The past month of Quiet Waters trips, run out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, featured consistently cool weather. Cold water temperatures changed where and when we targeted our favorite inshore species like snook, redfish, and seatrout. Starting fishing trips later in the morning and fishing dock lights proved to be a successful approach to cold weather fishing. It wasn’t until very recently that a warming trend made things a little easier on area anglers.
With water temperatures in the high 50’s on many mornings, snook were sluggish. Dark bottomed bays, deeper canals, and concrete seawalls warmed by the sun, were the best bets during the day. It’s not uncommon this time of year to find piles of disinterested snook congregated together in shallow water on the coldest mornings. A greasy chunk of ladyfish or a heavily scented artificial left on the bottom is about the only way to get these fish to open their mouths.
By far, the best bet for snook in January was the night game. Fishing dock lights on outgoing tides at night, after the water had the entire day to warm up, made for some excellent night trips. Small flies imitating glass minnows or small shrimp worked best for fly anglers. Working EP baitfish patterns lower in the water column wasn’t a bad choice either. Light tackle anglers had some outstanding nights using Vudu shrimp or DOA shrimp baits. Shallow diving lipped plugs produced the biggest snook.
Redfish are present in high numbers in the shallow water throughout the Sarasota area. On one morning, we were able to stay with a group of hundreds of redfish for nearly the entirety of our trip. It was a memorable day and one that helps make the days when the reds are super skittish and have lock jaw more tolerable.
Fly anglers did best with shrimp or crustacean patterns during day trips, though baitfish patterns were still producing. Soft plastics on jigheads bumped along the bottom and Aquadream spoons are consistent redfish producers. Reds were active on dock lights throughout January. A small clouser minnow pattern gets the job done on most dock light redfish.
In later December, plugs were producing large seatrout and class-size seatrout were all over the deep grass. The spell of cold weather that came in January ended those trends. Large seatrout became more difficult to find and class-size seatrout scattered.
Anglers who were willing to do a little searching were able to find modest sized seatrout in different locations. Deeper canals, the mouths of canals and deep sandy bowls or basins were the best places to find them. On the coldest mornings, using shorter soft plastics on ¼ ounce jigheads worked best. When conditions are tough, adding scent to the soft plastic can make a big difference.
The recent influx of warm air will bring the water temperature up which will have inshore fish more active. The amount of healthy size redfish we’re seeing on flats trips is a real positive sign for the local fishery. Redfish should continue to provide excellent action for shallow water anglers. Seatrout should be reinvigorated by this warming trend. Targeting gator trout around the moon phase is not a bad plan of attack this time of year. Dock lights, which have been producing the best action, should continue to shine in the coming month.
See you on the water
Capt. Brian Boehm
Quiet Waters Fishing
Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters