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Work the puddles for winter fish

If you're into wade-fishing, this is your time of year. Sure, the water is a bit cold, but with the right gear and accurate planning the fishing can be hot.

Winter's extreme low tides help anglers, concentrating fish into pools, deep cuts and troughs. Focusing on these low tides allows savvy anglers to stay in one place and pick off fish until their arms are tired.

And though not all deep pockets attract fish, there are a few clues that give away the productive holes.

First, there should be some kind of sea bird working the area. A diving cormorant, pelican or tern is a good hint the pool is alive. If there are ibis, herons or egrets foraging you can bet fish are there, too.

Another good clue is structure. And if turtle or eel grass is present, it's almost a sure sign that you're in business.

For the most part, speckled trout, red drum, flounder, sheepshead and snook are the prime targets. All can be caught using shrimp, and not necessarily live shrimp. Cold water slows the metabolism of cold-blooded creatures, and they simply don't want to chase bait. They'll take a fresh-dead shrimp in a heart beat.

Hook the shrimp through the horn with a No. 1 hook as if it were alive. Use a small crimp-on weight on the leader about a foot above the hook, and just let the bait sit on the bottom.

A big myth is if it's winter then thick chest waders are needed to keep from getting cold. Waders are good in certain situations, but because you're wading at low tide, you rarely get deeper than your calves. There is no need to wade into chest-deep water, especially with a rod and reel that promotes long casts. Waders are cumbersome and heavy, but they can be great cold and rainy days. Otherwise, try it with neoprene wading boots.

As for tackle, a 10-pound, long-cast spinning reel matched with at least a 7-foot, light-medium spinning rod should due the trick. Matched baitcasting outfits work well in capable hands.

A long-cast spinning reel can be identified by its wide spool. Narrow spools will not allow the line to release as easily, cutting distance. On some long-cast spinners, the spool moves up and down slow on the retrieve, wrapping the line more evenly with minimal build-up, thereby cutting friction and allowing longer casts.

Spinning rods with large ceramic guides cast farther than rods with smaller or metal guides. Ceramic guides dissipate heat more quickly than metal guides, cutting friction. Usually a 7-foot rod performs well, and even longer rods are available to boost range.

_ If you've had a great day fishing contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or email Rick Frazier at captrickluckydawg.com.

Joe McGaffey, a recent transplant from Duluth, Minn., to Dunedin, shows a 33-inch snook he caught Nov. 29 at Honeymoon Island on his first gulf fishing excursion. For more on Great Catch, see 16L.

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