Hello Folks … well, I would like to say that I have been doing a lot of fishing; however, the weather has been really COOOLLLDDDD for it in January when I have had the time.
It is either freezing cold and raining so fishing inshore is out of the question or it is really windy and fishing offshore is out of the question. However, there have been a few good days for those luckier. But, we did have a few bone cold days that made redfishing a little exciting for those who braved it.
So, what can we expect out of the rest of February for fishing? Well, I will start off with the inshore fishing and what’s happening there. At this time you can fish around the bridge or pier pilings you can catch some really nice drum/Sheephead. They are doing fair this season especially since we had some good cool weather days chilling down the waters. This means not only are the drum doing well, but we are also doing pretty good on Redfish and Flounder too!
The Redfish are taking cut bait and we have seen some nice slot reds, caught about mid pier. The most popular cut bait used at the pier is cut mullet using a bottom rig. I personally favor using cut menhaden since it is a more oily bait. My favorite rig for redfish is a pyramid weight tied onto a loop about 18 to 24 inches above the hook. For a hook I would like a long shank number 2. The pyramid weight should be heavy enough to hold against the tide if you are fishing in the pass. What makes this rig effective is that the bait will float naturally around the weight along the bottom where the redfish feed.
If flounder are you game then the pier is your bet early in the morning around 5A to 7A. Most are caught along the pilings. Flounder are different if fishing by hook and line because they do not come to the bait like a redfish will; you have to bounce the bait next to them. So, I favor a small grub with a taste of shrimp on the hook for smell. Cast along the pilings careful not to tangle other anglers and slowly bounce the bait along the bottom. If fishing with live shrimp, cast out and allow the bait to rest on the bottom. Periodically move the bait a few feet every few moments. Also, if you have a boat, the point at Fort Pickens and the beach at the lighthouse are really hot at this time.
Offshore as you might know Snapper season is closed, however, that is not preventing the fish from being hooked by the zillions. With the reduced pressure on the reefs and many of the snapper moving inshore due to cooler temps and the bite is hot. Just be sure to throw them back to be caught another day.
Now, if you want to avoid the snapper or at least reduce how many you catch and still catch a really tasty fish try for triggerfish. Triggerfish are caught higher up on the wrecks than snapper are and the preferable rig is a double hook rig with squid for bait. When fishing on a local charter your deckhand will tell you to allow your bait to hit the bottom and then reel up 10 or so turns on the reel. When you feel the bite, set the hook by jerking the rod upward. Triggerfish are really exciting to catch and are a great fight. But, what makes them really fun is if you get into a good school of them you can bring them up 2 at a time.
Also being caught offshore on the charter boats are Mingo Snapper, Grouper and Amberjack. In fact, winter is the best time for grouper fishing on the Northern Gulf Coast since the grouper move closer in when the water temp starts to drop. Grouper like all kinds of bait and favor live bait a lot of the times. However, a large piece of cut bait, say bonito you might have frozen or a side of a mingo snapper on a circle hook works really good. The rig I prefer for this type of fishing is a 8oz slip lead above a 2 ft leader on a swivel using a medium sized circle hook. The trick is to let the bait reach the bottom, reel up a couple laps then hold the rod high. When you feel the fish pull, let him take the bait lowering the rod with the fish. After you have allowed the fish to take the bait, start reeling but do not jerk the rod. This sets the hook and start reeling up your fish.
Well, let’s pray for some cold weather, calm seas to heat up the winter fishing and if you get a chance head offshore for some great grouper and trigger fishing!