Winter Options

by Capt. Dave Stephens

So far this has been a crazy winter. We go from morning temps in the 40’s to the 60’s. Water temp plays a large roll in our fishery. The warmer the water, normally the better our fishing. As we roll into February hopefully our water temps will stop the roller coaster effect. Certain species of fish don’t mind the cooler water, so let’s go over a few.

For the most part sea trout are the most winter-friendly fish. Often, on the coolest days of winter the trout fishing can be some of the best of the year. The biggest issue is locating these guys. As water temps drop fish tend to search out deeper warmer water. So, when you locate fish, chances are you will find a large school. Shrimp will be your best option, just remember to fish slow. For you guys that like to throw artificial, soft plastics bounced on the bottom will get the job done.

Another winter fish that has been overlooked is our sheepshead. This fish shares the name of a not-so-desired fish that is found in northern freshwater. Well, the saltwater version is actually in the porgy family, a variety of fish that feeds on crustaceans, and delicious to eat. These well-known bait thieves are normally found around heavy structure, such as docks and hard bottom. Shrimp fished on the bottom will normally get the job done. If you can locate some fiddler crabs, you’re ensured a good day of sheepy fishing. These guys are well known bait thieves, so down size your hooks.

This time of year another fishing we do is Rat fishing. I know for the most part this is a new term for most of my readers. However, I’m sure a few know what I’m talking about. I am referring to catching small redfish. Normally in the winter months, the juvenile red fishery can be very good. We have always referred to these little guys as rat reds. Normally creeks with deep water tend to be the best locations to find these guys. Often ranging 15-22” in length, however the bite can be very good. You normally have to spend some time locating a school. Once found, I’ve caught as many as 50+ fish in one spot. Shrimp fished on the bottom is your best choice. I prefer bouncing a jig head to cover an area. Warmer weather isn’t too far away. Just because its winter, does not mean we have bad fishing, it just means you have to adjust your approach. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

If you would like to experience some of Southwest Florida’s finest fishing, give us a call, 941-916-5769 or send an email to [email protected]. All of our charters are private and customized to fit you and your party’s needs. Capt. Dave Stephens,