CONDITIONS: Another placid week……stays warm temperature wise but with another few days of bothersome wind. All along, we’ve said that a dead ringer duplication of 2017 of “too warm” will damage the long awaited true winter fishing back here…..especially here. Water temperatures now scratching 69 – 70 degrees just “ain’t“ going to do it. Sheepshead, black drum and sizable spec trout all move to their ritual spawn when the water holds ten degrees cooler in late January and early February. By early to mid March….there is no more winter here……just spring weather fronts and heated conditions. Great for the bikers and the snow bird walkers but anathema for the angler. Let’s hope the pattern in early February takes a turn in the anglers direction. On the other weather fronts the tides are moving to a full moon with a supercharged morning incoming with many days in excess of a 3.5’ range. A little more moderate PM outgoing that should be workable For the most part the day’s air temperatures start in the mid 60’s and finish up tickling the mid 70’s.
BACKWATER: Think the fishing back here will be hit or miss this week……Fortunate enough to hit a spot where bait is assembled and the tide speed is reasonable; then you should do well. The killer will be that roaring early morning incoming tide. Would highly recommend that you plan your action for the last hour of the incoming and the first hour and a half of the more reasonable late morning ebb tide…..and work spots that show vestiges of surface bait action. You could run into most anything in those time frames with the best chances on spawner sheepshead, black drum and even a spec trout or two. Now, the water should be relatively clean early week and there are whiting and silver trout active just off the beaches up around Sand Dollar Island and along the outside edges of Hideaway Beach. They will be there on either tide and jumping on a small shrimp tipped jig head wiggled across the bottom. And then in the deeper backwaters ……Johnson Bay……Upper Addison bay in late morning cresting tides working the shallower edges could turn up a juvenile snook or even a concealed redfish feeding tight to the mangrove overhangs. Best attractant here would be a whole lively shrimp freelined tight to the overhangs in the waning tidal flow.
NEARSHORE: Many times, think fish think like us. If you were a fish seeking cooler water, you’d probably make a beeline to deeper cooler water ala the nearshore reefs. Couple of quasi secretive reports indicate that is exactly what is happening. Best venue close in for this fishing espionage work would be the Walton Reef located just 1-2 miles NNW of the Caxambas Pass exit. This is a BIG reef with lots of depth and structure. (TIP….do not toss that anchor until you see flat bottom on the fisfinder) Some mornings you’ll see surface action (mackerel, runners and jacks) right up top…..get some chum in the water and work those flashy top water jigs rapidly in the surface water. Soon thereafter, switch over to the lindy, shrimp bit laden rig and get it tight to the bottom on a soft lift technique for sheepshead that have fled the backwaters for these cooler climes. As you work the bottom here, still have a good chance for some nice lane and mangrove snapper here as you work the lukewarm waters with tipped jigs under chum.
OFFSHORE: Good conditions offshore for most of the week……you’ll want to avoid those couple of days post weekend where we have some dandy winds that will be kicking up. But pick the right day; load up the fuel tanks and head west. Have glowing reports of grouper action up to forty miles out on 70+ water depths working live pinfish / cut ladyfish tight to the bottom. The water is chilled down out this far and sparkly clean. Anchor, even on just a rough bottom out here would do the trick on both the red and some gag grouper action. If you pinpoint a wreck out this deep, it will surely harbor yellowtail snapper which are a delight to catch and even better on the table. A starting chum slick will wake the “flags” up and then feeding them bits of the chum itself freelined into the chum slick will get ‘em going. Tip: Leave bail open…..they will take but not swallow bait for the first 5-10 seconds…then slam the bail shut and hang on with an moderate drag set. Fun ! and even better on the table.