Captain Alex Pennekamp
Winter Time Tips and Tactics
This time of year can be one of the most rewarding times for fishing. Schools of redfish can be found up and down the ICW, as well as in each of the main river systems surrounding Charleston, SC. When the water warms up for a couple of days, large numbers of sea trout can be caught in deep creeks. With that being said, some anglers still struggle to get a bite, even on the nicest of days during the winter months.
First thing’s first when it comes to winter fishing - check the weather, and then check it again. I have come to realize that the weather is an even better depiction than the tide as to whether you are going to have a successful day. The reason behind this is that this time of year, the fish are very sensitive to the weather and weather changes. During periods of extreme cold or fluctuating temperatures, they are not as active. Therefore, I look for periods of mild weather to determine whether it is a good time go fishing during the winter months. Usually anywhere from 50 to 70 degree daytime temperatures are the most advantageous. Any day that the temps fall below 50 degrees is a good day to stay on the couch.
Once you’ve identified a mild weather day, it is time to decide where to go. During the winter, fish are not all over the place like they can be during the warmer months. Fish in Charleston tend to relate to some sort of structure during this season, whether that be oyster points, docks, or rock piles. Additionally, they tend to be holding somewhere close to their warmer month spots – maybe not in the exact same spot, but they are likely close and in big numbers. Because of this pattern, I find it valuable to go out and check spots this time of year. I’ll spend five or so minutes at a spot, and if I don't get a bite, I move on. When you do this, plan on hitting multiple spots, and don't get discouraged if you don't hit a home run at the first spot. Also, water clarity and wind play a huge factor in fishing location. Remember the wind tends to blow out of the East and North East for a lot of the winter. A strong east wind can muddy up a lot of the Charleston harbor as well as some of our major rivers. So, keep in mind structure and wind when trying to make a plan on where to fish.
Then, there is the bait question. In the wintertime, I love throwing artificial baits. I normally like to select some sort of natural colored soft plastic bait. One of my favorite color baits to use is a Mud Minnow coloredZman Minnowz. Also, fish tend to be more lethargic in the cold water, so slow down the retrieve. Barely crawl the bait on the bottom, just enough to keep it moving. If you plan to use live bait, I recommend shrimp. I find that even a redfish that isn't hungry will eat a shrimp.
So fellow anglers, keep in mind some of these tips, tactics and suggestions on wintertime fishing. Pay attention to the weather, check spots near structure, and be strategic with your bait and hopefully you too will agree that the winter season is one of the most rewarding times for fishing!