For anglers perplexed by the icy water temperatures and don't know where to start to find their fish, think deep basins, canals or channels.
Also think wind protected, in an area with lots of sun exposure. Stay in bed and fish after the sun has warmed the water a bit. Small increasing water temps can make a huge difference. As much as I hate to say it, since I'm a lure nut, but think mostly live or dead baits. Shrimp is my choice, live and dead, fresh or frozen, and will work this time of year.
When soaking shrimp on the bottom I always bite off the tails so the bait will bleed more of its scent into the water.
Capt. George Tunison
Lastly, pursue the cold-tolerant species, such as sheepshead, trout, redfish and pompano. Look to docks, bridges, pilings or other structure in deeper water for the sheepies.
Oyster bars and channels also hold these fish and even on the flats when it warms up a bit, especially if the flats in question are adjacent to oyster bars. I like fishing Boca Grande for trophy-size sheepshead. A small bit of shrimp on a small circle hook gets the job done.
Trout will be found bunched by the hundreds in basins, canals and deeper channels right now. As the weather stabilizes and warms up look to grass flats in two- to six-foot of water where slowly-fished plastic jigs, D.O.A. and GULP Shrimp will work just fine.
The classic popping cork and shrimp is always a winner, as well as very slowly presented, subtle, twitch baits, such as the new killer downsized MirrOdine 14 MR hard bait. Bend down the hook barbs for easier release of delicate trout.
Reds will be bunched up in these same deep water hideouts and later, as it warms, can be found on the flats as well, ready to test your angling skills. In the clear low water they become as wary as bonefish. Reds love smelly baits so shrimp and cut ladyfish on the bottom using circle hooks is the ticket.
Pompano will be around the passes and respond to small pompano jigs tipped with shrimp either lightly dragged or subtly hopped across a sandy bottom.
Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters said you would think it's too cold to catch fish, but last weekend when it warmed up on Friday and Saturday they caught redfish - 21 on Friday and a fantastic Saturday when four clients caught 51 redfish.
That's the good news. The not-so-good news is there was only one red that was over the 18-inch size limit. There was a lot of good action. All fish were caught on live shrimp in canals and small bays near Pine Island that were protected from the wind. Looks like we are going to get back to normal temperatures this weekend and trout season reopens on January 1. Let's go fishing
Capt. Rob Modys of SoulMate Charters reported a great trout bite just before the major cold weather set in. They were in the deeper holes in the back country of Estero Bay and on the rock piles and nearshore reefs of the Gulf in about 18 feet of water.
The sheepshead bite was good, but the spawn hasn't started yet so most of them were undersized.
Capt. Rob noted that the flounder bite has been unusually good for our area over the past couple of months. Normally his charters see about one a week, but there have been one or two caught on almost every recent trip. Live shrimp on a jig worked slowly across sandy bottom seems to work best.
Gag grouper are making their move to the nearshore waters and now is a good time to target them with cut bait or shrimp on the bottom. You also can have a great deal of success trolling large lip baits near the same areas.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.