As the inshore water gets colder this month small baitfish vacate our waters and shrimp become the primary diet for most 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, especially through the winter.
As the temperature drops it should give a big boost for catching sheepsheads, big pre-spawn fish 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 sheepsheads experts that target only big fish catch their own bait including fidler 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 sheepsheads.
Pompano are similar to sheepsheads 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 since introduced. Both sheepsheads and pompano have relatively small mouths so it is important not to use a large hook, if you are unsure of the size stop in at your local tackle shop and let them hook you up.
Trout fishing should remain steady to close out 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. Remember snook season is closed, catch and release only, please handle them gently, and as little as possible. Again, shrimp is the best bait, either the real thing or any of the many imitations, the extreme low tides of December offer great opportunities for tailing redfish over the extreme shallows.
Offshore, gag grouper season closed on December 3rd and red grouper remains open. Early in the month king mackerel and cobia moving down the coast are a good bet, and expect tripletail not far off the beaches. Large bait schools could produce a feeding frenzy of all sorts of hungry fish, watch for birds.
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, away from the crowds.