Many people are surprised to discover that most of our best inshore fishing is during the colder months of the year.
Although our winters are mild compared to rest of the country, we do get a handful of freezes each year. Such cold weather is usually short lived as Jacksonville averages only 10 to 15 nights below freezing. Average high temperatures from February to April range from about 74 degrees in the afternoon to low’s dropping to around 50 degrees at night.
Anglers along Florida’s First Coast get “fired up” with each passing cold front. Cold weather means redfish…..lot’s of them! The saltwater creek systems along Intracoastal Waterway are taken over with large schools of redfish. Schools of over a hundred fish cruising along oyster lined creek banks are not uncommon. The darker tannic waters surrounding Jacksonville and St Augustine which are the norm in the summer months become almost crystal clear as the water temperatures drop into the mid 50’s.
Schooling redfish and clear water…….some of the best sight fishing opportunities you can experience. Because the water is cold and bait is scarce, redfish take advantage of the swift currents of the tide to bring food to them. This enables these fish to expend as little energy as possible while feeding. Finding these large schools are not as easy in the wintertime, as they are congregated in small ambush points back in the creeks, but as soon as you do find em….”Katy bar the door”! Catches of 30 to 40 redfish each trip is not uncommon.
The “Shrinkage Factor”…for the baits. Scale down on the size of the bait or lure in cold water. Fish exposed to low water temperatures have a much lower metabolic rate and tend to focus on baits that are small and easy to eat. Short 3 or 4 inch soft plastic grubs, tubes, and jerkbait lures in darker colors and live mud minnows on jigs are a good choice when fished very slowly along the bottom. My buddy Captain Tim Cutting likes to say “when you think your fishing the lure too slow…..slow it down some more” Great advice for cold water fishing.