redfish

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David Lambrix from Marshall, Mich., with a 30-inch Gasparilla Island redfish. Catching quality fish like this in winter doesn’t just happen — you need to make a plan if you’re going to succeed.

Well, it feels like winter now, doesn’t it? Winds are blowing, rain is falling, and it’s colder than a well digger’s butt outside. Good news, though: Other then the wind and the cold, our fishing is fantastic. All these blustery winds we’ve been getting have made it hard to get out and fish and have fun, but there are ways around the wind.

Let’s say I’m going out tomorrow. The first thing I’m going to do is check the weather forecast to see which way the wind is going to be blowing. If the forecast calls for 20 mph out of the east, that tells me it will be very rough on the west side of the Harbor — that’s where all the wind is blowing towards.

That lets me know I should put in at the east side of the Harbor, which will allow me to stay in calmer waters where the land is going to be blocking the wind. It will be a much nicer day if I don’t have to fight the wind all day. Yes, it will still be a little windy, but not as bad.

The next thing I am going to do is look at the tide chart. This will tell me where I can and can’t fish for the day. Depending on the wind direction, the tide will either be higher or lower than what the chart shows.

If the wind is out of the north or east, the water is going to get blown out of the Harbor and the water will be lower. If the wind is strong and steady, it may be a lot lower. When the wind is out of the south or west, it will push the water into the Harbor and make the tide higher — again, maybe a lot higher with a stiff breeze.

This time of the year, the wind often blows from the north. Sometimes it lowers the Harbor so much that the flats are all but impossible to fish. That’s when you go to the canals and fish. Actually, you’ll be more comfortable there anyway, since the wind will be blocked by all the houses and seawalls.

Another big thing is what to use for bait when the water gets this cold. Chilly water will slow down a fish’s metabolism down big time, so my favorite bait this time of the year is shrimp. Shrimp will outfish everything else when the water is cold because the fish can digest them quickly and they won’t rot in their stomachs.

Getting up a little later in the day to go fishing is another good idea for fishing when it’s cold out. Stay in bed where it’s warm until 9 or 10 a.m.; then head to the water. The fish will be more willing to eat after they have warmed up a little bit.

This time of the year can be very frustrating to fish because of the low water, winds and cold days. But the fish still have to eat to live. The key is to find what fish seek out — warmer water, moving water, food sources — and the fish are going to be there.

The top thing that works for me this time of the year is to work everything slow. If you think you’re going slow, work it half that fast. That is the biggest key to fishing this time of year. Throw it out there and let it sit and wait. That’s what is working best for me.

And dress warm. You don’t have to dress like me — five jackets on three pants, looking like an Eskimo — but you’ll want to layer. However, the fishing is red hot right now, so go take advantage of it.

Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.

Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.

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