Vol 6 No. 9 - November 23, 2005

Jump in to some hot winter action

Captain Bryon Chamberlin landed this redfish on a very slow day in Tampa Bay. Had he remained in the boat, this trip saving fish would most likely have never been spotted or landed.

By Rusty Chinnis

This has been one of the warmest Novembers I can remember. After a brief cold front sent water temperatures plummeting into the high 50s, a warming trend sent them back into the mid-70s. Although the waters have remained fairly temperate, I’ve noticed very few anglers wading local waters. For most fishers, the first cold front of the season means getting out of the water and away from some of the hottest action of the year. Under certain conditions, winter wading can be even more effective than during the warmer months. When you get out of the boat and in the fish’s domain in the winter, you gain the same advantages you do in the spring, summer or fall, and then some. When the water is cold it is often very clear, and the fish can be very wary. Proper winter wading allows you to keep a low profile and make a stealthy approach while staying warm and dry.

When the fish are particularly spooky, I employ another tried and true winter wading technique, standing still! If you find that the fish you’re stalking see you just before you see them, try this method. Start by locating an area that is holding your quarry. Anchor well away from the action, get out of the boat and stake out a pothole or sand area. By staying a long cast away, you can easily see the fish when they enter a hole or pass across the white sand bottom. Position yourself off to the side in the grass where you’re less visible, keep a low profile and be still. By just waiting them out, you can target reds, trout and snook as they wander the flat. Don’t make any quick moves, and make your casts low and slow. It takes patience, but can be very productive.

If the visibility isn’t great or you’re fishing early or late, target the edges where grass and sand meet. These sandy areas (the seams) and potholes are perfect ambush spots. Start with presentations about two feet outside the sandy area. Make sure you target the deep grassy ends of the potholes. These areas can be very productive and always warrant a couple of casts.

After working the edges of the holes and the seams, begin casting into the sandy areas. When fly fishing, try a clear sink tip line with a relatively (6-8 foot) short leader. The clear tip allows you to fish the far side of a hole without spooking the fish. If you’re fishing live bait plugs or jigs, work up to the leading edge and then cast well past the hole or seam and skip your bait back into the hole or the edge of the seam.

Over the last two winters we have been having some excellent success with big trout on cold, low tide mornings. The fish will come into some extremely shallow water to feed, so start shallow and work your way towards the deeper edges. As with other times of the year, stay vigilant for surface action, wakes or feeding birds.

The key to productive and comfortable winter wading is, of course, staying warm. A good pair of waders, wading boots, sweat pants and insulating socks will do the trick. Add a pair of polarized glasses, a hat with a dark under-brim, a wade vest or pack, and you’re in business. Give winter wade fishing a try. It gets you out of the boat, provides some exercise, and some excellent angling opportunities.

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