St Augustine January Fishing Report
This time of year, the early bird doesn’t always get the worm. January is one of my favorite months to fish (especially for redfish) and being able to sleep in a little longer than usual can be nice. There’s no need to get on the water super early this month, as the fish will be chewing better after the sun gets up, and the flats start to warm up a bit. A mid-day low tide this time of year is a Northeast Florida angler’s dream come true. Redfish will be schooled up, and low tide is the easiest time to find them. Look for flats with dark colored bottoms, and creeks with an abundance of oyster bars. I’m hoping for a dry, cool December, as all the rain we’ve had this year has the water stained a dark reddish color from the tannins. If it does stay fairly dry, and we get some colder air and water temps, the water will start to clear up, giving us the opportunity to do some sight-fishing. As of report time, the water is on its way to be the clearest it’s been in years, as it’s been a chilly start to the winter. Being cold is no fun, but it makes for some awesome fishing! Even if it doesn’t get crystal clear, you can locate schools of redfish by looking for “muds” or small fleeing baitfish and shrimp. Don’t worry if you don’t own a super shallow water skiff, these fish are still accessible. Most decent sized creeks in the area have small “flats” on their banks on extreme winter low tides. Use the trolling motor to work slowly, as far back as possible in the creeks, while eyeing the banks for cruising reds.
One very important piece of equipment for this time of year, and sight-fishing in general, is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I prefer Costas with a copper or amber colored 580 lens. You’ll be surprised how much of difference a good lens can make. The quicker you can spot the fish, the easier it is to catch ’em. My favorite baits this month are small soft plastics like a Saltwater Assassin paddle tail, or a live shrimp, both paired with an 1/8-ounce jighead. The reason I prefer the 1/8 ounce or even a 1/16-ounce jig, is they make less splash when cast, and with the clearer water we should have right now. Our reds can get a little spooky. This is also a great time of year to bust out the long (fly) rod. Many a redfish, and even a few sheepshead will fall to small shrimp and crab pattern flies. Being able to see the fish before you cast, makes fly fishing that much more exciting and rewarding.
Slot-sized black drum should be a good bet this month in the deeper creek and ICW holes. Fresh dead shrimp or sometimes even better, a fiddler crab fished on the bottom, will do the trick. Black drum have smallish mouths and tend to be subtle biters, so make sure to wait until you feel the fish swimming away before setting the hook. Speaking of fiddler crabs and light biters, the sheepshead bite was great in December, and should continue to be good through the next few months. Target area bridges and pilings with fiddlers, oyster crabs, or small shrimp. If you’re feeling a little more sporty, look for sheepies on the flats feeding on oyster bars. It seems like sometimes every oyster bar you pass this time of year will have a few munching away, just waiting to be caught. Be sure to check out my daily fishing reports, online @ www.InshoreAdventures.net and have a safe and Happy New Year!
Capt. Tommy Derringer