Although it has not quite felt like winter until just recently, the winter fishing patterns have started to begin… finally.  Large changes in water temperature can make it a bit tough on an angler, but this is a challenge gladly accepted and will overall attribute to you becoming a better fisherman if you can figure it out and roll with the punches.  Here are some of my favorite inshore species and one nearshore species for this time of year to go out there and target.

Red Drum

The red drum should really be starting to begin getting into their winter schools.  They have been slightly hard to pattern recently, I think due to the large variations in water temperature this year.  There will be a school in the marsh one day and then they are gone the next.  This is not typically the case with winter schools, as they generally will hang around the same spot for a couple of months unless they are heavily pressured or there are large variations in temperature and weather.  Hopefully, they will begin to be a bit more consistent on their locations and where they want to be located for winter.  This time of year is also good for checking out boat basins for schools as well as right along the beach on the oceanside when the weather allows.

For red fish (in the marsh) during winter, here are a handful of my favorites to throw at them.

-Z man ShroomZ jig heads paired with an assortment of Zman Creaturez soft plastics

-Eye strike jig heads paired with an assortment of soft plastics that include jerk shads, paddle tails and gulp.

-Occasionally if the fish are slightly higher in the water column and seem to be very happy a Mirrolure MR17 can do the trick.

-Live or Cut shrimp on a slip float.

Winter is one of my favorite times to fish for redfish on the fly since the water is usually very clear and the large schools can make it fairly easy to get a fly in front of a fish.  As far as flies are concerned, I generally try to think about what they are eating this time of year when choosing a fly so patterns that resemble crustaceans and small bait like mud minnows.

Speckled trout

Although they will not be as easy to catch, as they are in the Fall, there are still quite a few speckled trout around you just have to know where to look and get on them when they are willing to eat.  Trout in the winter can be notorious for being locked jawed, but if you get a warm day in the winter and know where to find them your odds greatly increase.  That is not to say they will not eat when it’s cold out, but from what I have experienced on cold days in the winter I have had a hard time catching them.  This time of year the Trout that are still around have most likely fallen out of the channels around inlets and pushed deeper into creeks.  They like to find deeper holes in the marsh to hang in that are still deep holes at a low tide.  The second place to try for trout in the dead of winter is boat basins.

For Trout this time of year here are a handful of my favorites.

-Eye strike jig head paired with an assortment of Zman soft plastic paddle tails

-Eye strike Jig head paired with an assortment of Zman Trout Tricks

-Mirrolure Heavydine In various colors

Sheepshead

If you have the ability to push off the beach a bit and hit some nearshore structure, this is a great time of year to hone your skills on the convict fish.  In general the sheepshead that were inshore on bridges etc. have pushed out further to find more consistent water temperatures in the ocean.  This is a great species to target in the winter on any nearshore structure, jetties or artificial reefs and not to mention you might get lucky and catch one of the best table fare fish around in winter, the Tautog.  You would fish for sheepshead the same way you would fish for Tautog so there is always a chance of catching one of these.  In my mind there is really only a couple of ways to fish for these fish this time of year.  Below are some recommendations.

-Bottom Sweeper Jig Head (various weights depending on depth and current) pinned with a live mud crab or cut blue crab.

-43:2 Fishing Jaw Breakers (various weights depending on depth and current) pinned with a live mud crab or cut blue crab.

 

Good luck out there!

 

Links to Products

http://432fishing.com

https://bottomsweeperjigs.com/

https://www.zmanfishing.com/cms/index.php

https://eyestrikefishing.com/store/#!/Eye-Strike-Jig-Heads-Retail-Bulk-&-Sampler-Packs/c/12575438

https://www.shopmirrolure.com/

Fishing in Wilmington NC in winter