Winter fishing in our area can be fantastic but does require some change in tactics. The biggest factor being to slow down your retrieve, because the inshore fish get cold and lethargic. Fishing later in the day after the sun warms the water increases feeding activity. Cold weather drives many fish like snook, trout, and redfish to deeper, warmer water at night and then the warming sun brings them into the shallows. Incoming tides are usually the best fishing in the inlets and Indian River. Fish deeper areas on cloudy days and be prepared to deal with lots of wind as the cold fronts pass by. Look for darker bottoms in the shallows because the water warms faster in these areas.
Winter brings more redfish into our area and sight fishing is at its best when the cold nights kill off the suspended algae, clearing up the water. Long casts and a delicate presentation are usually required to avoid spooking fish in clear, shallow water. Look for redfish and large trout around the mangroves and islands. Also expect black drum and sheepshead to increase in winter within the Indian River, with sheepshead numbers peaking in February.
Snook fishing is closed in January but reopens in February. These fish are very temperature sensitive, so cold water makes them unhappy. As the weather warms in March, look for snook on the flats early and late in the day but otherwise along the mangroves. Snook and tarpon fishing improves in the Sebastian River in March. April is one of the best months of the year for snook and big females move onto the flats chasing mullet.
Trout fishing in winter can be good. The largest trout of the year show up in February and stay into April. While the school trout are in deeper areas, the big girls are in shallow water, except in the coldest of weather. Use larger baitfish for the big trout, but please release these “breeder fish” that produce 1.2 million eggs, versus the 100,000 eggs produced by smaller ones. All large trout are female.
Pompano fishing is hot in winter, with good numbers around the inlets and in the Indian River. While February is great, March is usually the peak time of year. These fish can be deep or shallow, with goofy jigs and sand fleas the best baits.
The beaches are good when the seas are not too rough. Shrimp, sand fleas, and clams will catch pompano, bluefish, whiting, mackerel, and a variety of other species. Goofy jigs and small spoons are also very effective. Within several miles of the beach you will find spinner sharks, kingfish, and cobia. Big jacks, bonito and tarpon start showing in April.
Captain Mark Yanno