Wow! Where to begin. The unseasonable warm weather we’ve had really confused the fish. Saltwater or fresh, near-shore or off, it seems like fish have been biting everywhere.
Inshore staples like trout, redfish and flounder have ventured from their winter haunts to “test the water” and found it to be great, except for one thing. There was no bait around. The schools of pinfish, finger mullet, ballyhoo and pilchards are long gone. They went south months ago.
The result has been lots of hungry fish looking around for just about anything edible. So along comes you with a bucket full of live shrimp, or maybe some fresh dead shrimp (never frozen), and a pocket full of lures just a smilin’ and a whistlin’ catching fish after fish because now you’re the only show in town. But don’t let that go to your head. It’s not because your the best fisherman afloat. No, it’s because you’ve got the only food around. So reign in your ego and enjoy this action while it lasts. There will be more cold weather before winter is over, and the reds, trout, flounder and everything else will go back to hunkering down in warm water pockets waiting for spring.
So what to do now? Well, for starters get that bucket of live shrimp, but don’t count on them as a guarantee you’ll catch fish. As an example, in the fishing report you’ll read about some anglers fishing out of Keaton Beach fishing with live shrimp who couldn’t even get a sniff from the trout. Not a bite. But when they switched to lures (Assassinâs 5-inch shads in 2 â 3 feet of water) they caught over 50 keeper trout in under two hours. Other anglers found casting and trolling Bite-A-Bait Fighters and Cordell Redfins to be effective.
Redfish on the other hand have been chowing down on both live shrimp and jigs tipped with fresh shrimp. The reds also have been taking DOA artificial shrimp. Redfish are very temperature tolerant, so maybe they will stick around after the water chills again. We can only hope.
Shrimp both live and fresh-dead also have been taking mangrove snapper, fish that traditionally spend the winter holed up in rivers and creeks. Also add sheepshead to the fish gobbling the shrimp.
And then of course there are flounder. Plenty have been taken by anglers dragging live mud minnows or live shrimp slowly along the bottom around pilings or mud flats. The flatties have been laying hidden up to their eyeballs just waiting for something tasty to come bouncing along.
Freshwater fishermen also have been reaping this Bounty O’ Warmth. Largemouth bass that normally wait out the cold winter have been cruising and consuming anything and everything edible, both real and fake. Bass have moved up into the shallows hoping to dine on small panfish and minnows. Anglers have been fooling them with Carolina-rigged artificial worms and soft lures like Zoom Flukes.
Freshwater anglers also have been experiencing crappie fishing…but in a good way. Crappie, also known as black crappie, speckled perch and specks, are a staple winter fish that actually like cold water. This action is normal.
So enjoy it while you can, and take it for what it is: A taste of spring fishing to come.
Saltwater Fishing Seminar
Captains Mike McNamara and Pat McGriff present the South Ga. Saltwater Fishing Seminar Series, $50.00* per person, includes 4 Hours of Instruction, Lunch, Captainâs Bags and Door Prizes Galore. 10 a.m. til 2 p.m. in Valdosta, March 9th, Holiday Inn Exit 16, 1805 W. Hill Avenue. Contact Capt. Mike at 850-510-7919 to register early, limited seating.
* no refunds unless seminars are cancelled or re-scheduled. Sponsors: Bass Assassin, TrikFish, STAR rods, MirrOlure, Cajun Thunder, Fish Bites, Flying Fisherman, Mikes Marine, American Angler, Woods âN Water Magazine, Lure Lok, and more to come onboard!
Hunter safety internet-completion course offered in Leon County in February
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering a free hunter safety internet-completion course in February. Hunter safety courses are designed to help students become safe, responsible and knowledgeable hunters, and learn about conservation. Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.
All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times. Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.
The course will be Feb. 22 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Feb. 23 (8 a.m. to noon) at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Bryant Building, 620 S. Meridian Street in Tallahassee.
Free Fishing Seminar
Captain Pat McGriff will be giving a free seminar Friday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Tallahassee. Topic: âTrout and Reds on Artificial Baitsâ Come by and learn a little about fishing!
