Warm up to cold weather fishing
A Part Of The What's Biting Series
Slow is the name of the game when it comes to fishing during the only long-pants months on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Water temperatures will slow the metabolism of the fish, which means there won't be a lot of chasing going on when it comes to bait.
The good news is the number of anglers on the water will be greatly reduced. Most of the charter boats use the winter to get their boats, motors and equipment ready for the frenzied pace of the spring-summer rush. Plus, a lot of the outdoorsmen and women in Alabama will head to the deer camp and forgo the fishing until the weather warms again.
As the water temperatures begin to fall into the 50s, the fish are going to head into deeper water to find a more stable ecosystem.
That means fishing in the holes and channels of the rivers and estuaries where the fish take up residence in the winter.
Shrimp imitation baits, like a DOA Shrimp or Vudu Shrimp, usually work well in the winter, but don't expect to hop it quickly like you do when the water is warmer. The shrimp lure is tied directly to light line of 8- to 10-pound test line without a cork or any additional weight. Let the lure slowly sink, and keep and eye on your line for any twitch that might indicate a bite. As the bait drifts toward the bottom without a bite, twitch it and let it sink, twitch it and let it sink.
Inshore species like speckled trout and redfish followed the migration of shrimp into the rivers and estuaries during the fall, and the cold weather will keep them in those same areas.
If you are easily bored with the slow-fishing techniques required for the fish in deeper water, you can always head out to Dixey Bar during December, and tangle with the mighty bull red. These bulls usually run from 34 to 42 inches and will take your tackle to the limit, sometimes past it. Watch for diving birds to locate the bait schools. And wherever there is bait on Dixey Bar, there are big redfish. The techniques vary, but if it looks like a baitfish, most of the time the reds will hit it. As I've said many times before, bull reds are not good eats, so take a photo and throw them back.
Before it gets too cold, be sure to take advantage of one of the best fish to drop into hot peanut oil on the Gulf Coast. Whiting run the shoreline during early winter and will take bits of fresh dead shrimp cast in the surf on the front beach. But when January rolls around, whiting usually move back into the Gulf.
When the wind is a little brisk, but you can't resist the urge to wet a hook, consider the Intracoastal Waterway. As usual, the key is finding the baitfish. Then cast grubs or shrimp imitations until you find the fish. Redfish and puppy drum (juvenile black drum) will be what you will likely find in the ICW.
Most of the time on the Alabama Gulf Coast, we do not experience a solid winter of constant cold temperatures. Almost every winter, there will be a warm-up for a few days, which can bring those fish out of their deep-water haunts.
When the grip of winter finally starts to loosen in late January, get ready for a fishing bonanza. Sheepshead will invade the Alabama coastal waters and will be found hanging around any jetty or piling that might hold some of the fish's favorite crustaceans.
Taken plenty of fresh dead shrimp, live shrimp, fiddler crabs and hermit crabs, and fill up an ice chest with the sheepshead. The limit on sheepshead in Alabama is 10 per person with a 12-inch minimum size. However, I recommend keeping only sheepshead that are 16 inches or longer because that's the size fish that will yield a decent fillet.