Top Species to Fish During Winter

January 10, 2020


Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

Don’t let the cold weather get you down… there’s still great fishing to be had! Get your tackle ready and set the hook. Tell your fishing buddy that you’re going out and here’s what you’re targeting these winter months:

Offshore Winter Fishing

If you’re heading offshore anytime from December to February, keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable. But that doesn’t mean the rods won’t be bending. Keep in mind what’s running offshore, and have a great time catching tonight’s dinner!

SAILFISH – As part of the billfish family, “sails” as they are known to charter captains, give up one heck-of-a-fight. They are primarily blue on the top with gray on the bottom and a distinguishable dorsal fin that resembles a sailboat (hence the name). Start your charter from Jupiter, FL and hit the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic for a day of catching this incredible species. Use live ballyhoo as your bait, trolling with at least four lines in the water. Once on the hook, sailfish are known for their acrobatics to toss the line. Free spool the line and keep the rod tip up to give some resistance when reeling your catch in. Once you have landed the sail, feel free to take a picture of your trophy! Or have the First Mate and a buddy pull your catch into the boat; sailfish typically weigh over 200 pounds, so you’ll need all the help you can get! The best time to catch sailfish off Florida’s East Coast is from December to January.

MARLIN – Another billfish family member, marlin are abundant off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in the winter months. There are three species of marlin to be found when fishing Costa Rica; these include striped marlin, blue marlin, and black marlin. Black marlin are the largest of the three, and can reach over 1,600 pounds. Blue marlin are just a bit smaller, reaching just over 1,400 pounds; while striped marlin are the smallest and average about 500 pounds. Costa Rica is divided into north, central, and southern sections when it comes to fishing; the central section has the most marlin action during the winter months. Hire a professional charter from Playa Herradura, Jaco, or Playa Hermosa for your Costa Rica marlin adventure. Peak season for marlins off the coast of Jaco is from December to April.

BLUEFIN TUNA – Fishing offshore in North Carolina in the winter is never a sure thing, the weather is just too unpredictable. But when it’s a good day… it’s a good day! Bluefin tuna show up in large numbers at the end of January and Outer Banks charter captains are guiding customers to some of the most memorable days of fishing you can imagine. Nags Head, Wanchese, and Manteo are all top destinations for your Outer Banks fishing trip. Bluefin have a mostly silver body with a strip of blue running from head to tail. They can grow massive, over 1,000 pounds in some cases. Head more than 50 miles from the shore to find them running, and troll shiny baits like ballyhoo or mackerel. Bluefin tuna is a great choice for your North Carolina winter fishing trip from February to April.

Inshore Winter Fishing

Anglers of all experience levels also enjoy the inshore opportunities that are found in the winter months. These species are typically found closer to the shore near food supplies; you should have no trouble reeling in a nice keeper or two when fishing these top winter species:

REDFISH – Redfish (also known as red drum) are bronze/tan color with distinct black dot(s) at the beginning of their tail. They are found throughout the United States from the Carolinas to Texas. During the winter, redfish are found near shallow areas where they stay warm and feed on nearby crustaceans. Use shrimp or crab with fluorocarbon line and drift your bait in the tide. Charleston, SC is a fantastic place to fish for reds in the winter; your Charleston fishing charter will know the spots in the harbor to get your line screaming. December through February is a great time to book your redfish fishing trip.

SPECKLED TROUT – Also known as spotted seatrout, the speckled trout is also part of the drum family. Winter months call for the hottest trout fishing throughout the Gulf Coast. Just head to Port Aransas, TX and fish the many bays or Aransas Pass for a great day of catching trout. Top water plugs are used to catch their attention, fished with live bait or plastics underneath. There are regulations when it comes to fishing for trout, so know your state’s catch-and-release policies. Fishing for speckled trout is best from December to February.

COBIACobia can be found nearshore or offshore; in the Florida Keys look for them in the nearby reefs and wrecks. They are an odd-looking fishing with condensed head and sleek black coloring. When the water temperatures are cooler they like to swim the shallow flats and chase after sting rays or smaller sharks. Once you have one on the hook, free spool your line and let the cobia tire themselves out. If you boat them too early they tend to bring chaos aboard with them, thrashing about and hurting your boat and passengers. For the best results, book your cobia fishing adventure in the Keys between December and February.

Freshwater Winter Fishing

So far we’ve focused solely on saltwater species. Now let’s shift gears and focus on those freshwater species ready for a good fight this winter:

LARGEMOUTH BASS – while fishing for largemouth bass is good throughout the year, the winter months are the beginning of spawning season and are without a doubt the best time to fish for your next lunker. Before you target the bass, make sure to pick up a few shiners (panfish) to use as live bait. Your results will be phenomenal when fishing with live bait. Keep in mind, largemouth bass are aggressive fighters and will jump and thrash to throw the line. Once you have it landed, take a quick picture of your trophy and then release it back for another day’s fight. All largemouth bass in Central Florida are catch-and-release. Head out to the lake from mid-February to late March and get ready for a great day of bass fishing.

CRAPPIE – despite how the word looks, it’s pronounced “croppie”, and winter is the best time to target this freshwater species. During the winter months anglers catch their limit of crappie in no time at all. Fish the deep waters during the colder parts of the day (morning and sunset) and the shallow or topwater during the afternoon. Use a 10-12 foot rod with light action; and you can use the same panfish bait that attract bass. Once again, the Orlando area is our go-to spot for catching crappie in the winter; December to February is a great time to see some action.

PERCH – if you’re down for some ice fishing this winter, then you’re certain to hook a perch or two. All throughout the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada are frozen lakes filled with perch looking for something to eat. Anglers who opt for ice fishing typically see perch more than any other fish pulled through the ice. Pick any frozen lake, hire a local guide, and we’re sure you’ll be bringing up a few perch, along with pike and walleye!

Your Winter Fishing Trip

Some fish like to disappear when the weather and waters get cold. But the above fish are still looking for something to eat, and are happy to take your offering. Don’t let the cooler temperatures keep you from doing the thing you love the most – get out there and start fishing!

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