CONDITIONS: The big frontal blast pre Christmas is in a very slow recovery. In addition to producing winds in the 40-50 mph range it upset the barometric pressure norms big time. Fish do strange things when that happens and keep those a secret from us angling mortals. We are just beginning to see marginal norms return in early winter fishing patterns here. Clean water is a paramount ingredient, so first off look for clean water (where you can clearly see the bottom layers of your outboard lower unit immersed). Once that is in place check the water temperature and water flow…..should be running in accordance with the day’s tide predictions. With those factors in place you should begin to get action as you feed baits into the water. The forecasts for this week are positive and should help restore faith in the fishing conditions here on the Paradise Coast. The water temperature should slowly diminish which will trigger feeding for the cold water species here for spawn. Look for movement of that temperature into the low sixties by week end. The tides are heading to a new moon and the water flow should be moderate both ways.
BACKWATER: This is where you’ll find the bulk of the residual muddy water. It will show primarily in spots where the water feed is weak…..tends to keep the cleaner water at bay. Should keep moving till clean water is primary. Sheepshead will be the ascending species here as they swarm in for spawn. Will be small a first but stay with a good action spot …..the big ones hold back but the shrimp in the water will eventually draw the bigger ones. Fish up closer to the stern of the boat…..it’s those shrimp bits their after. Should be fair to good snapper action all along the mangrove edges working a 1/2 oz jig head tipped with shrimp tight to the downed trees and other structure. In the passes (Capri, Hurricane, Caxambas) good chance for pompano action during the first hour of the incoming working tipped jigs close to the bottom on a tidal drift.
NEARSHORE: Will have flattened out here and be more comfortable as the week’s forecast on mind is all mild. Some question as to any continuance of the summer mackerel action out here. Macks are more a warm water species……but still worth a quick try. If you move over a reef and note bait hordes on the fishfinder…..dump a block of chum overboard and drift back over the reef. Get hookups ? Move back and drop the anchor. Play the spot till the action stops or the catch changes to blue runners. Major reefs (Walton / Five Mile) are holding inbound sheepshead, some of take home size, so worth a try. No chum here just a vertical drop of a cut crab or hunk of shrimp right to the bottom. Work with a constant soft lift technique and set when you feel weight. Most of catch yet will be small but the big ones will move in just like in the backwaters. Same reefs have a good chance for late season snapper action. Tease with a good chum effort and then work the area with shrimp tipped weighted jigs just off the bottom.
OFFSHORE: Could well be some left over swells from the past storm that may make the deeper water uncomfortable. Deep the action has been focused on wrecks with migrating kingfish heading to winter grounds in the warmer Keys. Using the Hot Spots Chart select a wreck sitting admidst ledges and changes in bottom topography; get some chum in the water asap and deploy a live blue runner on wire leader and under a float so it is tethered in 10-15’ depth. If kings are there; you’ll have action. While you wait work the bottom (away from the runner) with shrimp on weighted jigs just off the bottom for lane and mangrove snapper and maybe even an occasional yellowtail. And, as mentioned in previous articles, on the trip out and back, set a lookout and keep a eye on the crab pots. Tripletail love to sun there right on the surface. Work them with light tackle with darker color jigs.