Just like any creature that’s metabolism is regulated by temperature, fish along the Alabama Gulf Coast get a little sluggish in the winter when water temperatures drop.
The cooler the water, the slower the metabolism of the fish, which means there won’t be a lot of chasing going on when it comes to bait.
One of the benefits of fishing in cold weather is the competition for the best fishing spots is greatly reduced. Most of the charter boats use the winter to get their boats, motors and equipment maintenance done as soon as possible. And, most of the charter captains and anglers I know in Alabama will head to the deer camp and forget about fishing for a while.
As the water temperatures begin to fall into the 50s, the fish are going to head into deeper water to find a more stable temps. Holes and channels of the rivers and estuaries are where the fish will abide during the winter.
Shrimp imitation lures, like a DOA Shrimp or Vudu Shrimp, usually work well in the winter, but fishing a shrimp in winter is significantly different than the rest of the year. Winter fishing is more like what the bass fishermen call “dead-sticking.” They cast the bait out and let the current move the bait with no rod action at all.
Tie the shrimp lure directly to light line of 8- to 10-pound test line without a cork or any additional weight. Another technique is to let the lure slowly sink and keep an 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. But never get in a hurry.
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 slow-fishing techniques are not your thing, you can always head out to Dixey Bar during December and tangle with bull reds. These bulls usually run from 34 to 42 inches and will test your tackle. If there is a weak spot in your equipment, bull reds will find it. Watch for diving birds to locate the bait schools. And wherever there is bait on Dixey Bar, there are big redfish. As I’ve said many times, bull reds are not good table fare. Take a photo and throw them back to fight another day.
Before it gets too cold, be sure to take advantage of one of the best-eating fish on the Gulf Coast. Whiting run the shoreline during early winter and will take bits of fresh dead shrimp with a little square of Fish Bites cast in the surf on the front beach. Whiting usually move back into the Gulf in January.
When you have to run from the wind, check out the Intracoastal Waterway. Look for the baitfish, and that’s where you’ll find the game species. Cast grubs or shrimp imitations until you locate the fish. Redfish and puppy drum (juvenile black drum) love to hang out in the ICW, and those small drum taste exactly like a slot redfish.
For more on fishing along the Alabama Gulf Coast, visit OrangeBeach.com/fishing.