Water Temps are the Key By: Capt. George Hastick

In January, the water temps can vary greatly from year to year and from week to week with cold fronts pushing through our area multiple times throughout the Winter. The water temperatures can vary from 55 to 70 degrees with 61 to 67 degrees being the average. Many times, this will cause fish to drop into deeper holes, dark canals and outflows of the power plants to stay warm, since they are cold blooded. If it really cools off, then your power plant outflows become a gold mine of a variety of species.

In between cold fronts, if we have a few days that are warm this will heat up the shallow flats and cause fish like snook, redfish and trout to come out of the deeper waters and feed on the flats. The action can be great, since the feed bags will be on. I typically like to have scaled sardines, cut bait, shrimp and artificial baits during this time of year to cover all the bases.

Stalking redfish this time of year can be fun and challenging, since the water will be shallow and clear, which can make them very spooky, so a stealthy approach is a must. Try not to hit them on the head with your cast so as not to scare them off. Instead, cast ahead of the direction they are going to let them find your bait. Scent can come in really handy, so pinching off the tail of your shrimp or adding Pro-Cure to your Lil P&V brown glass minnow will help attract them. If they are tailing, use no weight or as little as possible not to scare them and then slowly reel your bait closer to them and let the scent work its magic.

Speckled trout can be found in the same area, but also in deeper pockets on the flats when its cooler out. A 1/8 to 1/4-ounce jig head with any of the Lil P&V soft plastics with glitter in them to catch the sunlight will work. Also, the MirrOdine in the pilchard or pinfish skin series will work great, and don’t be afraid to add some Pro-cure super gel to the MirrOdine in the inshore saltwater scent. Again, just like the glitter in the soft plastics, the MirrOdine can really catch the sunlight and make a flash that can be seen from a great distance away, which adds to how many fish can see your offering. The great thing about the lures in wintertime is that you can fan cast and cover a lot of territory.

As the water temperatures continue to cool, the sheepshead should start to move in more, including some of the larger ones. Shrimp pieces are good bait for sheepshead, but fiddler crabs can really do the job when the sheepshead get finicky. Look for the sheepshead in a variety of places including docks, bride pilings, rock piles and the flats. One of the secret baits is the tube worms (good luck finding them), but muscles and oysters also work. I still lean towards the fiddler crabs, but an alternative is tree crabs. You can find them in the mangroves and on the sea walls. Use your bait net to catch them.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Now, go use those new rods.

Capt. George Hastick