The New Year started off with some rough weather that made fishing difficult, but within a week a warming trend brought better conditions. Once the water temperatures dipped below 60, we saw Snook hanging around the pier, no doubt on their way from nearshore reefs to refuges inside the bay, looking for warmer waters. As long as the water temps stayed around 60, we saw Spanish Mackerel caught most days and nights here, with flurries of action spaced thru the day and into the night.
Butterfish, or Silver Perch, continued to be the most common catch. Anglers using multi-hook rigs have been doing well with cut shrimp. These small silver fish provide only a small fillet, but the number of fish makes up for their small size. Some folks scale and gut the Butterfish, and then pan-fry them whole. You haven’t lived until you’ve had Butterfish and grits for breakfast.
Whiting numbers have been down, but the size of the few fish has been impressive. Fishermen have been getting a few Whiting, then none for an hour or so. After awhile, more show up; so the persistent angler is rewarded. Squid cut into small triangles usually produces well, and stays on the hook better than shrimp.
We have seen a fair number of Silver Trout taken both days and nights. Small pieces of fresh-dead shrimp are the preferred bait. Multiple hook rigs have been producing well. Anglers using a large Sabiki rig tipped with bits of shrimp have been particularly successful. Silver Trout have been averaging about 8 inches, with some larger fish thrown in.
Spotted SeaTrout have been active starting after sunset, with the best action around 9 o’clock and later. Smaller fish are showing up first, with larger fish later on. As the minimum size for Spotted SeaTrout is 15 inches, anglers must be careful not to keep undersize fish, and release undersize fish gently. The bag limit on Spotted SeaTrout is four fish, with only one fish over 20 inches.
A few Sheepshead have been caught this month, with fishermen having their best success fishing with small hooks around the pilings. The Sheepshead likes crabs and shrimp, and will respond well to a little bit of chumming. Their bite is notoriously sneaky, so care must be taken to set the hook before the bait is stripped off. Experienced Sheepshead fishermen know to watch the line for the tell-tale twitch that signals a nibble, and set the hook hard enough to penetrate their tough tooth-studded mouth.
As usual we have seen lots of small Sharks here this month. BlackTip and BonnetHead Sharks are the most common ones here, and we discourage killing of Sharks. We ask that anglers release Sharks with as little damage as possible. It’s responsible and ethical, and good for your karma to do so.
We should be seeing the Grouper bite heating up, with Gag Groupers moving in off nearshore reefs. Surprisingly large Grouper can be found in shallow waters, and they have a big appetite for live fish and large chunks of cut baits. Once a Grouper bites, he heads for the rocks, and can be impossible to dislodge. Sometimes it is possible to wait the fish out, but usually not.
Look for breaks in the weather pattern for fishing success. The best fishing is usually going to be be just before the next front hits, when the fish are hungry and getting a meal before the wind starts howling and the waves churn up the sand.
Good Luck Fishing!
Fantastic fishing with lots of variety was the hallmark of the fishing here in December. Mild conditions prevailed, with a couple of cold fronts pushing through to muddy the waters and create higher surf. Postcard days soon returned, with temperatures in the mid 70′s and a good variety of fish for anglers both day and night.
Spanish Mackerel were caught all day, starting just after first light. Flurries of activity off and on throughout the day as tides and other unseen forces influenced the bite. We got into the habit of turning on our powerful fishing lights well before dark, and this tricks the Spanish Mackerel into forgetting the fact that they go to sleep at night. The result is that the schools of Mackerel stay in feeding mode close to Pier 60 well after dark! Most of the Spanish Mackerel were larger than the 12 inch minimum, with some of the Spotted Speedsters up to 20 inches or so.
A couple of late-season Snook were seen mulling about, no doubt ready to head inside the bay to find warmer runoff or creeks to spend the next few months as water temperatures fall below 65 degrees. The Snook may sun themselves on some shallow flats inside the bay on warmer winter days, but we do not expect to see any more Snook here until well into spring.
Quite a few nice Flounder were caught this month, with live Shrimp being the bait of choice. The Flounder, although a bottom dweller, is not shy and will rise readily to take a free-lined Shrimp or lure passed overhead.
Whiting have started to show up with some abundance. Many days it seems that the bite turns on just before sunset, and lasts until an hour or so after dark. Whiting like cut Shrimp, but will also bite on cut Calamari Squid, with the added benefit that Squid bait may last for several fish before the hook becomes bare.
We’ve also seen the influx of Silver Trout and Silver Perch in full swing. Both of these species are found in schools off the ends of the Pier during the day and night. Although small, these fish provide a tasty fillet, and there is no bag or size limit. Some anglers have been filling the coolers with Silvers and Butterfish. Old-Time Florida natives would have Butterfish and grits for breakfast, with the Butterfish pan-fried whole on the plate looking back at you.
Spotted SeaTrout have been showing up mostly after dark, with a few fish in the mornings and even in the middle of the day. The Spotted SeaTrout is usually taken on live Shrimp, but lures work well also. Because the Spotted SeaTrout has a minimum keeper size of 15 inches, it’s important to release undersize fish with as little touching as possible. Holding in a dry rag, dry hands, or flopping on the concrete deck, is sure death to a released Trout. Using circle hooks and touching only the hook while holding the fish over the rails is the way I release mine. With lures, not only do you get more time in the water, you get to cover more area, target your fish more specifically, and catch more. We carry a new line of realistic Shrimp lures made by Savage in the Tackle Shop, and feedback on these lures has been outstanding. Another advantage to using lures is that, in the long run, they can be cheaper on the wallet. You can forego having to buy live bait, a bucket, aerator, etc. Try a lure, and you may become a convert!
Anglers also caught a few Bluefish, Black Sea Bass, LadyFish, and Pompano here in December.
Here on Pier 60 we see lots of little Sharks of many species. BlackTips, BonnetHead, and Sand Sharks are common. We ask that anglers release Sharks without damage here, as much as possible. They are fun to catch, fight hard, and are fascinating to see close-up.
Thanks to all for making 2013 a great success here. We strive to meet out customer’s needs with cheerful enthusiasm, and look forward to 2014 with optimism.
Good Luck Fishing!