How To Catch Inshore Fish In The Winter

  Winter cold fronts may require a slower approach and possibly live bait to get the bite

Winter cold fronts may require a slower approach and possibly live bait to get the bite

Question:

    I live in Miami and fish the north Biscyane Bay Area. I only have about a year of experience in saltwater inshore fishing but years of experience in rivers back home in Georgia. I'm having trouble locating fish since the cold fronts started pushing through south Florida. I am mainly fishing the flats ( for trout and snapper) and trolling different lures ( for anything that will bite) in deeper areas with hardly any luck. If you could spare a few minutes of your time any advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure you here it all the time but I love the show and when I'm fishing and can't watch it I have it on the DVR.

Thanks,
Jacky R


Answer:

Hey Jacky,

Thanks for the email and for watching the show.  Winter fishing anywhere can be frustrating because the fish go somewhere other than where you have been finding them all summer.  Sometimes it can seem like a biological desert in places that were thriving all summer or even just a few days earlier. 

A cold front often makes the fish leave the shallow water which cools almost as quickly as the air and go to deeper water that retains its temperature through a cold front or at least does not plummet as quickly.  The good news is that the fish are still around, just in different places.

I wish I could give you some magic spots that always held fish, but just like you and all other anglers, I struggle when the weather goes cold as well.  We are dealing with fish in a giant ocean and eventhough it seems like we understand them very well some days, they are still fish and we are humans.  They do what fish do under different weather conditions and most times, that is different from what we had predicted.  This being said, winter fishing can still be alot of fun but you might need to alter your strategy a bit. 

One of the things that I enjoy so much about the sport of fishing and particularly fishing in the Florida Keys is that we have so many species of fish to pursue.  Often when it gets too cold for bonefish or permit on the flats, it might set up a situation that is perfect for something else.  Winter conditions bring in bait and predators from the deeper water to the edges of the flats sometimes.  You may be able to have a great day with Spanish, Cero and King Mackerel in the winter in places that do not hold anything in the summer.  Barracudas like the cooler temperatures and will come onto the flats in greater numbers in the winter than in the summer.  Big schools of Jack Crevalle will chase schools of ballyhoo or pilchards and offer opportunities to catch them as well.  Snook will gather at river mouths and other deep spots in large numbers and they will bite in cold temperatures. 

  "Barracudas like the cooler temperatures and will come onto the flats in greater numbers in the winter than in the summer"

"Barracudas like the cooler temperatures and will come onto the flats in greater numbers in the winter than in the summer"

Some cold fronts are not severe enough to send the fish to deep water, but mild front can do a great job of nailing their mouths shut.  There is a great possibility that the fish are still exactly where you are fishing but they are just not biting.  One of the first things I will do to alter my strategy on colder winter days is to make sure that I am using the best quality live bait possible.  We throw the net in the morning to catch pilchards or buy big live shrimp at the Marina.  Maybe try slowing down and using live bait rather than throwing lures.  A live shrimp under a popping cork may do the trick to get reluctant fish to bite.  You can also live chum with pilchards to get the fish more excited and possibly start feeding.

My advice to you would be to keep an open mind, listen to both inshore and offshore reports and try to find opportunities.  Explore the nearshore patch reefs, the deep channels and even the reef when the weather allows you to get out there.  When the weather warms again, go back to what was working before the front.

In order to get you a really good answer, I also sent your email to Rich Tudor.  Here is what he had to say:


Response from Rich

Jacky,

Thank you for your watching our show. I do not fish up in Miami or north Key Largo much. If I was going to fish up that way and wanted steady action I would start in the mangrove channels south of Elliot Key. You can anchor in the channel and chum. Use cut chunks of ballyhoo on the bottom with 20 # fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 hook. Keep your weight 3 feet from your bait. The other spots I would fish are the patch reefs off north Key Largo. In 10 to 30 feet of water you should find lots of great reefs that hold snapper and grouper. Get as many big live shrimp as you can and drop the to the bottom. You should get a bite fast if you are in a good spot!
Make sure to check all the regulations for open seasons and bag limits of fish. Also make sure you know what areas you can fish in. There are some areas that are closed for fishing up that way.
Good luck!

Thank you,

Rich Tudor


I like Rich's advice alot.  His is similar to mine in that he first began by suggesting that you try something different when the temperature makes the fishing tough.  Sometimes, the permit, bonefish, redfish, snook and tarpon are simply not around or extremely difficult to find.  If this is the case, maybe try something else and have a fun day of keeping the rod bent with other species.

I hope this helps!  Send us some pictures of the big winter fish you catch.

All the best,

Tom Rowland

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