seven and a half foot rod.
As far as lure colors, I find that the darker colors work best in low to no light and the lighter colors on the brighter days work best. Motor oil, melon, coffee and baby bass catch most fish on the darker days and live glow white, glow, hot orange and chartreuse on the lighter days.
Locating these fish can be easy some days but can also require a bit of searching. When fishing the flats, I look for ones that are covered by grass patches mixed with shell or sandy bottom; some call this salt and pepper bottom. I’ll typically drift these flats while fan casting the area around me until I locate the bite.
Once I get a bite, I will anchor up and continue to cast. Once the bite stops I just pull up anchor and repeat hoping to find another hole. This technique will catch you a lot of fish but mostly under slot fish to just keepers. For the bigger ones, start in shallow water (one to two feet) and look for sight casting opportunities or movement before casting. These fish are usually very aggressive because of their natural territorial instincts and will most likely eat if the presentation is right.
Trout won’t be the only fish you will be catching this time of year using these techniques. Flounder, ladyfish, redfish, pompano and even cobia will come out to play from time to time as well!
Whatever happens, don’t give up! Fishing can always be a little tough for some in the cold days but if you keep at it, you will be successful.