A Fine Cornucopia of Fish

Give thanks to the sea this T-Givin'

Since we live so close to a freaking ocean, I think we should all be thankful this year that we do. I can't imagine living hundreds of miles from a beach. If you can, I'm sorry to hear that.

One thing I'm thankful for this year is flounder fishing during the winter. Every Thanksgiving I trek down to Sebastian to fish for flounder all day long, rain or shine. I think a lot of people have the same idea that day, or maybe everyone just has off work, but I usually don't mind the crowd. There are hundreds of spots to fish in the inlet where one can catch flounder, you've just got to know how to go about doing it. You can also go any other day from around Halloween until the end of January into February.

The hardest part of flounder fishing in the winter is catching bait. The easiest thing to do is to stop by Whitey's on your way down, pick up a few dozen mullet or live shrimp, and you are set for the day. Mullet virtually disappear with the cold weather this month and they can be very difficult to find with a cast net. They will usually be lurking in shallow water where the sun raises the temperature fastest. Any size finger mullet will work for flounder, and I have seen some big doormats caught on 10" baits!

Flounder feed close to the bottom so that's where you need to keep your bait. A sliding sinker rig (aka fishfinder rig) works great for flounder. Start off with a short length, about 14", of 20-30lb mono leader. Tie a small 1-1/0 hook on one end and a tiny barrel swivel on the other. After tying the knots your leader should be about 10 inches long. Slide an egg sinker, weight dependent on the current speed, onto your mainline and then tie on your swivel.

With this rig the mullet will stay near the bottom with your line tight. When you feel a fish THUMP! your bait, give him some line and he will pull your mullet around. Let 'em eat it. Give him at least 20 -30 seconds. Then set 'em hard. He won't feel the sinker because the line is sliding through it. Flounder like to sit behind rocks, so once you hook one keep your rod tip up and the fish coming in. I usually use 1/4oz during a slack tide and up to 2 or 3 oz when the current is running strong.

The shallow water fishing is great this time of year because that shallow water warms up way faster than the deeper parts of the river. Water that is two feet deep soaks up the sun much faster in the morning, but also gets cold a lot faster at night. Fish like snook, trout, and reds will move up into the warming shallow flats by noontime each day and when it cools off in the evening they will be on their way to deeper waters where the heat is held for the night.

In order to catch flats fish in these cooler months, some things should be done different. Those noisy topwater lures may not work as well with these fish which are skittish and at the same time cold and not much apt to move around much. Smaller lures and baits will be easier for them to catch and they would much rather not exert too much energy early in the morning going after a big 'ol plug.

I often see redfish tailing in the winter, but they are just sitting there with their tails out of the water. They are not feeding like they normally are, they are just basking in the sun waiting for their cold blood to warm up so they can start moving around and eating. Sort of like a car or truck, starts and runs better when it's warm. Anyways, when I see this I will use pieces of cut mullet or crab and cast toward the lazy fish. They will smell the dead bait and slowly make their way over to devour it. Sometimes it's the only way.

The inlet fishing may be great for flounder, but you can bet the reds and snook and tarpon will be out in force too, fattening up so they can survive the cold spells we sometimes get. My buddies Paul Ramirez and Josh Huff landed over twenty big reds and snook last weekend during an outgoing tide. They were using big live pinfish and pigfish which have been abundant on the flats adjacent the inlet.

 November is typically the best time to land tarpon at Sebastian and off the beaches between the Port and the Inlet. Surfers typically see them first, big silver logs rolling in the swells. Nothing beats a bucktail or a big plug at the inlet, and if you're fishing from the beach you'll likely do best on a big live mullet, biggest you can find.

Going with the same concept of shallow water warming quickly during the winter months, the ocean surface is no exception. The first few feet of the ocean surface will heat up by 10 am each day and you can bet that the cobia will leave their reefs and cruise around on top, soaking up some rays. On calm, clear days head out there and start lookin' for 'em, anywhere between 60 and 80 feet.

Next month check back here and I'll probably have some good flounder and surf fishing pictures to post up as the flatties move through and the pompano come down from up north. Stay tuned!

Live slow, surf fast, fish hard, dive deep,

Matt Badolato


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