Florida Winter Fishing Tips for Your Next Boating Trip

If you’re trying to fish this winter and you’re not quite sure what to expect, we’ve got you covered. You’ve likely been fishing in the Florida spring and summer, but if it’s your first time tackling a Florida winter, there are going to be a few differences. Most of this is covered in our Jacksonville Fishing Report / Weekend Fishing Forecast, but this post will be more related to the Winter as a whole, and less about a particular week.

Fortunately, it’s mostly the same as fishing in the area as you would do any other time of year, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you don’t arrive home empty-handed. Take a look at what to expect for your next boating trip this winter.

Where to fish

First, it’s good to understand where you should be fishing. You may not be fishing in spots you’re used to because now is the season to look for random trenches, troughs, and ditches for your next catch. A deep pocket next to a flat and sandbar is a great place to check.

Fish tend to end up in these deeper areas during negative tides because they have a decent depth for larger game fish to reside. Look for one with a dark bottom which is more likely to be a warm and comfortable space for fish to end up.

Your timing will matter too. You should focus on the first half of the incoming tide and the last half of the outgoing tide since these are the most active times for finding hungry fish. You’ll also know it’s a good flat if you see a lot of wading birds like herons or egrets…  you’re more likely to find crustaceans and baitfish there. Look for coastal arteries like under a bridge into a backwater canal area where you can find other great fishing opportunities.

Understanding negative tides

When you’re dealing with winter conditions for fishing, you are going to run into the previously mentioned “negative tide” which means the tide is the lower than average. These low, low tides make it a challenge to fish, but looking for these hot spots to fish will make your winter fishing experience more successful.

An ultra-low tide or “negative tide” will cause the water to disappear from a flat that could be high enough for boat traffic at a different time in the day. Watch carefully for a safe depth and use the negative tides to learn about the topography of these spots that you’ll be fishing during the regular tides.

Challenges in colder water

Now that you know where to fish and how things will be different this winter with the lower tide, you’ll need to understand some other cold water differences.  You’ll gain the benefit of extremely clear water since the bacteria that require warmer temperatures to survive has died off. This also means that the fish you see will be able to see you so. You need to be more stealth, so stay quiet and keep a distance. Having a flats boat with a deck covered in foam padding will be handy this time of year. Choose a long rod with braided line to help keep your distance.  Be prepared with gear that will let you walk the flats.

Florida Winter Fishing

The St. Johns River this winter

When you hit the St. Johns River this winter, search for deep holes and shallow flats, follow the current since that triggers how fish feed, and be willing to move your boat depending on cold fronts and windy conditions.

You’ll need more scent to your bait, rain gear to protect you from the extra wave action, and a way to monitor the cold fronts since the fish become more active after the weather subsides.

Lastly, remember that a full moon is a great time to fish and moonless nights may keep the fish away.

If you haven’t experienced Florida winter fishing, now is the time do it. Winter brings some challenges, yes, but it also has some very unique qualities that are just plain fun to overcome. Enjoy being on the boat with the cooler temps this winter and make sure to bring your winter gear!

How to get a fishing license in Florida

If you’re new to the boating world, you’re probably wondering how to go about getting your fishing license from the state of Florida. It’s a pretty simple process and one that you can accomplish in no time. This is one of the best states to fish since it has both excellent saltwater and freshwater fishing locales for you to venture out to.

You can become an angler too by obtaining a Florida fishing license which will require a quick form, your ID, and some cash. It can even be done online! Take a look at the fishing license options in Florida, what you’ll need to get them, and how much it will cost for your kids or other family members to get one too.

Who can get a fishing license?

Anyone can get their Florida fishing license, but children under 16 and Florida residents 65 years or older don’t need one. Military members that are Florida residents and stationed outside of the state or at home in leave for a month or less won’t need one either. You also won’t need one depending on your fishing location plans.

Where to begin

The best way to begin the licensing process is to try some of the free fishing locations first to make sure you’re going to be serious about your fishing needs. You won’t need a license if you are fishing in saltwater from land or a structure attached to the land, at a man-made pond on private property, or if you’re fishing with cane poles in your county of residence. As far as boating is concerned, you can fish for free in saltwater from your boat with a vessel fishing license.

