Name: Matt C
Subject: Inshore reds and trout around spartina/oysters
Message: Hey guys, I had a question about changing tactics for inshore reds and trout. I'm located in North Florida around Jacksonville and fish primarily in the intercostal waterway. As you know this consists of fishing around oyster beds, spartina grass and creek mouths. At low tide I usually site cast to tailing reds or fish pushing up oyster banks when they're actively feeding and easy to find. Sometimes on outgoing I also find draining creeks and fish the outgoing flow with good results. At high tide I like to pole flooded grass plains for tailing fish or throw topwater over the submerged oysters. I almost exclusively fish artificials and have had a lot of success utilizing the techniques mentioned above.
However, now that the water is chilly and fronts are coming through frequently, the bite has gone cold as well. Spots where fish were actively feeding are empty or sparse. Busting at the surface or tailing fish are a rarity and it is making for some tough sessions. I fish from an SUP and absolutely love it. But, this forces me to pick a general area and stick to it because of the lack of range. I can't change locations and have to pick my fishing spots carefully. Recently with these climate changes I have been struggling to have productive outings. Im having trouble locating the fish and when I do they're often sluggish and easy to spook.
Should I switch to live bait? Should I be in deeper water? Should I target different structure? These questions and more race through my mind when I'm on the water. If you could impart some of your wisdom upon me I would greatly appreciate it. I just want to keep my rod bent!
Thanks for everything! -Matt
First off, fishing from an SUP is totally cool. I would actually like to do that up there some day. I think that the SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) is a trend that is here to stay. I enjoy it very much.
I have fished your area a few times, but I am no expert on those waters. I am not going to be able to give you exact spots where the fish go in the winter, but I think I might be able to help you out a bit.
Often the water temperature in shallow bays and flats will drop almost as quickly as the air temperature. Fish will seek areas of deeper, more consistent temperatures and will feed there as well. I don't know, exactly, where they go, but I do know that they leave the shallow flats. Look on areal photos, Google Earth, and bathometric charts to find deep holes and areas where fish might congregate. Trout really like to huddle close together during cold snaps and when you find the school, you can catch more in that situation than at any other time of the year.
If you are finding fish that are resistant to biting lures then the first thing I suggest doing is going to live bait and a much slower retrieve. A live shrimp on a light leader cast directly in front of the fish and left sitting on the bottom can be deadly. You can use live shrimp or live crabs. Crabs (for redfish) will be better in areas where there are tons of pinfish or other bait stealers. Additionally, in situations where the fish (redfish specifically) are super dormant, fresh cut bait allowed to sit on the bottom will produce fish.
You might also use some "searching" lures to cover alot of water quickly. Classic lures like a gold Johnson Spoon fished just off the bottom is highly effective at getting bites. Use long casts and cover the entire area in front and behind you. I definitely prefer braided line for this situation and have really liked the Vicious braid. You can very quickly cover a huge amount of water and if you get a bite, you may have found the school. Be ready to move closer to the area you get the bite and switch to live bait if you do not get more bites on the spoon.
Another very productive classic is a live shrimp under a popping cork. This can really produce fish when the bite is not super aggressive. If you are getting your bait stolen or catching really small snappers or something, switch to a Gulp shrimp under the cork.
Here is one of the first Saltwater Experience shows we ever filmed. We went to Venice, LA to fish with our good friend Anthony Randazzo at Paradise Plus Lodge right after Hurricane Katrina. He took us to the Mississippi River and found a massive school of trout during cold weather. We used our electronics to find these fish and could actually see our baits going into the school of fish.
If nothing else, you can see how my hair has turned gray since this was shot. I think Anthony may explain the tendency of the trout to huddle together better than I can and you can see the results of finding a school like this in action.
I hope this helps! Send us some pictures.
Do you fish from an SUP or have trouble finding fish in the winter? Maybe you are a winter fishing guru...Leave a comment below and start a conversation.
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