While winter temperatures roll into the gulf, many anglers will key on bits of structure and wrecks to stay on the fish. As the bait starts to scatter and move around, key species like mullet and snook move into the backwaters and canals. A challenging question for many anglers to answer this time of year is where do the offshore pelagic’s go? As the gulf consistently cools down the pelagic fish will move further offshore in search of warmer thermoclines in deeper water and currents. Those fish usually end up 20+ miles offshore around deeper water wrecks. But as the winter months show up many bottom fish like snapper and grouper move a bit closer inshore to be caught. These fish are easy to catch just a few miles off the beach and are around in better numbers this time of year! Targeting groupers and snapper are a great game fish to fish for this time of year! Reports of fish being caught all day long and closer in shore are quite common. bottom bouncing jigs or dropping pinfish around they’re holes and rocks are a surefire way to fire up a couple big bites! If your not sure on the exact spot to fish, running offshore and idling around with your electronics and down scan imaging on high beam, to locate these grouper haunts and even the fish themselves. The electronics will be able to reveal a few spots holding either bait, structure, or fish, if not more. While all this is easier said than done, some days it feels like the fish just wont bite! A good rule of thumb to get out on the water at the appropriate times, 1 is always check the tides, fishing on high tides, or strong ingoing or outgoing tides typically work well with strong bites during the tide swing. During the winter months when the temps drop below 55 degrees at night the water does start to drop and hold a cooler temperature. When this cold weather rolls in my second rule of thumb is to target these fish if you can find an occasional warming trend of 2 or more days in the midst of a cold snap. These warmer days strung out together in a row seem to have the fish feeding more aggressively during these warming trends, rather than a cooling trend. I was out the last week or two myself, and these fish were chewing heavily on out going tides during the small warming trends. I was having alot of success bottom bouncing 4oz white buck tails tipped with shrimp in about 6-7 fathoms. any cut bait or frozen squid would work well too, these fish were holding to small ledges and structure on the bottom, slowly hoping the jig across the bottom was producing very small strikes from some really big fish. I ended up connecting on a 15lb Red Grouper underneath the boat and it was on, the grouper was pulling drag and trying to rock me up.. a noted tip is using heavy gear when targeting the groupers in close. I was using 60lb leader on 60lb braid and that was strong and durable enough to get the job done. But when targeting the snapper light line such as 15lb line is ideal to get the bites from the weary and pressured snapper!
I recommend giving these techniques a try next time your looking to hit the water this winter and you will find out whats biting offshore!