Get ready this month, for some of the most exciting fishing our area has to offer. Its sight-fishing time! After last year’s hurricane and subsequent rainfall, the water has been murkier than normal, making sight-fishing conditions tough. But now, after the cold snap in early January, water temps have been in the low 50s, which usually means clear water and great sight-fishing conditions. The reds will be schooling up big time in the clear, cold water. Not only will the redfish be schooled up, but the black drum, sheepshead, and trout will be as well.
When trying to locate the schooled-up reds, start on the lower tide stages (a negative low tide is even better) as it tends to get the reds more grouped up. Flats and creeks with an abundance of oyster bars and dark mud, are great places to look. Something else I’ve noticed over the years, is that redfish tend to hang out in areas where the small mullet are this time of year. There’s not a ton of baitfish around right now, but if you find them, you’ll most likely find the reds as well. Another area to look for schooled-up reds is in the back of some of the bigger creeks off the ICW. Just about all the creeks from Palm Valley to Matanzas Inlet, will hold a good amount of reds this time of year. Slowly make your way as far back as possible, closely eyeing around the exposed oyster bars on the low tide, and you’re more than likely going to run into some big reds.
I almost exclusively toss artificial baits at the reds this time of year. My go-to setup is a paddle tail by Slayer Inc. rigged on an 1/8oz Slayer Inc. jighead. It seems to be the right size and is small enough to not spook the fish when cast near them. It’s nice to toss the paddle tails in a lighter color this time of year, because you are able to clearly see where your lure is in the water in relation to the fish, which makes sight-fishing that much easier.
If targeting drum or trout, fish the deeper holes in the creeks and the ICW. There will be a lot of nice slot-sized drum around, but the trout have been a little on the smaller side. The drum will readily eat fresh dead shrimp or crab on the bottom while the trout will like some, more lively. My go-to setups for trout right now are a free-lined live shrimp or a paddle tail like mentioned above. Whether you’re fishing for drum or trout, if you find one, you’re probably in the right spot to catch some more, as they too tend to school in big numbers this month.
The sheepshead bite has been good the past few months and should continue to go strong. The old faithful fiddler crab on a fish finder rig will account for quite a few catches, but one less popular, but effective way to catch the real monster “heads”, is to use a halved or quartered blue crab, especially at our inlet rocks. …Tight Lines!