Unusual weather conditions continue to prevail. Here we are in the middle of December with a water temperature hovering between 73 and 75. Unprecedented to say the least. Fish are puzzled as to where they belong……..more on that when we get into the fishing sectors following. This week we will have a rough front come early weekend that will rough up the waters with lots of wind and some downward movement of air temperatures. Then it eases off mid-week until the rough weather resurges over Christmas. The tidal strength eases off thankfully with the afternoon incoming a bit stronger than the AM mild outgoing. Water clarity will take a beating from the windy conditions with the outgoing more churned up than the incoming.
The weather conditions have the fishing in the backwaters confused. Various species are unsettled with the unusual water warmth. Right now the bigger sheepshead should be moving inshore as water temps dip……..but they are holding offshore. Seatrout should be super active but, although they show an uptick in activity, they are nowhere near normal winter activity levels. Best action is on the warm water favorite mangrove snapper. They are feeding best as the fast tides ease on either side of slack along most mangrove edges taking a small shrimp worked slowly across the bottom. Pompano are also a primary target fish now and showing in both Capri and Hurricane Passes on either end of clear water tides. Work the pomps on a drift with small tipped jigs bounced along the bottom. There is lots of sheepshead activity on backwater spots but almost all are juvenile size that just help empty your bait bucket. Best to wait till almost slack water and work tight to bottom structure……if there is a rogue keeper that’s where and when you’ll find them.
The repeated surges of wind strength this week may make the Gulf sea conditions a bit uncomfortable this week. The inshore reefs in depths of 25-35′ are temporary havens for sheepshead avoiding the backwater heat. Good chance spots like the Five Mile Reef complex and the Walton Reef off Caxambas Pass will provide a good sheepshead bite with a fair to good chance at some take homes. Work the fish with just a tad of shrimp or cut crab on a soft lift technique tight to the bottom structure. On those same spots you may also see mangrove snapper still on their feed as well as some flounder and a triggerfish or two. All of those species as delights on the dinner table and well worth the effort. Those major reef spots holding lots of white bait can also be havens for the southbound migrating pelagics. You’ll want to keep a blue runner or a jack crevelle in the water on wire leader, especially if you’re using chum. You might light into a cobia or a kingfish hungry and heading south._
Again, conditions permitting. Best action possibility here remains targeting red grouper in state waters defined as from 0-9 miles offshore (Harvest for red grouper closed in federal waters now). Red grouper action has been good to excellent and sustained at that level most of this year. You’ll need some live pinfish for bait and major tackle to work the hard bottom areas due west of Capri Pass on a drift. Get the pinfish tight to the bottom outcroppings on stout tackle with drag down tight. With pelagic migration south underway also presents an opportunity to tackle some big cobia / kingfish feeding on deeper wrecks. There you will need larger live bait (blue runners / jacks ) worked under chum.