The holidays are over and a new year has just begun. Just because we are in the middle of winter doesn’t mean we have nothing to catch out there! We have an entire season of possibilities. Trout, reds, flounder, sheepshead, and black drum can all be caught in the bay. Along the coast and just off the piers, winter bonita are cruising just off the shore line and sand bars in the early mornings. Surf, pier, and jetty fishing produce pompano, whiting, redfish, and sheepshead. On the bottom, fisherman can catch amberjack, scamp, red grouper, triggerfish, and vermillion snapper.
The king mackerel bite will be hot this month. Near shore, you will see a lot of boats trolling for them around the whistle buoy, which is approximately 4 miles out of the St. Andrews Pass. This area holds a lot of bait, thus draws the kings. Be prepared for anything while fishing this area. Every year some very large wahoo and a few sailfish are hooked by people either trolling or flat lining baits for kings. Bottom fishing near shore will be slow, as the areas have been hit hard all summer. You will be best off traveling down the coast a bit then heading off a few miles, where there are a lot of natural bottom areas. Mahi-mahi dolphin will be caught near shore around weed patches.
Pier fishing should be pretty good this month. Most of the action will come from king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. If you visit the pier at night, you will see some of our hard-core shark fishermen out there all night. If you haven't seen these guys fight a large shark from the pier, it is well worth the trip out there.
Red Snapper will still be open until the 10th. They can be caught over a variety of bottom structures using live pinfish, cigar minnows, herring and frozen sardines, cigar minnows and squid. Black and Gag Grouper open on the 1st. Large live pinfish, squirrel fish and grunts make great baits. Most grouper will be caught from natural live bottom areas. Amberjack is closed.
Blue marlin, white marlin, wahoo, swordfish and dolphin should all be caught offshore this month. Fish the areas around the Point or the Squiggles for the pelagics. It is a little further, but if you have the fuel capacity to take you there, the Desoto Canyon is another excellent spot to troll - or set-up for a night drift and a chance to catch some swordfish. Offshore bottom fishing should also be good this month in 200+ feet of water. Keep a flat-line out for Mr. Wahoo when he comes by.
If you are fishing for trout up in the bays, you will want to be out there right at daybreak and fish a top-water plug over the flats. This technique will usually work good for the first couple hours in the morning and then just prior to sunset. During the day, you will be best off fishing live bait such as LY's or shrimp either under a popping cork or fished right on the bottom on a jig-head. Redfish can be caught in the same manner in the same areas you are finding the trout. Mangrove snapper will be around most bay structure and can be caught on light tackle and small live shrimp. Spanish mackerel will be available, but they will be spread out throughout the bay. Flounder will be caught throughout the bay as well. Live bull minnows or plastic grubs fished in the sandy holes of the bay should produce a bite.