Great weather arrived just in time for the holidays. The next few days should provide excellent opportunities to get offshore. Daytime temperatures in the 80s along with easterly winds; what a nice gift for this time of year. Grouper, snapper and amberjack fishing are outstanding.
Blue water fishing is available 70 to 90 miles offshore with water temperatures holding in the mid 70s. Blackfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo are still available to fishermen making the effort. Your biggest challenge is finding light winds over multiple days. Extended weather reports become very important.
Springs this time of year hold blackfin tuna, amberjack, mangrove snapper and red and gag groupers. Fishing a spring requires an array of different sized tackle. We carry tackle from 20- to 80-pound test. We use the light tackle on flat lines to catch tuna and kingfish near the surface. We use 30-pound tackle for mangrove snappers. With 60- to 80-pound tackle we target big jacks and gags.
The down side to fishing springs is that most are 90 feet and deeper, and you need to take lots of tackle. If we could only bring one set of rods we would use four-aught reels with 50-pound test. Use the smallest amount of weight to get your bait to the fish. Light leaders will hook more fish, but you will also loose more fish due to rocks and cutoffs. Use fluorocarbon leaders to increase the strength of the leader. For jacks, your leader length should be at least 6 feet. A new product we have been using for jacks is crystal sinkers, which are clear and become invisible in the water. They have increased the number of bigger fish caught.
Live bait rules this time of year. Take the time to fill your live wells with as much as you can carry. Pinfish, pigfish for grouper, bluerunners for jacks and greenbacks for flat lines are a good combination. Frozen sardines and squid round out your offshore bait.
The weather dictates where the best fishing will be. If conditions are mild and consistent for a few days in a row, the fish may be roaming their normal locations. When the water temperature plummets, savvy anglers adjust. Among the most crucial adjustments is selecting the location. Water on the open flats can get cold, so the canals, rivers, creeks or the outflows near power plants become better target locations. The rule of thumb: Find areas with warmer water and you will find game fish.
Also important is when to make your trip. Most of the year, just after sunrise or before sunset are ideal. In the middle of winter, particularly after nights with low temperatures, fishing later in the day is more productive.
Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at (727) 692-6345.