We don’t have to quit fishing because the weather turns cold!
We all know that cold weather can turn off fish and fishermen. In northern shores, cold weather sends many fishermen to storing their gear until next spring. You don’t have to do it because we can still catch fish in cold weather. Fish tend to migrate to warmer areas just like the fishermen known as “snowbirds”. They are calling for a mild winter, but for most anglers and surf fishermen cold is just plain cold. Same goes for the fish and they are schooled up tight, and if you are in the wrong spot at the wrong time you are going to miss them totally. So, here are 5 great tips for catching more fish during cold winter months.
Get Out and Fish Ahead of an Incoming Cold Front
Cold fronts equal cold air, cold water, and BIG pressure changes. The experts claim that fish will feed more aggressively ahead of a cold front. Why? Cold fronts generally mean storms in which the water is stirred up, and bait becomes harder to locate. Therefore fish tend to feed more ahead of a cold front because it is easier and fish are lazy. The pressure will drop as a cold front approaches. Each storm has a mini low pressure of its own so as the storm front approaches, the air pressure begins dropping. Fish can sense this pressure drop and instinctively know the water is about to get soupy. Keep an eye on the weather and plan you trip a day or two before the cold front. You should catch more fish during this time.
Look for Shallow Saltwater Flats on Warmer Winter Days
On sunny winter days, the shallow water flats will warm up faster than the deeper water in the channel. Bait fish will move into the warmer water, and so will the predatory fish. Mud flats and grass flats along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) will also tend to warm up faster. Look for days where high tide is around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. That gives plenty of time for the sun to warm the grass edge and mud, the fish will linger in these areas until the water cools or drops out to low tide.
With the warmer water temperature the fish will get excited and albeit briefly forget that it is winter time and will become somewhat more aggressive. During this time you may be able to switch up your lure selection for good results. Sight fishing will also come into play here, you will be casting baits that match the local baitfish – shrimp, crabs, mud minnows etc. If the dolphins show up you might as well move to a new spot because all the fish will leave quickly.
Look for Deeper Water Inshore on Cold Cloudy Days
Most of the time, deeper water inshore will equal somewhat warmer water. Fish are lazy but they are not stupid. Fish know when to migrate to deeper channels and warmer water. Deep holes in creeks mouths, channel cuts, bends etc, basically anywhere the water is deeper – you will find fish congregated in groups. Because they are staying in the deeper and warmer water on a cold cloudy day. The same reason people go indoors on a cold day. The bottom line for cold cloudy days is for you to fish deeper and slower.
Slow Down Your Hot Rod Reel Burning
We know that fish are cold blooded, and as the water temperature drops so do their body temperature, therefore they slow down. Fish do not feed as frequently in the cold winter days because they don’t move very quickly. Feeding habits turn from aggressive pursuit to slow ambush. When extremely cold Speckled Sea trout will try to bury their belly in the muddy bottom seeking insulation from the colder water. When they do feed, it will be a slow motion process. As such, a slower bait presentation is required. When fishing an artificial lure, or a jig fished on or close to the bottom, fish slow and methodical.
Bait Selection Matters During Winter Fishing
Retrieval speed is a major factor when working the lure in cold water. A trout warming his belly in the bottom mud might think the bait he saw swim by was just a dream if it is moving too fast. Maybe it is just to much effort to chase a big fat Egret Baits Vudu Mullet. Consider this, during the winter months the inshore creeks and sounds are filled with more rats and dinks than gator trout or bull reds. The big gators and bulls are out past the surf zone to near shore reefs. Therefore downsizing your bait size to match the smaller fish may be wise. A smaller bait combined with a slower speed might be what takes your catch ratio to the creel limit.
Wait for Nice Days and Fish the Nearshore Reefs
Fishermen fish inshore for speckled trout, flounder, or redfish more than anything else during winter months. However, many anglers often prefer the jetty for schools of speckled trout or target big bull red drum in surf zone behind the breakers. Local knowledge is a big advantage in the winter because location is everything. Gunning and running from place to place in the frigid cold air is painful if you are not catching fish. Fishermen typically have shorter days to accomplish the same catch therefore catching is the keyword here.
Near shore reef anglers will mostly be jigging lures like the classic Spro, and probably including some they got for the holiday season. Bouncing a Spro jig tipped with Gulp squid at the reef this time of the year can be very exciting providing the fish are playing along. On the nicer winter days you will find me on the water employing these same tips to put fish in the cooler. One thing is for sure, if you don’t go fishing then surely you won’t be bothered by the issue of putting fish into the boat.
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