Winter Migration Patterns

Nice mutton snapper caught aboard Bouncer’s Dusky 33.
Nice mutton snapper caught aboard Bouncer’s Dusky 33.

So, the big debate. Do big fish like cooler water or dislike it?

I do know that as our water temperatures fall, our big fish catching improves.

The obvious situation is the southward migration of sailfish and mahi mahi. These fish are moving south as waters north of here drop below 75 degrees. If our offshore waters drop below 75 degrees, our mahi will disappear. The really tough part of this temperature induced migration is that if our weather goes back into the 80’s in January, as it has the last couple of years, then the sailfish move back north. This can spell a bad sailfish season until March when the sailfish come south again to spawn in the southern regions of the Gulf Stream.

Bouncer's Tip of the Month

This same cold weather inspired migration is duplicated by the mature tarpon. They move south with the early cold fronts and move back north if the weather is warm in January and February.

On the reefs the migration is deep to shallow. In the mid summer we look for bigger mutton snappers in 180 to 240 feet of water. By December we target good sized mutton snappers as shallow as 10 to 15 feet of water. Anchor or slow troll these shallow reefs using live ballyhoo for bait.

Gag groupers move as far as into the bay with cooler weather and black grouper move up onto reefs as shallow as 10 to 15 feet to enjoy the cooler water and the ballyhoo that move south to escape colder waters up north.

Near shore we will find those tarpon sharing their waters with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish and blacktip sharks escaping that cold water up north.

Get out there in your jacket and woolen hat and enjoy another positive effect of winter weather.

Bouncer’s Dusky 33
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