Fall is coming to an end and winter will soon be upon us, and with that a few amazing things begin to happen within the Lagoon Systems. For one, the temperature begins to cool, making it a lot more fun to be out on the water. Secondly, strong north winds bring colder temperatures and with that the fish begin to school back up, especially the redfish. Lastly, the water quality begins to greatly improve making for some of the best sight fishing the state of Florida has to offer. On other foggy windless mornings, amazing fishing can be had as well as incredible top water bites. It always amazing to see who and what is around you as the fog begins to lift.
Both reds and trout work their way into the shallower areas looking to warm up as quickly as possible. I like to focus on areas with a lot of mottled bottom, grass and sand spots intermixed. These areas tend to warm up the quickest and also hold a lot of forage for these hungry fish. If the water is clear enough you can literally pole from one sand spot to the next picking off fish in each hole. I also like to focus on areas where there is a lot of grass. With the grass loss being what it is, it is a good idea to focus on these areas because they tend to hold a lot prey, from small fry to crab and shrimp.
Winter redfish fishing is some of the best there is to be found. The large bull reds are coming off their spawn and heading back onto the flats. The redfish begin to school up in large numbers making them a little easier to find. We also get great help from the birds this time of year. Look for flocks of gulls hovering and diving into the water. They are usually on top of schools of tailing redfish, a dead give-a-way, and a great opportunity to put fish in the boat. When I see this I typically like to throw something that will land quietly on the water. An artificial shrimp such as a DOA shrimp, Berkley Gulp, or my new favorite a savage gear TPE 3D manic shrimp will easily do the trick.
Just make sure to make a soft cast. Cast ahead of the school and let them come to your bait before working it, or cast past the school and slowly bring the lure into the school. I prefer going past as you can always shorten a cast by reeling it in, but you can’t make a cast longer. Also short cast can sometimes push the school in a different direction.
Now the best thing to use in my opinion is a live shrimp. I use a small 1/0 or 2/0 Owner Mutu light circle or K hook. I like to hook the shrimp from the tail, as well as biting off the tail fins. This makes the shrimp more aerodynamic and gives off a lot of scent. Now if fish are not readily visible, but you there are signs of fish being present. I like to soak cut bait either ladyfish or mullet chunks in sand spots or on the edges of shoal where grass is present. I know this is not everyone’s favorite thing to do, and yes it can be boring.
You may also a lot of catfish, but it is a proven way to catch fish and sometimes almost all you can do on incredibly windy days. Now, if your guide is unwilling to do this, then you may need to look for another guide next time you go. A good guide will do what it takes to put fish in the boat, and if that means posting up and waiting for the fish to come then you will need some patience!!! Don’t get me wrong, I will always prefer to throw artificial, but when times get tough you better have some other options, especially with novice anglers. If there are a lot of boats working an area, I really like to sit still and let the other push fish towards us. Now for those who like to cast all day or throw a fly this is also a great time of year. I like to cast paddle tail jigs, such as a DOA cal jig and rig them with either a jig head or an owner weighted twist lock hook. Silver and gold spoons are always a go to bait especially on windy days. They are easy to fish, easy to cast, and fall prey to almost every species of fish.
Trout fish can also be very good this time of year and can be found from the edges of bars to the shallowest of flats. Also focus your on deeper troughs because they may be stacked up in there. They are super aggressive and incredibly beautiful, but they are somewhat delicate so please handle with care. My favorite way to catch trout in on top water, and I have been getting great results using the Rapala Skitter Walk baits as well as Heddon spooks. Once the morning top water bite is over and the sun more overhead, I like to switch to soft plastic jerk baits and paddle tail jigs. You can cover a lot of ground with these type lure and also slowly focus on one area. These versatile baits are a must have in any fisherman’s tackle box.
Schools of black drum have started showing up on the flats and in the canals. These hard pulling fish can make for an amazing day on the water. Live shrimp, chunks of crab, and Berkley Gulp are a great bait for catching these fish. Just be patient on the take, because unlike redfish they are not as hard hitting and explosive. I like throwing DOA crab and shrimp lures, as well as the Savage gear TPE 3D crabs and manic shrimp. Fly fisherman should throw small crab and shrimp patterns and make very slow tiny strips. If the school is not pressured you can fish a large school all day and catch well over 2 dozen. Problem is when the word gets out that they are around, company is soon to follow and it can get a bit frustrating when you have multiple boats trying to plunder the same fish you are.
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