Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor Grassflats2@yahoo.com
Fishing report January 2023
As is usual for January, the weather was inconsistent and challenging at times. While we avoided another major deep freeze like last month, there were small craft advisories frequently that kept boats close to shore. Combined with the usual daytime winter low tides, it required some planning, but those that figured it out did really well. The inshore bite for larger trout and redfish was excellent; the redfish tour event at the end of the month had some monster catches. Offshore was on fire on the days that people could get out; while gag grouper season is still closed, red grouper are available and provided a lot of action.
Here are some pics from this month.
Fishing Forecast for February 2023
February can be another challenging month, although by the end of the month there is usually a consistent warming trend. The goal for recreational anglers is to try and increase your chances of success for each trip. While our guides generally don’t have this flexibility, if you do, it’s worthwhile planning your trip, and the weather will have a lot to do with your choices. When water temperatures get into the mid-50s and below, there are trout and some redfish, along with black drum and croaker, in holes in the river. They are rarely stable in location; they move with the tides and changes in temperature, and can be found all the way upriver to the Landings. Fishing deep in rocky holes with Gulp baits or live shrimp can be productive. But if you want to catch generally larger fish, you need to get outside of the river, even if it’s a challenge. How can you make it easier? Plan. Look at tide tables and marine forecasts. Daytime winter low tides can last much of the day, keeping you from nearshore structure that can hold fish. Unless you have access to creeks with an airboat, kayak or jet drive, you’ll be fishing in deeper water and the fish are more scattered. When you can get into creeks (Dallus being the primary example), you’ll usually find a good number of keepers mixed with smaller fish. Schools of larger fish are hard to find but can provide an amazing day of fishing when you locate them. During warmer times of the year, large trout are usually solitary and they relate to areas with baitfish. They come close to shore to feed at daybreak, which is the best time to find these fish. In the winter, things are different. Fish relate more to water temperature, which means structure. Try to pick days with afternoon high tides that allow you to get to rockpiles and creeks; the perfect storm is a bright bluebird sunny day that will warm rocks and bars and attract fish on higher tides. Fishing structure in the winter for trout is a great time to try fishing slowly suspending lures. In many years of fishing, I lean toward any lures that sink very slowly. I’ve been a fan of Paul Brown’s Corky Devil lures, but there are other slow-sinking lures that run shallow, including Live Target Sardines and others, all of which you can find at the Ship’s Store. Sometimes I will just use soft baits rigged Texas-style with no weight and let them sink very slowly. Whatever you fish, fish slow. You cannot catch fish in frigid waters by rapidly jigging whatever you’re fishing with. Move from rockpile to rockpile, fishing oyster bars if you can get to them. In general, when you find one large trout, there will be many more around so be patient. Pick your days to have the most success during the winter months. We’re also looking forward to the annual sheepshead spawn on offshore structure which usually starts in February, although some fish have already been taken.
The big local event in February is the Fiddler Crab Festival, this year the weekend of February 17-19th. There is a tournament on Saturday the 18th so combine your festival trip with an opportunity to win some excellent prize money ($500 for the largest trout and the largest redfish, plus other prizes); the captain’s meeting is at the Sea Hag Friday night the 17th at 6PM. A week later on the 25th is the Salty Gators Spring Inshore Classic; the captain’s meeting is Friday the 24th at the Sea Hag at 7PM. Both of these tournaments will be great fun and have been very popular in the past.
It’s also never too early to begin planning for scallop season; we have great accommodations and a fine collection of inshore guides and rental boats that can make your trip a great family experience.