When the weather cools down, so should the angler. Slow down everything you do, from your approach to the fish to the retrieval of your bait. Game fish are hunkered down, lethargic feeders from the cold water, almost hibernating, but spooky because the water is crystal clear during the winter.
Below are a couple fish I like to target during winter and how to target them. *Sea Trout– Open season year round, with a limit of 5 trout per person per day from 15 inches and under 20 inches and 1 of your 5 trout is allowed to be 20 inches or larger, measured from the tip of the bottom lip, to the tip of the pinched tail, down the lateral line of the fish. Great table fare and plentiful.
FISHING SOLUTIONS: During warm weather season trout like it fast. They’ll hit a free lined greenback or shrimp sweeping past a swift flowing eddy or hit a MirroLure or jig and plastic bait on a fast paced retrieve, but in the cold waters of winter they like it slow. Put a live shrimp tipped on a jig head (red, white, or yellow) under a popping bobber (Cajun Thunder is a great brand). Make sure the length of line from the bobber to the jig head is long enough to get close to the bottom, but short enough to keep your bait above the weeds, oysters, rocks or whatever structures below. Pop the bobber once every minute or two. Most of the time in the clear water, you can pop the bobber too much and scare off the fish. Use smaller pound test mono between the bobber and the jig head (6lb to 15lb test mono). For some reason when the shrimp dies on the hook, your chance of a bite greatly reduces so when your shrimp dies after a few casts change her out for a fresh lively one.
*Cobia– Open season year round, with a limit of 1 cobia per person per day, measured from the tip of the bottom lip, to the tip of the fork of the tail, down the lateral line. Great table fare and semi-plentiful.
FISHING SOLUTIONS: In summer months it’s good to free line a pinfish, greenback, finger mullet, or thread fin. You are usually using thicker leader because your targeting cobia around structure like towers, cans, buoys, and bridges, but in winter months you’ll find cobia in open water and deeper flats under manta rays, manatees, and sea turtles. Use lighter mono leader (20lb to 30lb test mono). Cobia don’t have sharp gill plates or teeth to deal with and no structure to deal with. In winter cobia are more picky. Heavy leader in clear water may turn them off . Use a cut or whole fresh dead blue crab, or a live jumbo shrimp under a bobber, or a cut piece of ladyfish. If you can’t get them to bite any of those offerings, switch to a 10 inch black or green artificial eel worked very slowly in front of them. I don’t know what the eel is supposed to represent, because I don’t see many live eels in our near shore waters, but for some reason cobia love plastic eels. 95% of the cobia we catch are site casted. Once you find the cobia, many times you only get one shot and maybe two, but it’s extremely important to make your first cast count. Lead the cobia like a quarterback leads a receiver and put it well in front of its face.
Other winter fish to target are sheepshead, snapper, pompano, shark, resident tarpon, snook, and flounder. My new year’s fishing resolution is to take more time approaching the fish or the fishing spot. Whether I’m poling, wading the boat, or viewing fish from the tower, I’m going to take a deep breath and think about the approach and pay more attention to the winds and currents on the approach, especially in the crystal clear waters of wintertime. Stay warm, be safe, and happy new year!!