For this report, like I have explained to my guest lately, I’m recommending the nearshore fishing. This has been the most stable and productive and my first choice if asked “what’s the hot bite?” Nearshore artificial reefs can produce some hot action in the winter if you know what you are looking for. My target species for the next few weeks will be Sheepshead. Also flounder, grouper and snapper if you’re willing to brave the seas further offshore. But Sheepshead can be a great choice for fun fishing as well as excellent table fare. My preferred method for these crafty bait thieves is a simple one, a few ft of 25-30 lb fluorocarbon and a ¼ oz jig head and you’re in business. Live shrimp is a must because frozen shrimp will fall off the hook as soon as it hits the water. I’ll pinch off the fin part of the tail and hook it so that the point of the hook is hidden in the mass of shrimp legs. Drop it down on those nearshore reefs and wait till you feel that tap tap, then stick him! Have plenty of shrimp because they are very good at getting your shrimp off the hook and leaving you fishing on credit. Remember live shrimp is a must when you’re fishing sheepshead. I buy fresh shrimp every trip out.
Mangrove or grey Snapper have very keen eyesight so if you are after these tasty adversaries you’ll need to downsize not only hook size but your line as well. Which, sadly to say, leaves a very small margin for error. It’s a balance between getting bit or getting broke. Typically I will run a larger 8 foot spinning outfit and spooled with 15-20 lb braid. Light wire 2 or 3/0 circle hook and a minimum 3 ft of 20-25 lb fluorocarbon leader.
Inshore you’re gonna check pot holes and along the bars for reds. Redfish are hitting scented soft plastics as well as chunked lady fish. Look for them in shallower water with dark muddy bottom because will seek out a warmer spots to soak up some heat as the sun warms the darker bottom. You’ll find them in the potholes at low tide. Cover the bases and pick up some shrimp. Trout are still very abundant in the same “pot hole” area as well as sheepshead. You’re more likely to find fish around shorelines and sandbars with deep drop offs. They like these spots as it provides an easy transition from deeper water for finding food into shallower water for warming up. I would recommend deeper grass flats on these cooler months for trout. Start with live shrimp on a light wire 4/0 circle hook under a Bomber saltwater grade paradise popper with 20 lb fluorocarbon. You will want to fish mid to lower part of the water column. Too deep and you’ll just be feeding the pinfish and if it’s too far off the bottom they’ll probably not expend the energy to go looking for it. Remember the water temperature is hovering in the low to mid 70’s and warms in the latter part of the day. Most of our fish (like our residents) like it a bit warmer before they really get aggressive, so slow down on those retrieves. The good news is that most of the fish are easily accessible on most of the sandbars, island drop offs and oyster bars. Look for the bait schools and birds diving along them always a good indication of how the bite should be. Don’t get too close to the bars and drops or you’ll pass over the fish. Somewhere around 4 ft of water is what we’re fishing. Trout, jacks, ladyfish and pompano are all mixed in there together, sometimes ya just gotta weed thru them to find the ones you’re looking for.
Look for flounder around the nearshore reefs, bridges, creek mouths and passes when the current is flowing. I’ll use several rigs when looking for flounder but a few easy rigs for covering ground and inexpensive ones. Try bouncing butter bean bucktail jigs and ¼ to ½ oz jig heads with live shrimp, simple but effective.
If you’re ready to get out and see how Kelly and I do it, give us a call. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram or our web page.
Tight lines & y’all stay safe!!
Capt Jesse McDowall