Winter fishing presents a lot of challenges, but for those who figure it out the fishing can be outstanding! Motivating yourself to just getting out of you nice warm and dry home is probably the most difficult part. After that the rest is pretty easy.
For those fishing inshore the main targeted species are redfish, black drum, sheepshead, speckled trout, and white trout this time of year. However there are a few others like stripers and hybrids, but for the most part they are usually a bycatch when fishing the rivers and bays for specks and reds. That said the reports this week have mostly been from folks catching big red and even bigger black drum. Specks and small reds are also being caught in area cannels along with the occasional sheepshead. Most of the sheepshead action is happening around the Navarre Bridge, the power lines over in East Bay, Pensacola Pass, 3-mile Bridge and the Bob Sykes Bridge. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs, and fresh oysters are the top baits when targeting these expert bait stealers so have plenty on hand because when the bite is on it can be non-stop. The pier bite over at Ft. Pickens has been especially hot, but a lot of the fish are just under the minimum size. Still a lot of fun and most folks are catching enough for supper.
The most common species targeted during the winter from the pier and the surf are blackfin tuna, bonita, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, flounder, bluefish and sharks. Sadly the water quality at the pier has been cloudy and the bite has been slow at best with a few bluefish, redfish and the occasional whiting or bonita being caught. I’m optimistic that once the water clears up the bite will heat up. Folks fishing the surf have been having a little better luck as landing a few redfish, black drum, pompano, whiting, and blue fish. The guys targeting sharks are about the only folks seeing consistent hook-ups and are landing some nice bulls, dusky, sandbar and blacktips from the surf. With the national seashore open again I hope to see an increase of reports from folks fishing the surf.
For the next few months folks heading off shore will be targeting grouper, red porgy, mingo snapper, blackfin tuna, and flounder. Right now the only species closed off for harvesting are red snapper, amberjacks, and triggerfish until the first of the year when gag grouper will be added to that list. The gag grouper bite has been especially productive with many keeper fish being caught in less than 80 feet of water on many of the near shore wrecks. Live bottom seems to be holding more gags as well as red and scamp grouper, but you can still hook up with a few on the artificial reefs. Blackfin and yellowfin tuna can be had out around the oil rigs south of Orange Beach. Jigging seems to be producing plenty of blackfin, with the larger yellowfin hitting live bait and chunked baits. Folks are also deep dropping on small reefs near the rigs for bull mingo and red porgy as well a green tile fish and snowy grouper. Most of the pelagic species have left for warmer waters south, but high speed trolling between the reefs should still pull in a wahoo or two.
That about sums it up folks for this coming week so keep an eye on the weather and “GET OUT THERE” and get in on the bite!
If anyone else has a report you would like to share we would love to hear about it. So drop in at the store and tell us a tale/give us a report or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org