When targeting snook, I look for warmer water. I don’t use a depth finder or any kind of thermometer, but look for areas that will have good light from the sun and a muddy bottom that will hold the heat better. I find winter snook mostly in the backcountry creeks and canals. Try to get out and fish a couple days before a cold front - snook feed really well during this time. This doesn’t mean they won’t eat during or after the frontal passage, but it will increase your odds if you can get out before. When targeting snook, water movement is very important. I really don’t think it matters whether it’s an incoming or an outgoing tide, as long as the water is moving. My baits of choice are smaller hard lures, such as the MirrOlure “MirrOdine” and the Sebile floating “Stick Shadd”. My soft plastic of choice is the Riptide “Flats Chub”. Slowing down the bait is a must when fishing for snook this time of year.
Targeting redfish will be much the same as any other time of year. Look for reds to be sitting on the edges of sand holes and cruising around the flats. Find areas that still have lots of grass and other points of interest like oyster bars. The water is usually very clear in the winter months, so downsize your fluorocarbon leader to 10 lb. or even 8 lb. The redfish can be very spooky when the water is clear. Getting out of the kayak and doing a little wading will help with this. The Riptide “Flats Chub” and 3” “Mullet” work very well. Again, slow your presentation. Also, get out and fish those negative low tides. This is a kayak angler’s perfect opportunity to reach fish that most boats cannot.
We get some of our best trout action this time of year. Trout can be found on the grass flats, and they can be feeding really well. I find them mostly on the deeper flats in about 4’ to 6’ of water. Bouncing a 3” Mullet off the bottom works very well. Fishing channel edges with grass and good water movement will produce good action. If it’s that big “gator trout” you’re looking for, they’ll frequently be holding in the small sand holes on the shallow flats. These big trout will be very spooky. Long casts with small baits and fishing before a front work best.
Flounder have been around in very good numbers. Look for flounder anywhere there are a lot of bait and strong water flow. Dragging just about any soft plastic along the bottom will catch these fish. I like to fish a sandy bottom along the Intracoastal Waterway, or in channels with grass flats along the edges. The flounder bite can be very soft. Flounder are well known for spitting the hook, so land them quickly.
Winter can be a great time to get out and have a great day out on the water. Keep these thoughts in mind when you’re paddling toward your favorite fishing spot!
Steve Gibson is a SW Florida native fishing the beautiful waters of Sarasota & Tampa Bay. He operates Shallow Pockets Fishing which is Sarasota's premier kayak guide service with over 20 years of fishing experience. He specializes in targeting Snook,Redfish Trout & Tarpon throughout his region. He is a member of team Jackson Kayak & Florida Paddle Sports.