Kathy Robinson at Robinson Bros. Guide Service (Robinson@FlaRedfish.com (850) 653-8896) in Apalachicola said: “Every year about this time I’m always pleasantly surprised by the warm weather in Apalachicola in February. This mild weather means we are catching fish here now. In shallow water redfish and trout are biting pretty consistently and Capt. Ken was at King Rock yesterday catching grouper, sea bass and hogfish.”
St. George Island
Captain Russ Knapp on St. George Island (email@example.com) said: “Biggest problem this week has the lack of anglers. The weather has been really nice and looks to stay that way this weekend. Fill up the gas tank and start looking around, the recent warm weather should have the fish moving around so bring your patience along with your fishing gear. Check the deep holes in the rivers for sheepshead. Try the flats near the river mouths in the afternoon for trout. The (Bob Sykes) Cut may or may not be holding bull reds. The surf has been off and on, bring fresh killed or live shrimp for most everywhere, and if the fish don’t bite enjoy a really nice day on the water.”
Capt. Dave Lear of Tallahassee said: âJust as the weather was giving us a hint of spring, another system is likely to cause havoc this weekend. Red maples are loaded with seed pods, tulip trees are blooming and camellias are bursting with colorful flowers. There is even some yellow pine pollen starting to show up. All are signs of spring and the warmer temperatures have spurred the transition. The drop on Saturday and Sunday will be a temporary setback, hopefully. There were plenty of good reports from last week, both in the tidal rivers and refuge backcountry. Redfish were the most cooperative, finding DOA shrimp lures, fresh shrimp on jig heads and even flies to their liking. Trout were cooperative as well and honed in on metal-flake shad patterns and Gulp! lures. The sheepshead were chowing down on live and fresh-dead shrimp.
“The St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers have turned on with trout in the deeper holes. The confluence and stretch from the fort to the St. Marks Yacht Club was a productive spot. Ladyfish were also in the mix. The colder water temperatures proved to be a stronger factor than the salinity content, although the brackish solution is returning to normal after the wet start of the year. Mangrove snapper can also be found lurking in the river holes. Water temperatures in the(St. Marks) refuge creeks ranged from the mid-50s on Saturday and rose to nearly 60 by Sunday. With this weekâs warming trend, it surely has increased before the approaching front. With Tuesdayâs new moon gradually getting brighter, expect a mid-morning negative low tide. The water will be even lower with the expected strong north winds, so plan on launching accordingly. The peak feeding opportunity will be from late afternoon until dark as the moon rises in combination with three feet of cresting water. Based on the early forecast, it might be prudent to stick to the rivers and pack the rain gear.”
Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) said: “Warmth! Oh, what a most welcome visitor over Big Bend waters. Much more enjoyable fishing conditions for the anglers than the prior week, though the skinny water temps aren’t quite warm enough to entice many trout out of the rivers and creeks as of yet. Staging in the East river for the flats run ought to begin in a couple of weeks if these semi-springtime conditions hold over into next week. Post new moon negative low tides coupled with the slight infusion of warmth added a tad of friskiness to the trout and red bite during the middle of the week. Hopefully with continued air temps in the upper 70s, the fish will be dining well beyond the past new moon. Midweek the trout were liking slow sinking or suspending lures worked over many of the rockier deep holes in the upper part of the St. Marks.” “Anglers bank fishing the first part of the week found success often soaking live shrimp or cut mullet at Tucker’s Point where the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers come together. Also, a couple of bank anglers found good slot trout liking the MirrOdine XXL they were working.
“Over to the east, freshwater pouring out of the swamps above the Aucilla River at Mandalay has slowed dramatically leading to higher salinity levels further up the river to the ramp at Mandalay. With the somewhat saltier warm waters of the Aucilla returning to near normal, the change brought some really fine trout up river. Some fat, quality trout in my personal ‘catch and release’ 23 to 26 inch range were feasting in the deep holes. In the rocks that dot Sulfur Bay, a number of trout began venturing out from the creeks and river in the afternoon hours. Working a Saltwater Assassin jerk shad or Cordell’s Redfin proved to be appealing to those trout hanging in ambush mode around the scattered rock piles. With the coming of more sunshine and warmth, the seasonal staging of the ‘mustard mouth monsters’ is going to start happening soon in Sulfur Bay.
