On the trail of New Year’s reds
The wind was supposed to be 8 mph with 12 mph gusts and the bay calm, when my son and I snuck away in the boat. This time we were going to hit some of the inshore structures and wrecks, and see how the grouper and flounder were holding on them.
We went to the pipeline in front of the mill, located the line and dropped to the bottom. The wind was blowing more like 15 mph with 20 mph gusts, making it a challenge to hold on the line.
We worked across the bay on the line and back, and had one small strike. We made a move to spot number two, a sunken boat in St. Andrew Bay. We circled on it, dropping down and eventually trolling around it. We continued to do that for about 30 minutes. Not a single bump.
We next moved to the third and final spot to try and locate grouper in the bay without jigging the bridge. We arrived on the third spot, and it was so clear that we could see the bottom — and see there were no fish. We still cast around it and dropped on it with hopes that maybe they were just good at hiding.
As we were doing that, I noticed the wind had picked up more and the bay was capping. We talked it over and decided it was time to head back to the skinnies in East Bay and do what we know and love best, which is catching redfish.
We got back to East Bay and headed over by Cooks Bayou. As we fished some flats there that we had found to hold in the winter, we worked around the flats sight casting and fan casting. We weren’t really seeing a whole of fish, bait or birds.
The wind was dying down some, so we decided to head to the spot with the mud flats where we caught some reds a couple of weeks ago. We arrived at the mud flats, motor off and up, trolling motor down, and slowly cruised looking for bait, Vs, anything to let us know we were in the right area.
As we moved, I started noticing a bunch of finger mullet and bull minnows moving around. We watched the minnows and cast, and I noticed two decent-size reds in the distance. I misjudged the cast and placed the bait about 3 inches from their heads, and they spooked.
We continued to move the mud flats, and I could see a dark silhouette in the distance. I threw a 45-degree angle in front of him, burned the bait back to him and dropped roughly 6 inches from his face. Within seconds, my line took off and the drag started singing.
I landed a 25.75-inch red weighing in at 5.62 pounds. We took a pic and let him go. We finished the flats not seeing any more fish.
Heading back toward the landing, I noticed the tide was in enough to get back in a pond we had been talking about going to again. We entered the pond and immediately saw reds. As we slowly moved around the pond, I saw a V and threw beside it. The V turned, and my drag took off again.
This time it was only a 4-pound chunk. We finished out the day working the pond and catching reds, trout and flounder.
The cold front that brought freezing temps to the Panhandle should get the fish to set into their winter patterns until spring. I suggest fishing dark or mud bottoms, deep holes or protected shorelines. Slow your retrieve down some, as the fish become lethargic with the cold water.
I personally use scents in the winter such as Gulp! or Procure; not sure if helps, but I like it.
Please dress accordingly, and pay attention to the wind and waves. It can turn sketchy out there quickly.