January is here and another year has begun. Most anglers opt to stay home during cold weather. They are missing out on some really good fishing though. You may not be able to get out every day this month but there will be days the weather can be fair enough to enjoy some time on the water.
The nearshore and other reefs are always good for having a successful day on the water but you
really must watch the weather and only go out when the seas are calm unless you have a large boat.
I run an Avenger 26 bay boat and while getting some spray on your face running in the ocean feels great in August, in the winter, it is not near as much fun. The winds have to either be calm or less than 10 knots for me to head to the reefs.
The perfect day would be light and variable winds forecast. Those days, the ocean is pretty much flat. Watch the forecast for approaching fronts so that you do not get caught offshore as a strong front is coming in because the conditions can change quickly.
Plan your trip for the morning but you do not have to head out at daybreak
Plan your trip for the morning but you do not have to head out at daybreak. We usually wait until 8-9 am and return just after lunch. The sun rises and warms up a bit so that it is not so freezing on the ride out. Wear layers, dress warmer than you think you will need and shed as the day wears on.
I have found that rain gear makes a great outer layer because it will knock off the winds as you ride. Once there, shed down and fish, then add the layers back on to return.
We catch black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, sharks, bull reds and other species on the nearshore reefs. The reefs further out will hold other fish such as groupers, amberjacks and snappers.
The reefs I fish are about 3 miles out in 30-40 ft of water. There are several off the Charleston area and they all hold pretty much the same species of fish.
Baits are the same as inshore fishing. Live shrimp, fiddlers, mud minnows, frozen shrimp, cut mullet and the same plastics and grubs as you would fish for trout and reds along the shore will also work, a lot depends on what you are trying to catch. BSB and the big reds will eat anything you put down.
Sheepshead and black drum generally will not take a minnow or cut fish. We set out multiple rods with different baits to get the variety. Most of the sea bass are not legal size but there are some out there that will measure out. You cannot retain redfish form the reefs even if they are slot fish.
If you are targeting and keeping BSB, you must use a circle hook. We fish the same rods and reels as inshore and my set up is a 7′ Teramar rod with a 3000 series reel with 15-20 lb braided line.
My rig is a Carolina rig with 1 oz weight tied to a swivel on 30 lb mono leader with Owner Mosquito 2/0 hook.
We also take some larger reels in the 4000-5000 series with 50 lb braid for the bull reds and sharks. Always make sure someone on land knows where you are headed and when you will return.
There are not as many fellow boaters out during this time of the year should something happen. Fully charged cell phone and VHF are a good idea to have.
Inshore, sight fishing for reds is really good this month due to water clarity but there are days when the waters are cold and the fish just will not eat. My target fish during the winter is sheepshead.
This time of the year can be some of the best fishing there is
This time of the year can be some of the best fishing there is if you can find bait, Fidders work best but I have also caught them on small live shrimp or pieces of fresh shrimp.
Oysters also make great baits but are a pain to use. I change over to a #6 trelbe hook and lay some oyster on there as best as I can and slowly lower it down.
Oysters make a mess of the boat and I usually wind up with some cuts on my hands but they do catch fish when it is really cold and slow. I still will catch some reds while fishing for sheeps as well as black drum.
Capt. Michael Waller
843 224 8197
You may also like to read Playing the Fish – By Jiggin’ Jerry