There are two times I look forward to each fishing season: first, when the water warms after winter and bait fish return to our waters, and second, when the water cools to the point as we approach the winter season that the baitfish vacate our inshore waters.
I love fishing live bait through the warms months, but it's a lot of work and time consuming netting them, not to mention the mess you start the day with.
December is that month when the transition begins and shrimp become the primary diet for most inshore fish. With the exception of mullet, there are not any fish I can think of in our coastal waters that won't eat a shrimp; in fact, shrimp is the mainstay for most inshore species' diet.
Friends Bob Newcom of Atlanta and Leif Holm'Andersen of Long Island, N.Y., enjoyed a day of fishing under the Florida sunshine. Fishing in Pine Island Sound, they brought these nice sheepshead home to the dinner table on a trip last weekend with Capt. Bill Russell
When the water cools to the point that the bait fish leave our area, especially those bait-stealing pinfish, then shrimp becomes the go-to bait.
As the water temperature drops, it should give a big boost for catching sheepshead, big fish will move inshore with the lower temperatures. Look for fish, with many scaling over five pounds hanging around structure, including dock and bridge pilings, rock jetties along the beach and on oyster bars.
Most anglers opt to use shrimp; however, some of the real sheepshead experts that target only big fish catch their own bait including fiddler crabs, tube worms or sand fleas. If you don't mind fishing in the cold, then this is your fish, the colder the better for sheepshead.
Pompano are similar to sheepshead in the fact that they will not eat any type of baitfish, but feed primarily on small crustaceans including shrimp, crabs, sand fleas, etc ... Small nylon jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp can be deadly on pompano when properly bounced across the bottom. Popular colors are white, pink and yellow. Silly Willy jigs have also gained a lot of popularity recently. Both sheepshead and pompano have relatively small mouths so it is important not to use too large of a hook. If you are unsure of the size, stop in at your local tackle shop and let them hook you up.
For the first time in a long time trout season well remain open through the year. Look for fish moving off the shallow grass flats to deeper protected areas as temperatures drop.
Deep areas around oyster bars, creeks, canals and potholes are good areas to target. Redfish and snook can be found from the same area, plus larger reds can be sight-fished on the lower tides over shallow flats adjacent to deeper water. Again, shrimp is the best bait - either the real thing or any of the many imitations.
As the craziness of the holiday season builds there is no place like a day on the water to get away from the madness. There will be some great fishing opportunities as we end the year, but even if the fish aren't biting I still can't think of a better place to spend the day.