The unseasonably warm weather in December has done a number of great things for fishing in the area. Mild water temps combined with a prevailing east wind has really given us some of the best water quality that we have had all year. More so than not, visibility has been 20 ft. or better. Because of these (dare I say) perfect conditions, the fishing has really been going off!
The near shore bite has really been about as exciting as it can be. Because of the optimal water conditions, bait has been coming in close to the beaches. Thread fins, pilchards, mullet and even ballyhoo have been clustered along the Naples beaches for some time, which has in turn drawn species such as tarpon, kingfish, shark and bonito very close to the shoreline, making for some epic fishing!
As we head into the month of January, I expect that mother nature will, as she does every January, be resolute in her transition from the extended, almost summer like autumn, to that of a more predictable “winter” pattern that us Floridians have become accustomed (10 days of warmth and blue bird skies followed by the usual 3 to 4 days of cool northerly blows)… and so, with the definitive change to cooler weather patterns we can expect an equally distinct transition in fish behavior.
In January, two of my favorite target species, Snook and Redfish, can be found making their way ever further back into the estuary and nearer to areas that have a more consistent water temp such as creeks and rivers, you should also be able to find them in areas with darker bottom such as mottled oyster or areas littered with decaying organic material. They are drawn to these areas because of the proclivity of the suns rays to warming them up quicker during the first few hours of daylight. When targeting these particular backwater species in “the winter”, there really is no need to hit the boat ramp too early, as it takes a few hours for them to become active. You will find that waiting it out until the sun has had a chance to heat things up a bit will not only be good for your sanity, but will result in a more productive end result.
If you are one of those anglers who prefer to head out at the crack of dawn to fish the cool crisp mornings, then you are in luck. While the Snook and Redfish head into their winter haunts, the Trout, Pompano Snapper, Sheepshead and Black Drum move in, becoming the predominant species in the more easily accessible bays. This is the time of year when shrimp and jigs can be your best friend.
There are a number of options when rigging up to fish this time of year. When targeting Trout and Snapper, rig the shrimp on either a small circle hook or jig head under a popping cork. (side note: trout will also willingly hit a hard bait or soft plastic) Pompano are more inclined to chew on a small white or pink jig head that is tipped with either a shrimp or sand flea, which is then fished on the bottom in areas with moderate current. The best method for Sheepshead and Drum, in my opinion, is the split shot rig. All of these methods have been proven producers on my boat.
To learn these and other methods including bait & lure selection or fly and spin casting tricks and tips, give me a shout and book a charter today.