• Capt. Sergio Atanes

Turning the Cold into a Hot Bite

The winds are blowing, tides are low, and the water is too cold for the fish to bite right now. Do not lose hope, because thanks to the hot water runoff of the power plants, January can be a most productive month. Snook, redfish, pompano, jacks, trout, sharks and cobia are just a few of the species which invade the warm waters of the deep holes, edges of channels and power plants.

Several things to take into consideration are water temperature and tides. The lower the water temperature, the better the bite. Combined with low tides you have the perfect ingredients for a successful fishing trip. The low winter tides, due to high pressure systems, force fish into deeper, warmer waters for self-preservation. This gives the angler an advantage. Think of it as putting fish in a fishbowl for you to catch.

Fishing deep holes and channels.

Let’s start with deep holes for example the area around Fort DeSoto which was used as a bombing range in the late 40’s early 50’s we now have Goggle Earth which can increase your productivity if you take the time to study the area you can see still many of the old bomb holes which hold a large quantity of trout during the winter, therefore the lower the tide the better the bite.

Learn to get the most of your GPS/Sonar to target these areas most current units Lowrance and Simrad units can run most of the new charts in the market. I started using one called FLORIDA MARINE TRACKS it used mainly for coastal and inshore only but it lays Goggle Earth over the chart marking safe routes to run across the shallows and areas to stay away from to avoid running aground. The detail is awesome on this chart and well worth the money I spent on avoiding costly repairs from running into oyster beds or rocks especially when fishing areas new to me like the Chassahowitzka or Crystal River areas.

Fishing live and dead baits.

When fishing the deep holes or edges of channels I prefer using live shrimp and cut bait. I set my clients up using light tackle 10-pound braided line with 15-pound long leader at least 3-foot 2/0 circle hook. Trout have a keen eyesight. The lighter the leader the better the bite. I free line the live shrimp into the center of the hole. Allow it to work its way down slowly and twitching it every few seconds until it reaches the bottom. If you do not get a strike start a stop and go-slow. Retrieve along the bottom until you reach the top of the hole and repeat

Fishing with artificial baits.

Use the same technique as with live shrimp. Start your jig on the opposite side of the hole and work it along the bottom slowly, allowing it slight twitch every few cranks of the reel handle. I prefer using a jig like Fishbites Butt Kicker paddle tail seems to work very well for me all year round. Another favorite of mine is the MirrOlure 52M11 it’s a medium runner red head sliver side with a white belly. This was my first lure I ever used and still to me one of the best.

Dead baits.

Cold water slows down the fish and they don’t move as fast as they would in the warmer months. As the saying goes “The slower the better or no movement at all is best”. This is when dead bait plays a big part. Best winter baits for me are cut threadfin sardine, ladyfish and fresh mullet. Earlier I wrote how to fish with live bait. This is how I do it. While my clients are fishing, I put 2 rods out with dead bait on the bottom. We call it dead sticking. I use the same tackle as with live bait except changing to a 3/0 Kahle hook and a Ghost Drag on the fishing rod. Ghost Drag is a pretty neat idea. This allows you to have your bail open and tension on the line which you set according to tide and wind keeping the bait in the general area waiting for a passer byer to stop and eat. When the fish grabs the bait and starts to swim away the line is released from the Ghost Drag. Alll you do is close the bail and fight the fish.

Power Plants.

When to Fish: All I can say be there early. The colder the weather the better the bite, if it’s a

Where to Fish: Depending on where you fish dictates how you are going to fish. When fishing the center of the channel, you will find that fish such as snook, flounder, pompano and redfish tend to hug and feed on the bottom. Here I use a small ¼ ounce egg sinker, but larger if the current is stronger and a 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader Texas rig style with a 1/0 to a 2/0 circle hook. Trout will tend to feed mid water in the center of the channel, and here I free the line the bait with no sinkers or use a Cajun Thunder float with the bait suspended about 4 feet under it. Cobia and sharks prefer the surface and I use heavier tackle such as 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and 2/0 to 3/0 circle hooks. As the sun rises the fish will tend to migrate to the edges of the channels and eventually to the mouth of the channel and into the flats.

Baits: Live shrimp is considered the favorite, and live greenbacks work well if you can find them.

Artificial Baits: Silly Willy jigs are great for pompano and flounder. MirrOlure #52M11, a medium runner bait is a killer on trout and jacks. Fishbites paddle tail jigs worked slow on the bottom will get some nice snook and redfish.

Each power plant has its own restrictions on where you can fish, so follow their rules and you can enjoy some great fishing all winter long.

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