“This three-day fishing stretch will see post new moon morning lows diminishing, though there will be slight negative low tides happening in the next to last hour of each morning. A little over three feet of water will be returning during the rising tides into the tail end of the afternoon fishing time. During the last couple of hours of each afternoon rising tide, there will be an accompanying major feeding period that should help stimulate the bite a tad. With the fish predominately in the rivers still hanging in those deeper holes, slow trolling has proven to be most productive on both the reds and trout. A number of anglers branched out to give slow trolling a midweek try during the tidal swings with rewards much to their liking. With water clarity much improved, the flash of a gold/orange bellied Bomber Long A or gold/black back Bite-a-Bait can be seen a long way. Also, both lures put out some strong vibrations when slow trolling around 4.5 to 4.7 mph. In nearly all the rockier holes, just about every species (trout, reds, sheepshead and mangroves) hanging around enjoying the warm waters continue to like any and all live shrimp offerings put down in the hole.”
Captain Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service (www.onemorecast.net, email@example.com (850) 584-9145) reported: “Bunch of trout are being caught when you go at the right time. Seems around the high tide is best. David and Michael Malone of Cedar Isle went Monday and Tuesday and caught their limit easily on Assassinâs 5-inch shads in 2 â 3 feet of water. David said they caught over 50 keeper trout Monday in under two hours once they got on the fish. He also said he fished with shrimp earlier in the tide and deeper and couldnât catch a fish. When he found them he threw shrimp and they wouldnât take it. Talked to a few other boats Tuesday who limited out on MirrOdines and other suspending baits fishing near the beach.”
Chaeli Norwood at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee (352-498-3008) sent photos of great flounder catches, along with limits of trout (some of them huge), redfish both legal and over-slot, and even a rare snook. Also in the mix were large catches of black sea bass and mullet. Apparently the warm weather triggered a feeding frenzy in the area.
Captain Cliff âJRâ Mundinger, Jr. of Lake Talquin Trophy Guide Service (firstname.lastname@example.org www.fishtallahassee.com said: “After a cold and unproductive week on Lake Jackson things should be back to normal this weekend. Daytime highs near 80 will move water temps back into the 60s. After 10 straight days of cooler weather 50 degree water temperatures pushed bass deeper and into thicker cover. Feeding was minimal and that made the bite very tough. That will change too. Bass are cold blooded so they respond quickly as sunny days warm the shallows. It seems the edges come to life with all the movement. Frogs, lizards and birds come out, eager to fill their bellies. Bass are like the birds. They follow the bait. With all the high water there are plenty of places to try. Crowder in particular is surrounded by shoreline vegetation that’s easy to get to in a boat, canoe or kayak. Soft plastic baits like worms and lizards fished on medium heavy line and light weights worked around that shallow cover should get you bit. For those with electronics try moving into the deeper water of Crowder where big bass roam in and out of the grass, waiting for the moon and conditions to get right to move shallow too so they can spawn. Use those electronics to find submerged grass beds. Fish those slowly with large plastic worms, jigs, jerk baits and rattle traps. Next WBLJ (Welcome Back Lake Jackson) tournament is February 16th. Sign ups start at 6 am, Sunset Landing.”
Otto Hough at Myhometownfishing.com (email@example.com) said: “Things continue to be good, if not great on Jackson. The water level is way up and the clarity in the northern half of the lake is primo. As the sunshine and warmth became abundant around midweek, the bass began to feed a little more aggressively than the prior cold week. Magnum Zoom Speed-Vibes in both Watermelon red and June Bug when worked across the sparse pads in about 4 to 6 feet of water have begun to elicit some really good strikes, producing fine bass. Water temps are still cool, so working those Zoom flukes down in the water column has been turning the trick snookering some very nice ‘catch and release’ bass. Without a doubt, fishing conditions all across Jackson are the best they been in many a year.”