CONDITIONS: As 2018 arrives this week it will bring along a gentle turndown in morning average temperatures but with the late afternoon temperatures still holding unseasonably warm…….hovering around 80 degrees. That anomaly will keep the water temperatures at a ungainly 72-74 degrees. Get the feeling that another “too warm” winter is about to happen. That effects the various species that both vacate this area in winter as well as the cold water species that are triggered to move into our waters when they “naturally” chill down into the low 60’s / high 50’s. May be too early to make a full seasonal prediction just yet…….but we’ll keep an eye on it. Otherwise we’re in for a week with moderate winds but gusty afternoons late week……shouldn’t do much to mess up the water clarity. The tides will be dealing with a new moon cycle mid-week which sports a roaring morning incoming as a placid afternoon outgoing. Good pattern for working those hours on either side of the slack water particularly in the backwaters.
BACKWATER: Generally, it’s been a tough go fishing back inside. The pattern has been almost universal……..catch lots of fish but not many keepers. Back to the pattern of “unseasonably warm water”. Here in the shallow pattern of water and bottom features there is a piscatorial expectation that the water will chill down and draw cold water breeders inshore to link up and disperse fertilized roe into sheltered bottom spots.
If the “cold” doesn’t happen chances are they will make whoopie where it does occur i.e. deep. We count on those winter mainstays here to maintain our bragging rights of “year-round” action. The most sought after fish in the group is the sheepshead. When the cold water breeders would show they would consistently size out at 16-18”. Now you’ll empty your bait bucket in short order with endless 9-10”. Bottom line we need the cold snap. As we await the temperature change, there is sporadic
action in no particular pattern for black drum, speckled trout, whiting as well as hold over mangrove snapper working shrimp or live bait into current fed structure spots. The take is sporadic but a goodly number can reach keeper size which is a sweet spot as we await the cold water backwater action.
NEARSHORE: Sea conditions should be OK early week but some of the late week afternoons could get a little dicey with bouncy conditions. And chance out here there could be a more numerous population of the “cold water guys”…….sheepshead particularly. Worth an effort to try spots like the Walton Reef just a tad northwest of the Caxambas Pass exit for some bottom action for the scattered sheepshead as well as resident snapper and other bottom dwellers. Shrimp laden lindy rigs on a soft lift technique for the sheepshead and shrimp tipped weighted jigs under some light chum for the snapper et al.
OFFSHORE: Sea conditions should be parallel here with the Nearshore forecast with some late afternoon interruption with some gusty wind bursts. Red grouper is still a viable target but needs the cool deeper water…….so a offshore journey for these prized fish would probably start in at least 65’ of water and then work deeper on a westerly drift. Bait is just about always the live pinfish, if available, and if not a couple slabs of fresh cut ladyfish both to be worked tight to the hard bottom outcroppings. Work with heavy gauge tackle on stout rods/reels with the drag literally ratcheted shut. Once on the hook, the reds will give it all they’ve got to get back in one of the bottom liars and cut you off. Else where, have several reports of good to very good action on midrange reefs / wrecks for yellowtail snapper particularly on the incoming tide working tads of chum freelined into a serious chum slick…….keeping the bail open for 10-15 seconds and then set with a vengeance.