If you want to fish in winter, plan a trip to a location known for warm winter temperatures, sunny skies, and a variety of saltwater species. Winter fishing in Florida can be very productive if you know what to aim for, what kind of bait or lures to use, and what areas to focus on.
These six species of saltwater fish are worthy destinations when planning a Florida winter getaway.
1. Sheep’s head
As a member of the Porgy family, sheep heads typically migrate to coastal waters from November to February. Sheep’s heads can often be found near piers, docks, stakes, sea walls, and oyster bars. Use a size 1 hook (smaller hooks work better as sheep’s heads have small mouths and are notorious bait stealers) equipped with shrimp, a small crab, or barnacles.
2. Spotted sea trout
The clarity of the water in the hinterland estuary is at its peak in the cooler months of the year, making it easier to locate sea trout on the grassy areas near sandy potholes. One of the best rigs for winter trout fishing is a soft plastic shrimp bait on a 15 to 20 pound fluorocarbon leader under a popping cork.
Aim for winter redfish along the mangrove shorelines in brackish spring-fed rivers, in curves or deep holes where the water temperature tends to remain more constant after a cold front. You can use a soft plastic shrimp or try the Ned rig, which is most commonly used for winter bass fishing, but is also good for redfish in the cooler months of the year.
As a highly migratory species, Pompano moves up and down the coasts of Florida looking for water temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees. If you are fishing from the beach or the coast in winter, try throwing shrimp-tipped jigs into the surf with a light coastal spinning rod.
5. Black drum
Black drums can be targeted in bays or estuaries around rocks, deeper holes and stakes, and offshore around structures near mud, sand or shell bottom. Use either shrimp or blue crabs on a conventional bottom device with a sinker and a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook to adjust the bait size.
Nearshore and offshore tripletail from central to south Florida are most commonly spotted around channel markers and crab trap buoys. Use a live shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook tucked under a popping cork for your best chance of success.
If you were wondering what fish to catch on a trip to Florida in the winter, you now know six species to target. Get your Florida fishing license and set up those lines!