January will bring us some of the coldest days of the year on the water in southwest Florida. Just how cold determines how and where to fish. This month the primary inshore targets are sea trout, sheepsheads, redfish, & pompano. If you enjoy watching wildlife it’s a great time, seems like everywhere you look something is happening.
Over cooler days we will look to target protected areas like canals, creeks, and deep water on the leeward side of Islands as fish seek shelter, it’s also a good way to comfortably fish a chilly north wind. Often fish may be found ganged up in a deep hole or along a shoreline. The coldest of days will yield some of the best sheepheads fishing of the year; they thrive and aggressively feed during adverse conditions. If the weather is mild for several days the fish may be more widespread out on the shallower flats, bars, and structures.
Shrimp are the top baits over the winter months. Shrimp are user friendly, readily available, and everything eats them. If it’s cold think slow and low, meaning fish the bait at or near the bottom, either stationary or with a slow retrieve. One of the best ways to cover bottom and catch fish on a cold day is with a live shrimp/jig head combination. Take a live shrimp, bite or pinch off the tail and thread the shrimp tail first on ¼ ounce jig head just like you would a soft plastic shrimp or shad tail. Now you have the best of both worlds, live bait that you can cover ground with, like an artificial. This combination will entice everything from big snook to pompano.
With milder weather the same combination also works but likely the fish are spread out over shallower depths so a change of technique is often necessary. Look for fish holding in areas that is a short distance from the deeper protected areas, they often hold in areas where they can quickly get back to shelter when the next front arrives. Fish these areas with shrimp, rigged the same method described above with a little quicker retrieve, or suspended under a popping or rattling cork. Sometimes if you are looking for trout, redfish, or maybe pompano it’s all about covering as much area as possible, scented soft baits like Gulp shrimp are another great option.
No doubt there will be some cold days, but also plenty of sunny warm days. Like the weather fishing can change quickly this month, to be successful you need to monitor the conditions and adapt your fishing strategy accordingly. Good Luck!
Wishing all a safe and happy New Year
“Catch the Action” with Captain Bill Russell