There is also a free fishing weekend to give you a chance to do it without a license before you purchase your official license. This takes place the first weekend of April where no license is required for freshwater fishing in Florida for the whole weekend, giving newbies and the unlicensed to try it out before buying their license.

Choosing a license

If you’ve decided to go ahead and get your fishing license, it will cost you less than $50 to make it happen for the year. For residents wanting a saltwater or fishing license for a 12-month period, it will cost only $13.50, but if you want both together it will be $25.50. if you aren’t a resident yet, it will be slightly higher at $16.50 or $31.50.

You can also choose from some unusual options, such as the 5-year recreational freshwater or saltwater license options for $79 or the life pass for $400-$1001 depending on your age. Non-residents can get a 3-day pass for $17 for freshwater or saltwater fishing, or a seven-day license for $30. They also sell Florida commercial saltwater licenses if you plan to sell or trade your products from the ocean.

How to get my license

You can easily get your fishing license online with an additional fee of $2.25 as well as a 2.5% surcharge. They will also charge a $3.25 plus a 2.5% surcharge if you do it by phone by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA. You can avoid the additional fees by heading over to the county tax collector’s office or pay a smaller fee by buying from a fishing store. Just be sure to bring your proof of residency for the lower price and a credit card if paying over the phone.

What else do I need?

Once you’ve covered the license, you’ll need the proper gear to enjoy the experience. Learn about great fishing spots and then stock up on a good fishing pole, get the proper live bait for the fish you want to catch, and then head out during sunrise or sunset when the fishing is best. When you’re on the boat, be sure to always have your driver’s license, fishing license, and boat registrations and insurance with you at all times. Make sure you check out our Florida Fishing Report / Weekend Forecast before you head out!

Now that you have the details, get your license and get out there and start enjoying the fishing life in this glorious fishing state! You’ll love having this extra opportunity on your boating weekends in Florida.

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Best Sunglasses for Boating

One of your favorite accessories cruising the water in Florida is likely a good pair of sunglasses.  Not only do they make you look good, but they give you a break from the blazing sun when you’re trying to cruise in the water or talk to your passengers.

With so many options out there, you may not know what quality pair to choose from that will give you the ultimate sun protection and style.  Get rid of those $20 sunglasses you bought at the convenience store and upgrade to one of the better brands that help your vision suitable for life on the water.

The Importance Boating Sunglasses when You are Fishing

When you’re on the water, it’s more important than ever to give your skin and eyes protection from damaging UV rays.  Not only is protection important, but being comfortable and having the best visibility possible will make all of the difference.  When you combine direct light and reflected light from the water, everything is much brighter than on land.  You’ll also notice this on windshields or bright white decks.

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When you experience this brighter light reflection in addition to direct sunlight, it makes the eyes tired and increases the chances of headaches.  Excess sun exposure can also damage the eyes and cause diseases such as macular degeneration.   Fortunately, you can get glasses made for the fisherman or general boater that contain a darkening amber, green, or gray color to reduce the light by up to 90 percent.

You should look for glasses with a polarized lens with a visible light transmission between 15-30% that has a flatter lens for less distortion.  Look for polycarbonate materials and a lightweight, durable frame made of nylon or something similar.  Look for styles such as a “Fishing Style” with small side lenses, clip-ons if you wear prescription glasses, aviator style, double bridge, or wrap-around.

Popular Brands and Models

If you’re looking for suggestions on specific sunglasses for getting out on the water, you’ll have good luck with brands like Oakley, Ocean Waves, Costa Del Mar, and WileyX.  Check out the Costa Del Mar Jose in the glass option for a great viewing experience or the Oakley Wind Jacket in which you can snap on a gasket that turns your sunglasses into goggles for when the water is splashing you as you cruise.

Ocean Waves has great options for the water including the Madrid and Kauai models.  Be sure to check out WileyX for a wrap-around style that cuts the glare in your periphery, or the Onos Vicious Fishing Fierce glasses for a lightweight option while on the water.

