High winds from the north stemming from major cold fronts coming through every three to four days can lead to some of the best sightfishing of the year.
By sightfishing, I mean finding a fish, making a cast to it, and hope you did everything right. If you did, the fish will eat, if you didn't, the fish will spook and flee quickly.
Tide levels this time of the year are backward from the summer. Extreme low tides are in the morning hours in the winter months, and in the summer, lows are in the evening hours. Many anglers complain that fishing is tough with the extreme lows. I cannot wait until this time of year. A strong northeast wind will blow out more water, causing the extreme low tide to get even lower. I use this to my advantage.
I travel along exposed sand bars in the bay looking for cuts. Every flat in the bay will have a sandbar exposed after one of these low-tide events. A cut will form that allows water to flow off of the flat. This can be like a highway for fish to travel. Many times it is the only way in and out from a flat when the tide is extremely low.
Once I locate an area to start, I anchor my boat and prepare to wade fish. I grab extra gear, pliers, leaders, and jigs. If you forget something, it can be a long walk back to the boat, wasting precious time. Water temperatures are usually in the high 50s to the mid 60s. Neoprene waders are a must to keep warm in the cold water.
Walk slowly into the cut and scan the area for shadows. These cuts are usually firm, sandy bottoms, making it easier to walk and to sightfish. Keep walking until a fish is located. If you find one, there is usually more in the same area. I only blind-cast if it is cloudy. With bright blue skies, do not cast until you locate a fish. Extra movement can spook fish before you even see them. When I see a fish, I figure out which direction the fish is moving, then I make a cast in front and long. If you put the lure right on its head, it will spook the fish. If you make the cast long, then it allows you to work the lure so the fish will locate it, making a decision to eat or run.
I prefer to use quarter-ounce jigs with soft plastic tails. I bring many colors and extra tails so I do not run out while wading. Work the jigs slowly over the sand. Every time the jig moves, it creates a sandy puff, the same thing a shrimp will do when spooked. This will drive redfish and trout crazy.
Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or see www.captainrobgorta.com.