December 4, 2015 – December 11, 2015
As we start this period we are in the midst of a stalled front delivering rain through the weekend which will be followed by some significant wind. Not good fishing conditions. But that all settles down post weekend. Those winds, again, will be easterly and kind to the fishing conditions. You may see the waters kicked up a bit in the backwater bays and flats especially on the outgoing tides but the incoming should be clean and green. With the lunar phase heading to a new moon at the end of the period you’ll find a very mild morning outgoing tide followed by a moderately robust PM incoming. But neither side is really racing. The early week frontal passage will add another slight dip to the water temps and you should see the first 60 degree water this week.
As noted last week, the key factor now controlling species availability is the changing water temperature. As the temperature continues to fall it provides a trigger for many of the species available here to either depart for warmer water or head our way. You should see the snook bite slowing as the linesiders like 70 degrees and above. The bigger snook will slow their feed first and the juveniles some weeks after. Redfish should act the opposite and turn on as the water cools down, especially now in their spawning period. Should see good to great action in the Bay’s i.e. Rookery, Johnson, and Addison working the shallow edges late in the tides with shrimp freelined or set out under a popper. You’ll also notice that it’s much harder to find those big keeper snapper now as conditions change……lots of little ones around however. Best technique on the “take home” snapper is to work the half hour on either side of slack water on you’re favorite spot. The cool down will influence species like sheepshead, black drum, flounder, whiting, seatrout, to kick into action and you may begin to see these species in the weeks ahead.
As conditions settle down post front, look for good action along the first and second string of reefs on pelagics like the mackerel, bluefish, jacks and lady fish out there attacking the bait schools that move into place as fall / winter conditions kick in. Can get into the action in two ways. First, is to stay mobile and work the edges of the surface eruptions of bait and diving birds with a top water jig either cast or trolled on the perimeter of the action. The alternative is to anchor up on a reef spot, toss over a netted block of chum and work those same jigs in the slick that will be drawing and holding those pelagics in the slick. Either method works. But if you chose to anchor up you might have a good chance for something bigger by setting out a live bait running ten feet or so off the bottom. Those cooler water temperatures here are cold up in Florida Panhandle where cobia, kingfish, permit have been summering and they are in transit past here as they feed heading to the winter warmth in the Keys. With a bait in the water you always have a chance.
As has been the case here for months, the best opportunity in deeper water has been on red grouper. With the harvest closure continuing at least until 2016 in federal waters, you’ll be limited to working state waters (0-9 miles from the closest point of land) over hard bottom working a live pinfish or cut lady fish tight to the structure. Keep the drag tight on your reel because the first reaction from the hooked fish is to dive back into it’s hole……once there, it doesn’t come back. Red grouper need to be 20″ overall length to harvest and you can keep two per day.