As we enter the height or what could be considered this winter’s midlife, the conditions or elements we face won’t differ all that much from last month. That being wind and low tides. I will try to put an emphasis on fishing the incoming tide. More importantly, I’d prefer to be setting up to cast at the beginning of the incoming and the fresher the tide the better.
Because they’re tolerant to cold conditions, I’ll concentrate on redfish. In many cases, there’s a good chance they’ll be on the small side, rat sized redfish. This is due in part because I’ll most likely find myself as far back in creek systems as I can get looking for dead end coves covered with a sand bottom. After a couple cool months, this is a natural transition area for our game fish, as they’ll move up into these areas to warm up on the shallow sandy bottom.
Multiple months of cool weather is also why I also like the early incoming tide. Bait has been scarce for long enough that redfish will begin looking with some urgency. They feel the tide instantly and begin working up the creek or flat rushing to get a shot at what was unobtainable on low water. The low tide has left the mixed sand and grass dry. Crabs and other crustaceans come out of hiding to feed. The fish know their chances are best early before the prey has a chance to vanish.
I’ll downsize my baits and go with crab and clouser patterns. The Placida ramp at Boca Grande and Ponce Park ramp in Punta Gorda provide good access to backcountry creek systems. From Placida, Bull Bay between Gasparilla Sound and Turtle Bay has lots of room to explore. From Ponce Park, south along the east side from Alligator Creek to Pirate Harbor is full of small creek systems.
Out on the grass flats, spotted sea trout should fish well. Look anywhere from two to four feet off the intracoastal from Lemon Bay to Pine Island Sound. They’ll eat a fly as well as any soft plastic and of course, live shrimp rigged with a popping cork.
In the harbor, pompano can be found on the hard bottom just off Cape Haze Point. A ¼ ounce Nylure Bomber pompano jig is all you need. Sheepshead are everywhere and can be fished from land as well as by boat. The Placida trestle can be fished from both land and boat and the Boca Grande trestle is a popular spot by boat. Every dock, pier, underwater structure, and artificial reef will hold sheepshead. A fiddler crab or piece of shrimp is your best bet.