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Seasonal Fishing 101
 
Fish where the fish are!
 
 
One of the most difficult times to fish here on the Nature Coast is the winter. During this time of year, fish push far back into the spring fed creeks seeking warmer water temperatures. Anglers with shallow draft boats and kayaks can find it challenging to reach these fish because of the negative low tides that winter brings. However, fishing an incoming tide during the warmest part of the day can produce good catches of fish. Look for a dark muddy bottom, because these areas hold the heat and keeps the water temperatures higher. Just a couple of degrees can make a big difference. Use a live shrimp either free lined or fished under a popping cork. You can expect to find trout, snook, red fish, flounder, lady fish and jacks ready to take your offering. Fishing top water plugs can produce strikes, as well as suspending lures, such as Rapala Twitchn’ Raps and the Mirrorlure Minidines. 1/8 oz. jigs rigged with a Berkly GULP shrimp or a piece of cut bait is very effective. The key to fishing in the colder months is to work the bait SLOW!!

Spring time fishing can be challenging as well as exciting. As the water warms and stays warm these fish will move from the backwaters out to the flats looking to eat. Unlike the winter where the fish are concentrated in small areas, now they will be scattered around the mouths of creeks and the adjacent flats. The fish will be changing their diet from shrimp and crabs to small pin fish and white bait. They will still take a jig with a Berkley Gulp shrimp. To find these fish, I like to use a search lure such as a Storm Chug Bug. These lures make a lot of noise and attract a lot of attention. Trout, snook, red fish, lady fish and bluefish will crush this plug . As the water temperature continues to warm, mackerel, tarpon and cobia will also join the fun.

When summer arrives everything is in full swing. As the water gets warms the larger Trout will move out to the deeper (8-14 feet) flats. Sharks up to 8ft, small grouper, and sea bass and cobia will be found at these depths. In the summer heat, the key to success is to ‘beat the heat’. Plan on fishing, early in the morning (6 AM-11 AM), or in the evening (4 PM until dark). Light tackle for the most part will suffice. For the larger species, like the shark, heavy tackle with wire leader and 5/0 or a 6/0 circle hook is recommended. For the trout and smaller species a ¼ ounce Mission Fishin’ jig with a Berkley Gulp shrimp can’t be beat.

Fall is a great time of year here on the Nature Coast. As the days get shorter and the water gets cooler, the fish that where in the deeper water start to migrate to the shallows. The bigger trout move into the shallow flats (2-4feet) and can be caught on top water plugs as well as suspending lures and light jigs. In October, the big red fish will begin to school in the backwaters. Look for schools of mullet pushing down the shoreline and cast ahead of the school. Red fish often swim along with mullet eating the crabs and bait fish the mullet stir up as they move. The way to tell if the school you are watching is mullet or red fish is easy. Mullet schools look like ‘nervous’ water or small waves moving in all directions. Red fish on the other hand, create a definite V-wake in the direction that they are moving. Cast well ahead of the school and work your lure to intercept them.
 
Capt. Larry Roderick