Years ago, living in the north, I hated being hot and sticky. Now years later, here I can't stand being cold. Old, cold, and balding. Great.
Relatives living in northern Maine enjoy, from what I can gather, about 40 days of warm weather a year before the birdbath turns back to an ice rink which to me makes about as much sense as buying a lot in Tornado Valley Estates, Kan., for you and the bride's new doublewide.
The redfish don't really mind as long as it's not severe or prolonged. Trout feed heavily stimulated by the cold water. Sheepshead thrive in it, snook not so much as their metabolism slows to near standstill or death if the front lasts for a prolonged period as it did a few years ago (est. 400,000 perished statewide).
Capt. George Tunison
Before that snook will eat, but putting the bait right in their face helps as they aren't up for much chasing activity.
Thursday's outing saw the water temps rise to 66 on a shallow flat that had been wind protected and sun baked all day. Reds responded to our plugs by following and even charging them without eating. Considering it was the day following a heavy duty cold snap, high bluebird skies, high pressure, cold water, and a near full moon, and every other excuse anglers and pro guides alike swear by, we would have been better off staying home watching fishing shows or mending tackle or worse, using live bait.
Being determined to score a nice red on a topwater plug we kept plugging instead of adapting to the conditions by picking a likely spot and fishing shrimp or cut ladyfish/mullet on the bottom.
To the novice angler looking to "just catch fish" where does one start after a cold winter blow chills the water and the fish seemed to have all but disappeared?
First, look at your tackle. Winter's ultra clear waters call for light lines in the 6-15-pound class. Leave swivels, clips, snaps back at the dock and use longer fluorocarbon leaders. Secondly, think slower than molasses presentations as it gets colder. This is harder than it sounds as most anglers just can't seem to grasp "slow."
Start at the bait shop and take advantage of the winter's nice big shrimp. Grab some 2/0 Owner circle hooks, popping corks, some light jig heads and hit the water. Time your trip so the tide is moving and the sun has warmed the water.
TIP: Look for wind protected bays with a full sun exposure and a dark bottom. A sandy light colored bottom means colder water. A dark grassy bottom absorbs the suns energy, warming the water. Finding water as little as two or three degrees warmer could mean biting fish.
When casting a shrimp on a 1/8oz. jighead or even a GULP Shrimp let the bait fall and lay on the bottom dispersing scent. Pick it up and slow hop or drag forward. When using whole shrimp bite off the tail to let the shrimp's juices scent the water. Removing the tail lets you cast the shrimp without spinning, cutting down on line twist.
If it's been even colder think deep water basins and holes, creeks, Cape canals, marinas, or areas of hot water discharge upriver at the power plant.
Consult your map and find holes next to flats, anchor and bottom fish.