I, and all the other local captains, have seen enough of the cold and windy conditions endured in January! Hopefully, February will not be quite so challenging. The water temperatures are in the mid 50’s in the river, and colder in shallower water until midday warming. Some of the better saltwater fishing has been in creeks off the ICW after they warm in the sun. Redfish and black drum have been the primary quarry in these creeks. The dark bottoms act as solar collectors pushing temps into the high 50’s, which is all the redfish and drum need to start feeding.
Other fish that we target in cold water include sheepshead, black drum, ring tail porgies, bluefish, black sea bass, and yellowmouth and speckled trout. The sheepshead feed on crustaceans such as fiddler crabs living on rocks, pilings, and other structure. They are excellent eating, put up a good fight, and are challenging to hook. Their bite is very subtle – almost like a slight tug on your line. The best sheepshead baits are fiddler crabs, pieces of blue crab, clams, or live shrimp. For best results, fish near rocks, pilings, or shell bars.
Large drum frequent the deep tips of the jetties and the roll down inside the jetties. Smaller drum show up in holes in ICW creeks. Porgies like the shallow tips of the jetties on clear incoming tides. They can be caught on small pieces of fresh shrimp. Bluefish can appear anytime, anywhere, though usually in clear water. Yellowmouth trout will be in 10-20 ft. depths with speckled trout above them in the water column.
The best fishing for black sea bass is on the party grounds and natural bottom offshore on calm days. On warmer, calmer days whiting, bluefish, and the occasional pompano should bite in the surf. Watch the weather and enjoy our NE Florida winter saltwater fishing!
Capt. Bob Cosby