The cold can have a big impact on your interest in going outside resulting in much less fishing. Now imagine being a fish redfish or trout! Your body is the same temperature as the water you are in, there is very little food to eat, and you have to worry about getting eaten yourself. This is something anglers need to remember when targeting winter-time fish. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go fishing though. The colder weather for most people means it is time to put the watercraft away until next season, which means the waterway’s are now peaceful and beautiful. Winter provides its own unique facets to our waters that make winter fishing exciting.
As the temperature dipped down into the mid 50’s our seemingly muddy water has started to clear up. The microorganisms and phytoplankton that have clouded our waters start are dispersing to reveal a wonderful playground. This can be an exciting time to be a sight fisherman! Braving the chilly mornings, anglers have the opportunity to find large schools of redfish huddle together in the shallow clear mud flats. Though these waters are more likely to experience greater temperature drops during cold snaps the dark color mud also allows them to warm up faster . This heating action may cause less than a degree of temperature difference on cold days it can make all the difference . It often times is just enough to get the fish going enough to bite.
These shallow flats also provide protection from the redfish’s main predator, the dolphin. With most of the their major food sources no longer available they turn the Low Country’s plentiful redfish populations to fill their bellies. The reds choose the shallows as a way to stay away from the dolphin and by schooling there are more eyes to be on ever vigilant watch. To be honest, I am not sure that this method is all that effective for I have witnessed persistent dolphin chasing reds while on their sides in all but the shallowest of water.
The great part about the winter schools is that they are always going to be close to where you were catching them during warmer months. Unlike other areas or inshore reds our fish areresidential and can be found in the same general areas through out the year. That doesn’t always mean that they are going to be easy to find. The schools often aren’t in the first place you are going to look. In any given stretch of water these fish are going to try to find the areas within their range that provide the most protection and feeding possibilities during that period of the tide.
After the fish have been located silence is the key. This is one of those times your grandfather was talking about when he said the fish can here you. Its not just the clanking around in the kayak or boat that’s going to give you presence away. The redfish can also feel the pressure waves you put off with their lateral lines. They key now is to back off the fish and work them from a distance. I prefer to use either the St Croix Tidemaster 7.5 foot medium power moderate action rod and 10 pound braided line in this situation. That combination allows me to make cast from further away and the moderate action allows me a little more room for error when trying to work baits slowly. The moderate tip isn’t as responsive as the fast action and it absorbs some of the energy instead of directing it all to the lure.
I mentioned earlier that the fish are going to be the same temperature as the water they are in and this is a very important thing to remember when you are working a lure. If something is moving through the water quickly or darting about during these scenarios than it going to look out of place to the fish and likely turn them off. The moderate action rod allows for a little more forgiveness and realism during those heart pounding moments of excitement as you present to dozens of tightly packed redfish. At times stationary baits, or dead sticking, can the most effective way to prevent from spooking these wary fish.
I prefer to match my lures this time of year to wait the fish might naturally see and since water clarity is good natural is the way to go. The Zman StreakZ is hard to beat. The buoyancy that these baits have allow the to stand at a near 45 degree angle when rigged with a swimbait hook and allow for a slower sink rate. With this more upright presentation your lure will be more visible and more likely to get picked up when stationary verses other baits that sink.
Redfish not only use their eyes to see what they are going to eat they are also big on using their nose/sense of taste. Many of the ZMAN baits come already coated in Pro-Cure but I never leave the launch without at least 1 extra bottle. This gel based product can be found in a variety of flavors to match the species your are trying to imitate. You simply apply a small amount to the plastic and I use the cap to spread it out. Typically i re-apply every 20 to 25 casts. By adding a scent or taste to your bait you have grealty increased your chances of the fish feeding on the bait and holding onto it longer to give you more time to set the hook.
Get out there! Make some memories of your own and remember if you think you are fishing slo enough you aren’t.