With water temps reaching as low as 46 degrees one would think that the Speckled Trout and Red Fish would drop to “deep” holes hunker down and have lock Jaw…. But that is simply not the case finding fish as shallow as 2ft on the coldest of nights has been a solid attribute to this frosty spell. But targeting these fish up shallow does take a matter of patience, the bite can be hot and fierce but they key to success is the when and more importantly is the where. Putting those 2 key terms together are the building blocks to accruing some of the largest Speckled Trout bites we can only dream about until actually hooked up.
If numbers is your game and you want to fill the limits & some then as usual winter your best friend. Schools of Specks will absolutely ball up in tight areas and getting a bite on every cast becomes a commonality of fish in the 12-20” caliber. This winter has proven that commonality more then any other season that I could remember with the long harsh temp drops its only forced the fish to stage in winter “HOLES” those 6-12ft depressions; and keep them there day in and day out without very much transition. This year it seems as though once you found the staging area you can count on that area or spot to just keep replenishing itself.
Now here is my personal fishing story over the past 6 weeks…
Sometime early December the weather was decent in fact very tropical, temps in the 60s with the occasional rain fall. During this time I was finding plenty of reds and specks alike in the upper bays and flats outside of the rivers and bayous. Fishing these areas based on tidal swings. Whenever the current picked up is when I would target feeding fish and in low light conditions the top water bite was still very productive but hard plastics and soft plastics where always the main focus of any trip. Although I was catching fish shallow the fish were definitely not living there they would push up to the flats to feed for about a hour or two then move back out to wherever they came from. With that being said fishing flats with a more dramatic drop and or main body points was how I narrowed down the vast dessert of the flats. This was certainly a “ Transition Stage Pattern” ( when the fish are near Winter Staging areas and or moving in and out of winter staging areas ) -----
fast forward to Christmas and New Years time frame my Good Buddy Russ was here visiting me and during this time frame we still found some fish in those transitions areas but not nearly in the astronomical numbers that they were once in. As winter started to show its true colors with its icy blue temps the yella mouths showed themselves in very large gangs high and tight to “Deep Holes” exposing their position using a 3/8oz golden eye Jig Head and Limbo Slice color way Matrix Shad was the deal. In these areas it was NOT uncommon to land a Hybrid Bass, Large Mouth Bass, Chain Pickerel, Bowfin, Red Fish, Mangrove Snapper, and Black Drum – I even landed my first Snook and Russ Jumped a 15lb Tarpon!!!! Once located these “Winter Staging Areas” are complete gold mines and every now and then they to can produce some very high quality Speckled Trout ( Russ with a 25.5” ) but for the most part its ACTION FILLED ADVENTURE with all sorts of species and box limits of fish.
Moving into January we are now in full blown ICE AGE with temps dropping into CRITICAL LOW we also kick off the PKS Winter Challenge ( Local kayak Tournament ) Right about this time 1st day of tournament we were just on the post side of a full moon and in the middle of a Harsh Cold Front. And the local anglers didn’t disappoint on day 1 night 1 specks where being entered in as high as 28” and Red Fish in the 38” class some TRUE PENSACOLA JA JA JA GIANTS and some die hard snowman anglers where proving that low temps = BIG FISH
Anglers catching Big BULL REDS on flats and bay bridges almost made it seem effortless with a little know how and motivation they got it done under the stars and rain during a blizzardly cold front. Chasing these fish during a outgoing tide seemed to be the deal while using a LIVE TARGET PIN FISH, 8” TWISTY TAIL GRUB, MARTIX SHAD, and an entire array of topwater lures. On the other side of the spectrum you have the Speckled Trout anglers searching high and low for Gator Trout.
Big Specks are another breed unlike their shorter counter schooling parts they seem to enjoy the harsh conditions and don’t run from the shallows but actually embrace the freeze. While all of Pensacola Florida is freezing over the mullet where the first to feel the effect. Large schools of mullet where dead and or dying many critters and birds where feasting on the effects and I for one believe that the bigger speckled trout hung around the shallows to indulge on the easy buffet. In order for any fish to take advantage of this shallow water buffet they needed some key elements to survive. Dark soft mud bottom is best in shallow water areas this time of year, it warms up fast and allows the fish to lay in camouflage. Adjacent deep main body water, this allows a quick escape route to beat the conditions when they are just too unsuitable. Unlike the mullet that die in the shallows the bigger predator’s will pull back but wont go far. Targeting Gators in these areas can be done day or night. In the day time I like a moving tide, overcast conditions, and pre or post front situations a full moon also always helps the cause…. Three days before and after has always been a good time to look. Same deal at night but I actually prefer the night bite, big fish seem to lay their guard down a little bit and it disguises our line and makes our lures look and feel more real for they don’t truly get a good look at it so the idea of getting a reaction strike is that much better.
All in all even though this winter has been extreme as far as the cold goes the fishing has still been as good as it gets, this winter alone Ive landed a Snook, 6.5ft Sturgeon, (Russ jumped a tarpon) and have caught more SPECKLED TROUT and Red Fish then I care to say – on charters and expedition trips alike. As always check me out at www.limitoutcharters.com Until next time tight lines and Good Fishing