At this point, the beginning of winter, I find myself looking for windows of opportunity. By that, I mean waiting between fronts for calmer days where both the run and fishing are tolerable. And, even though the days are short, its nice not having to get out at the crack of dawn. In fact, I like to wait till late morning in order to let the sun warm the flats and provide some visibility. Due to lower tides combined with minimal rain, sight fishing can be good as there isn’t enough water for game fish to get deep into the mangroves.
Essentially, it’s this dynamic that provides the open water sand hole techniques that are so common on the winter low tides. I’ll still pole shorelines, particularly sandy sections, but it’s the sand holes off the shoreline that hold the best numbers of redfish and spotted sea trout that are most abundant. Being a subtropical species, our snook are not very comfortable and move up into areas where the water temperature is a bit more stable. Creeks, rivers, and canal systems are the type places they’ll call home until spring. Because of their vulnerability to cold, I’ll leave them alone.
Most days, it’s not unusual to have to deal with a northeast breeze. For this reason, I like to look for spots that provide as much protection as possible and try to work with the wind at my back. If I can get the sun at my back, it’s even better. All this makes seeing, casting, and poling a little easier. Because bait is scarce, predator species change their diet and in turn I’ll downsize my baits and slow down my presentation.
I’ve been working the maze of mangrove island shorelines on the east side below Punta Gorda and I’ll continue this pattern as it provides decent protection from the northeast. However, now with dropping water temperatures I’ll push further back into the backcountry. Here, in addition to more stable water temperatures and wind protection, I have access to quite a few adjacent creek systems. You can’t go wrong fishing anywhere around a creek mouth.
Outside the backcountry, pompano should be on the hard bottom off Cape Haze Point as well as outside the bar along the southern end of the west wall. Spanish mackerel will be found around harbor channel markers. Bluefish should be mixed in within these same areas.
For backup, if you’d like to get out and Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, there are always the canal systems. Whether it is Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, or the Boca Bayou, the docks in all the above will be holding fish. It’s not unusual to see sheepshead and black drum scattered around the pilings. Moreover, as for sheepshead, this is the beginning of prime time. On the calmer days, the Alligator Creek Reef is a great place to drop a piece of shrimp or fiddler crab.