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Winter Fishing in Florida (Guide & Tips)

So you want to go winter fishing in Florida? We’re here to help you prepare with our guide and tips! We’re sharing which fish species are active targets during the winter and a few tips to try in this season. 

Continue reading to learn the best fishing tips suitable for beginners but can still be helpful to most anglers regardless of age, experience, and skill level. So grab a pen and paper. You might want to list a few of these things down.

winter fishing in florida
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Species To Target In Winter

When you’re planning to go winter fishing, you might think that you won’t be successful because of the low water temperature. But that’s not true. 

Despite the climate, many anglers can still go fishing during winter, though it can be difficult. Also, winter causes fish to migrate and change their feeding habits.

1. Sheephead

Sheepshead is a saltwater species and a member of the porgy family. These species move to coastal waters from around November to February. Sheepshead is often seen near and along piers, docks, seawalls, pilings, and oyster bars. 

To catch this fish successfully, you can use a size 1 hook rigged with either shrimp, a small crab, or barnacles as live bait. Smaller hooks work best because sheepshead fish have small jaws and are notorious for stealing bait.

2. Spotted Trout or Speckled Trout

During the winter months, water clarity in rural estuary habitats is greatest, making it much easier to catch speckled trout on grass flats near sandy potholes. Trout is also one of the best-tasting fish in the winter.

Cast artificial lures like a soft plastic shrimp bait on a 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader beneath a popping cork. These baits are fish magnets and are one of the greatest setups for trout fishing when water temperatures drop. 

3. Redfish

Redfish are also saltwater species and make good targets in the winter. These larger game fish can be found around mangrove shorelines in brackish rivers, mainly around bends and deeper water holes where the water temperature is more stable after the cold fronts.

A soft plastic shrimp or the Ned rig is most commonly employed for winter bass fishing and works well for redfish during the cooler months with colder water.

4. Pompano

Pompano is a game fish that is highly migratory and travels up and down Florida’s coastlines in search of warmer water. This species might be the easiest to catch when you’re out fishing, but that could also depend on your luck.

If you want to try fishing for a Pompano fish, you can try casting a shrimp-tipped jig head out into the waves with a light inshore spinning rod while fishing from the beach or shoreline in the winter. 

You can catch them around inshore and nearshore seas, particularly along sandy beaches, oyster banks, and grass beds. It’s even possible to find them in a deeper hole as deep as 130 feet.

5. Black Drum

Black drum can be found among rocks, deeper water holes, pilings in bays and estuaries, and offshore near mud, sand, or shell bottom. 

If you plan to use traditional bottom fishing with an egg sinker or circle hooks to match the size of the bait, use either live shrimp or blue crabs.

6. Tripletail

Tripletail fish can be seen near and offshore from central to south Florida, mainly around channel markers and crab trap buoys. You can use a live shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook tied beneath a popping cork for the best results.

Other Available Species

Being able to adapt to changing weather conditions is extremely important for winter fishing. Local and seasonal migrations always happen, especially during this season. 

Successful anglers who understand these migrations will have a better chance of catching more fish. Florida anglers can catch more than a few fish throughout the winter months. However, other game fish are also available.

  • Snook
  • Jack Crevalle
  • Snapper
  • Flounder
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Ladyfish

Ideal Time To Go Saltwater Fishing

The ideal time to go saltwater fishing is usually afternoons when the weather warms up. Generally, the wind will move east and southeast in a few days, and temperatures will return to the 70s. 

What’s more, the water in the passes and inlets in the bays will settle down and clear up. On these days, fishing is usually excellent.

Fish may return to the flats if the weather remains warm for several days. The wind will change out of the south as the next front approaches, making it the ideal time to fish in Florida during the winter.  

As the front approaches, fish will feel the change in barometric pressure and will feed up. Hence, fishing might be challenging in south winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour. 

However, if you keep safety in mind, this is also a great time to fish. The wind shifts to the northwest as the front approaches, and the cycle begins again.

Florida Inshore Fishing Techniques For Winter

Anglers in Florida should know that deeper grass flats are great fishing spots because there may not be any fish in waters around 4 to 6 feet in the winter. 

Speckled trout and other species will leave the shallow flats and look for deep water holes and channels to seek refuge. So you should expect to get a catch if you decide to fish there.

Fishing On Bridges And Docks

In the winters in Florida, bridges and docks will also yield a lot of fish. Because there are so many options, dock fishing might be a bit intimidating.

The finest docks are in water roughly 10 feet deep and have some current. A pier on a rocky outcropping with adequate current flow and 10 to 15 feet of water would be ideal. 

Bridges are also a good place to fish because they are relatively straightforward to access. When targeting fish near structures in inlets and passages and under docks and bridges, basic bottom rigs perform effectively. 

A sliding sinker rig is effective. A swivel is attached to the mainline, which glides into the opening of an egg sinker. A live bait hook is used after a 24-inch 30-pound test leader. The size of the hook should correspond to the size of the bait.

Conclusion

When fishing in cooler water, you should move your lure or bait more slowly than usual. Fish have a cold-blooded nature, and the cooler water slows their metabolism. 

They move more slowly due to their sluggish metabolism and only attack prey that they are confident they can catch with minimal effort. Finding warmer water with the appropriate water depth would also make fishing easier.

Slowing down your presentation will result in more fish being caught. A bait/lure that is worked gently will stay in the strike zone longer, resulting in a more successful catch.

Johanes Godoy
Fishing Editor
Johanes is a talented Editor for Cast & Spear. She's helped edit and write hundreds of articles on fishing and the outdoors. When she's not editing, she's exploring the world and documenting it on her own blog.
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Articles » Techniques » Winter Fishing in Florida (Guide & Tips)