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!