Dang, it’s cold outside! And as crazy as it might seem, we’re coming on the time of year when you have an excellent opportunity to catch some really big fish…especially in the reservoirs and coastal areas of the southeast US.
As the water temps drop, many of the species that spend their time in the cooler, deeper depths come into shallower water to find food and get ready for the spring spawn. This is a great time for folks who have smaller boats too, because you can get to big fish with only a short run. While we can’t target grouper, snapper, and amberjack right now, there are still lots of piscatorial foes that will provide a fishy (and tasty) adventure.
One of my favorite places for wintertime fishing is Steinhatchee, FL.
Beginning in February, the speckled trout bite will fire up, with some true monsters ready to take a WhoopAss Jig, a MirroLure, or a Project-X Saucertail. You’ll find them on the flats and rock piles both north and south of the river. A few miles offshore, at the Steinhatchee Reef, the sheepshead bite will be hot around the full moon. Sheepshead are fun to catch, tenacious fighters, and super tasty on the table too. Give the good folks at SeaHag Marina a call to get the latest fishing info or to book a charter guide for a fun day on the water.
If you want to head to the eastern seaboard, take a fishing rod and a shovel. Why the shovel? Find a bridge abutment on the Port Royal Sound or the river, and as the tide is falling, take the shovel and scrape off the barnacles. Save a few (or have some fiddler crabs) for bait, and hang on. The barnacles serve to chum the water and turn on the bite. Use a small #1 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook and drop a small piece of cut bait, shrimp or fiddler crab near the piling and you’ll fill the cooler in no time.
If you prefer freshwater fishing, this is an ideal time to be fishing for stripers and spotted bass. The spots will be hanging on the deep water drop off’s and ledges. Use a drop shot rig with a Robo Worm and fish deep. When you find one, you’ll likely find more. Of course, the crappie fishing can be spectacular right now, and will even get better in February and March. Look or your favorite deep water brush piles, and deep water docks and pitch small plastics and minnows under a cork to fill the bucket with some fine fillets. With the colder water, stripers have a lot more room to play in. Back in the heat of the summer, the fish stayed deep to find oxygenated, cold water. Now they will be chasing bait in the backs of creeks in just a few feet. You’ll be pulling big baits like gizzard shad and trout, but don’t forget to tie on a bucktail jig and also have a rod with a small fluke handy to cast to schools that surface. Cloudy days mixed with a little drizzle can be a winning combination. Break out the Capt. Mack Perfect Planer Boards and set a 4 board spread. The boards that run close to the bank will catch spotted bass and the outside boards will catch those linesides.