These five brands take the cake for best sunglasses for boaters.  The most important thing to do is choose polarized sunglasses to protect from UV damage while blocking the glare of the water, and having the option to protect your eyes from all angles while being able to handle the wind generated while on a moving boat.

If your primary focus is fishing, look for a brown or copper lens for fishing in the early morning or late evening.  It allows for the best visibility.  You’ll love a gray lens if you tend to fish in the middle of the afternoon or in deep waters, but go with a yellow or amber tint if you often find you are fishing in cloudy or foggy conditions.

Be sure to pick up a quality pair of sunglasses before your next outing to ensure the best visibility and safety of you and your passengers…  and protection from sun damage.

Safe Tubing Tips

Invest in towline rated to the proper capacity. Minimum 2,375 pound lines for 2 passengers and 4,100 pounds rated lines for 4 person models.  6,000-pound ratings for 6 person inflatable.

Make sure to attach the line properly to both the boat and the tube.

Make sure to fully inflate all bladders until they feel firm with no wrinkles.

Do not overinflate.  Excessive pressure can cause seams to tear.

Pick a safe spot with deep water for boat and away from the shoreline and other obstacles.

Adhere to rated passenger capacity ratings.  This makes for better safety and better rides… and more fun too.

Do not put more people on the tube than it is rated for…  overloading will deteriorate the quality of the ride as well as create a safety hazard.

Always use a spotter to watch for signals from riders and to spot problems.

Speeds up to 20 miles per hour are usually safe for S turns and maneuvers to cause the tube to cross your wake.

When you are whipping riders over the wake, keep them close outside the wake to finish.  Do not go extremely wide.

Do not tube at excessive speeds.

Stay clear of other boats, docks, and the shoreline.  A guideline is to make sure you are at least three times your rope length away from any obstacle.

It is not only up to the captain to assure a fun ride but also to make sure all is safe.

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What are the best knots for tying up a boat

Tying up the boat is one of those tasks that many new boaters don’t think about, but quickly becomes important once you get to the dock. You may have never learned how to do it the right way, and you don’t want to leave the dock without the boat being tied up properly.

Those knots you’ve been using may have worked up until now, but it’s time to make sure you’ve got the right method and that your boat is actually going to be secured at dock. Take a look at the best knots to use and try to learn as many as you can for your weekends on the boat.

The clove hitch

The first example of a great knot method for tying up your boat would be to use the clove hitch. This is a common and excellent knot for boaters to learn that doesn’t take long to learn. Simply go around the object once before making a second turn in the same direction. You’ll cross over the first one when you go the second time, but on the second time you will then tuck the free end through the eye.

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The cleat hitch

With a similar name as the first method, the cleat hitch is another way to go about docking the boat. If you walked the docks before and noticed the knots, you’ve likely seen this one when it’s been done wrong. It’s one of those knots where people tend to leave a tangled mess from too much line or they’ll have an insufficient loop that falls apart. Don’t lose your boat or your dinghy from a poor cleat hitch.

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To do a cleat hitch, you’ll be making three turns around the cleat’s horn, not to be done any fewer or any more times than that. Pass your line once around the base of the cleat completely going under the horns and then once you’ve done that one time, you’ll cross over the opposite horn. The last step would be to turn the line under itself making a half hitch.

The reason that this often goes wrong is that people will try to do extra layers on the turns that re-crosses over the cleat but the extra turns doesn’t help and only makes it harder to untie.

The bowline knot

Try a bowline knot for another popular knot option. This one requires you to make a loop in the line before feeding the end up through the loop. Then you’ll feed it around the lower part of the line and back through the loop, pulling your ends tight to make sure there is no give.

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Whether you are trying to hitch up, tying a line to something else, bending where you tie a line to another, or making a knot where your line is tied to itself, you should understand the differences and learn a little bit of everything. Keep your knots simple and clean following the instructions carefully.  It may make a big difference in your boat’s security when you dock.